Wed. June 15, 2016
An exhibition that explores the lavish lifestyles of Romans under the shadow of Mount Vesuvius opens this week at the Montana State University’s Museum of the Rockies. Co-curated by UT Professor of Art History John R. Clarke, the exhibition Leisure and Luxury in the Age of Nero: The Villas of Oplontis near Pompeii explores life near the ancient sites before they were destroyed in a volcanic eruption.
Since 2005 the two archaeological sites at the ancient Roman seaside town of Oplontis have been part of an international collaborative study led by the Oplontis Project, which is sponsored by Center for the Study of Ancient Italy (CSAI) at The University of Texas at Austin. Organized in cooperation with the Archaeological Superintendency of Pompeii and the Oplontis Project, this traveling exhibition chronicles the setting, culture and economics of this playground for Rome’s rich and famous on the Bay of Naples. The exhibition was previously on view at the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and will travel next to the Smith College Museum of Art in Northampton, Massachusetts.
Regina Gee, an Associate Professor of Art History at MSU, played an integral role in organizing the show and bringing it to Montana. “This exhibit represents the first time that Roman antiquities will be shown at the Museum of the Rockies,” says Gee (Ph.D., Art History, 2003), who has been a member of the Oplontis Project since 2008.
The exhibit focuses on two distinct sites, the luxurious Villa A at Oplontis and the wine emporium called Oplontis B located just down the road. Both buildings were destroyed by the famous eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79 that also buried nearby Pompeii. Villa A has been linked by some, but not all, scholars to the family of the emperor Nero’s second wife. The villa’s architects designed a luxurious sprawling space with more than 35,000 square feet that sat perched on a cliff with commanding views of the Bay of Naples. “The scale of the building and the quality of its decoration speak to the wealth and status of its owners, who were likely an important family from Rome senatorial class,” said Clarke, who also serves as co-director of the Oplontis Project.
In contrast, Oplontis B functioned as an emporium for the export and distribution of Pompeian area wine as well as for the importation of fines wines from other parts of the Mediterranean.
“At the time of the eruption, Oplontis B had the capacity to move the equivalent of over 40,000 modern bottles of wine,” notes Michael Thomas, co-director of the Oplontis Project and director of CSAI at the University of Texas.
Though its spaces were more utilitarian in design than those of its posh neighbor, the owner’s business was thriving when it was buried by Vesuvius, as evidenced by hundreds of amphorae—a type of jug used mostly for wine storage—as well as gold jewelry and coins found among the 54 skeletons discovered at the site.
On display are nearly 150 artifacts from both Oplontis sites, including marble sculpture, wall painting fragments, glass, silver, gold jewelry, coins, a strongbox, terracotta architectural ornaments and amphorae. The Museum of the Rockies is taking advantage of its ample exhibition space to enhance the environment of their display. Utilizing a digital model built by the Oplontis Project, the museum will recreate to scale several of Villa A’s important rooms. “Very often museum goers only see art in the context of the museum itself,” says Gee. “Instead we had the space to bring the actual experience of the villa to the visitor.”
On Sept. 30, Clarke and Thomas will join Gee and other scholars at Montana State University for a symposium organized around the exhibition. The Museum of the Rockies is the only venue west of the Mississippi River to host the exhibition, which will run through Dec. 31.
About the Oplontis Project
Sponsored by the Center for the Study of Ancient Italy in the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Texas at Austin, the Oplontis Project is conducting a systematic, multidisciplinary study of Villa A (“of Poppaea”) and Villa B (“of Lucius Crassius Tertius”) at Oplontis (Torre Annunziata, Italy). The project directors John R. Clarke and Michael L. Thomas lead an international team of scholars working to publish definitive studies of all aspects of these sites. Publication is “born digital” within the Humanities E-Book Series of the American Council of Learned Societies. Further documentation includes a navigable 3D models and a comprehensive database.
Thu. June 9, 2016
With 446 entries examining some 550 works of figural, architectural, and decorative sculpture in 27 museums and public institutions, this volume continues Census of Gothic Sculpture in America started by Dorothy Gillerman in 1989. In addition to such large and well-known collections as the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Glencairn Museum, smaller collections and those not known for their medieval works, like the Barnes Foundation and the Explorers Club, are also inventoried. Generously supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Getty Foundation, this book includes entries by 35 authors writing on works in their areas of specialization.
Thu. June 9, 2016
ICOSA is a diverse group of artists who have come together to pursue cooperative exhibition opportunities in a collective setting. They are: Terra Goolsby, Jonas Criscoe, Brooke Gassiot, Erin Cunnigham, Kate Csillagi, David Bae, Betelhem Makonnen, Sara Vanderbeek, Andrea DeLeon, Adrian Aguilera, Katy Horan, Jenn Wilson, Anna Pedersen, Amanda McInerney, Micah Evans, Elaine I-Ling Shen, Jennifer Balkan, Matt Rebholtz, Alyssa Taylor Wendt and Teruko Nimura.
ICOSA Collective: Part 2 exhibition open until June 26.
Sat. June 4, 2016
Xochi Solis (B.F.A. in Studio Art, 2005) presents work in a three-person exhibition, Extended Technique, at MASS Gallery. The exhibition will be on view April 29 – June 4, 2016.