Reflecting on Rodin and the art of ancient Greece (Ali Al Kathiri, ITP 2018, Oman)
I am Ali Al Kathiri, Director of The Museum of the Frankincense Land in Oman and a 2018 ITP Fellow.
On Monday 16 July all the fellows had the opportunity to enjoy a visit to a beautiful and highly interesting exhibition at the Sainsbury Exhibitions Gallery of the British Museum. The exhibition, Rodin and the art of ancient Greece, opened this year on 26 April and will remain open till 29 July, and its main sponsor is Bank of America – Merrill Lynch.
We started the tour early at 9am and we were particularly lucky to be accompanied by Ian Jenkins, ITP department representative for the Greece and Rome Department and co-curator of this exhibition with Celeste Farge. Besides providing us an amazing quantity of detail about the artist, his life and his artistic work, Ian also introduced us to ancient Greek sculpture, emphasising how Greek art inspired Rodin when he visited London in 1881 for the first time, enjoying the collections of the British Museum. This was likely the turning point not only for Rodin but also for a radical new direction of modern art towards the end of the 19th century.
We were not only impressed by Ian’s immense erudition but also by his witty and inspiring style. It was such a pleasure listening to him even for colleagues who are not very knowledgeable about Classical art or the famous French sculptor. I was really impressed, an opinion shared by all of my ITP fellows, by the exhibits and the way they were displayed: a sober scenography that points out the intrinsic beauty of every single sculpture, relief and fragment, combined with excellent lighting. The same could be said about the prints, drawings and sketches which provide another deep insight into Rodin’s work. Just looking at those sculptures – both the ancient ones and those made by Rodin and his associates – is a marvel in itself, but being able to look at them in such a display while being taught by an expert and superb storyteller was a memorable experience. And in addition to our wonderful guide who was more than willing to answer all our questions, we could also enjoy reading very informative panels and labels.
On a more practical level, afterwards we had an extremely useful and enlightening lecture from Rob Owen and his team about loaning practices in the British Museum.
It truly was a visit to another dimension of exhibiting works of art.