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Cycladic Art Display at The Met Sends Message on Parthenon Marbles

Cycladic Art
Marble female figure of Cycladic art. Credit: Stern Collection, Metropolitan Museum, New York

On Thursday, The Metropolitan Museum of Art (Met) is introducing a new display on Cycladic Art featuring some 161 works made in the Early Bronze Age (3200 to 2000 BCE) from The Leonard N. Stern Collection, which is owned by Greece.

The display of the Leonard N. Stern Collection of Cycladic Art at The Met is the result of a historic fifty-year partnership between The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Ministry of Culture of the Hellenic Republic, and the Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens. This was approved by the Greek Parliament in 2022.

The partnership brings the antiquities acquired by the businessman and philanthropist Leonard Stern to The Met on a long-term loan from the Greek government. It also recognizes Greece’s ownership of the artifacts.

The Met says the exhibition is the single most comprehensive private collection of Cycladic art formed outside of Greece. The works include nearly all of the major types of marble figures and vessels from the Early Bronze Age.

The presentation offers an extraordinary opportunity to closely examine a large body of little-known Cycladic works that have been repatriated to Greece.

Cycladic Art Met
This white marble collared jar is nearly intact. Credit: Stern Collection, Metropolitan Museum, New York

The agreement on Cycladic art between Greece and the Met

The display of the Leonard N. Stern Collection of Cycladic Art at The Met is part of an iinnovative solution to repatriate the works to Greece while also bringing them to a worldwide audience and fostering international co-operation around the study and appreciation of Early Cycladic art and culture.

A selection of fifteen of the collection’s most significant works was first displayed in November 2022 at the Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens, which is where the objects originated.

After the collection is on view in its entirety at The Met for ten years, select works will periodically return to Greece, while other loans of Cycladic art will come to The Met.

Following that twenty-five-year loan period, The Met will continue to display important works of Cycladic art on loan from the collection of the Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens and other Greek museums for an additional twenty-five years.

Mitsotakis: Cycladic Art deal and the Parthenon Marbles

Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis sent a televised message for the inauguration of the exhibition hailing the agreement signed between Greece and The Met.

“Part of my mission as Prime Minister is about ensuring the return of Greek artifacts to Greece. But it also means that I have a duty to ensure that in doing that, these collections are…available to as wide an audience as possible,” the Greek Premier said.

“This agreement signals the beginning of a 50-year partnership that recognizes Greece’s ownership of the display, without recourse to the courts,” he added.

Mitsotakis referred to the Parthenon Marbles located in the British Museum, saying that The Met exhibition proves the promotion of antiquity through partnership between museums and nations can actually work.

“Today’s partnership is the culmination of that pragmatism,” he said. “That matters because others are watching and wondering what else is possible. I speak, of course, of the Parthenon Sculptures. The most iconic, the most important exhibit of Classical Greece at its apogee, currently not in their entirety in Greece.”

“For two years now, we have enjoyed positive discussions with the Chair of the British Museum on a possible new partnership that brings the two parts of the sculptures together, as one, in Athens,” Mitsotakis confirmed.

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