Review of ‘From Ancient to Modern: Archaeology and Aesthetics’ at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at NYU

March 11, 2015 10:22 PM

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Review of ‘From Ancient to Modern: Archaeology and Aesthetics’ at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at NYU

If it hadn’t been for a catalog essay by the curators of the fine new exhibition at New York University’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, I might not have connected their subject with Agatha Christie’s 1936 mystery “Murder in Mesopotamia.” Now they seem inseparable. The novel could have even fit comfortably in the exhibition itself—“From Ancient to Modern: Archaeology and Aesthetics”—which combines 5,000-year-old Sumerian statuary, 20th-century sculptures by Henry Moore, yellowed press reports of tomb excavations (“Grim Tragedy of Wicked Queen Shubad’s 100 Poisoned Slaves”), papier-mâché replicas of artifacts looted from Iraq’s National Museum in 2003, poetry, photographs and field notes.

The curators—Jennifer Y. Chi, the institute’s director of exhibitions, and Pedro Azara, a professor of aesthetics at Polytechnic University of Catalonia, Spain—invoke Christie because she was at one of the digs at the heart of this exhibition: the 1922-34 exploration of the Sumerian site of Ur in pr...

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