Rings: Five Passions in World Art
Where: The High Museum of Art, 1280 Peachtree Street NE,
When: July 4-Sept. 29
Hours: July 4-Aug. 4 - 10 a.m.-7 p.m. daily / Aug. 5-Sept. 29 -
Tuesday-Sunday 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Closed Monday
Tickets: Admission is $10; discounts available for groups
Information: (404) 733-4400
THE BOXER who took home the prize from the Greater Panathenaia
games in the fourth century B.C. era won a generous supply of olive
oil pressed from the fruit of trees in a grove the ancients
regarded as special to the goddess Athena.
The oil was contained in a terra-cotta vessel, just under 3
feet tall. Although one hesitates to call it a knockout for fear of
being disrespectful or guilty of making a pun, the description
Tall, shapely, elegant, heroic in its own way, and winning, the
jar is as fresh as it must have been when its potter, Nikodemos,
signed his name to it almost 2,500 years ago.
The effort that brought the Panathenaic Amphora and about 130
other works of art to Atlanta for the Olympic Games was
extraordinary. Many of the objects are of great rarity and
delicacy. With only a couple of exceptions, all of them rank among
the great masterpieces of human industry.
Called "Rings: Five Passions in World Art," the elegantly
installed exhibition occupies the top two floors of the four-story
Richard Meier-designed High Museum of Art. Getting it to Atlanta
has occupied the museum's staff for almost two years. Michael E.
Shapiro, former chief curator of the St. Louis Art Museum and now
deputy director of the High Museum, was a key player in the
organization of the show, which opens Independence Day.
Last Sunday, when the weather outside suffocated the city with
a hot wet blanket, when the Braves beat the Giants 1-0 under a
merciless sun, when Michael Johnson broke a 17-year-old world
record in the 200-meter dash, members of the staff of the museum
worked around the Greek jar, which was in place, and brought in
other objects that make up the exhibition. They also painted walls,
detoured around half-installed carpeting, set lights, hung
curtains, opened and moved crates, and double-checked exhibition
They shared a quietly fierce intensity, the sort you recognize
in the faces of people who confront emergencies. There were
deadlines to be met at the museum, their heads rearing higher every
J. Carter Brown - curator of the exhibition, aesthete, genius,
politician, Solomon and amiable foreman all at once - was the calm
in the middle of this rarified cyclone, considering problems as
basic as the installation of that new carpeting to some extremely
tricky business with candlepower, business that might transform
itself into trouble on oriental and occidental fronts.
That is, however, show business. If the show doesn't cause
problems and cause controversy and cause headaches and start
fights, it probably isn't worth the effort anyway.
There are targets painted on this show. Why risk moving rare
and delicate objects this far? What is the point of a show that
makes no intellectual point, at least in the traditional, narrow
art-historical way? Isn't this just the rich and well-connected
Carter Brown showing off again?
Such critical arrows have been drawn from the quiver of the art
establishment, which always has a bow at the ready. No matter;
Brown laughs it all off, or dismisses it. No matter how accurately
and eloquently the critics and the colleagues in the art history
departments and the museum business hit their bull's-eyes, nothing
negative, written or spoken, is going to make much of a difference
That is because Carter Brown has brought the incandescent torch
of the visual arts into the middle of the centennial playing of the
modern Olympics with a triumphant grace that one can only cheer, or
perhaps even bow before. …