Starting on November 4, there will be a clash of the ages over at Helly Nahmad in New York. For its forthcoming exhibition “Mnemosyne: de Chirico and Antiquity,” the gallery has partnered with antiquities dealer Phoenix Ancient Art to pair paintings by Italian artist Giorgio de Chirico with relevant Greek and Roman antiquities. It’s an aesthetic move that matches de Chirico’s Neo-classical style, a later and less explored side of his work. Here, his paintings feature classical ruins strewn across landscapes, as well as figurative riffs on Greek gods, philosophers, and gladiators. Plus, the pieces sourced by Phoenix — marble statues, vases, bronze armor, and more — are all from private collections, never before exhibited alongside each other, let alone alongside Modern art. (In fact, due to their rarity and fragility, show attendance is limited and visiting groups have to call ahead.)
“The exhibition hopes to help cultivate an environment where antiquity is appreciated in a modern context and vigilantly guarded for future generations to study and enjoy,” reads a release, harking back to the show’s title — from the Greek goddess Mnemosyne, mother to the Muses and representative of memory. But it also makes specific reference to the importance of appreciating antiquity “in light of recent events,” a clear nod toward the Islamic State’s rampant campaign of heritage destruction in Iraq and Syria over the past months, news that’s been so relentless it’s become almost familiar. While the British Museum now has £3 million for a pilot program to work with local curators in threatened regions, Nahmad and Phoenix seem to be attacking the issue on a more ideological front, showing as explicitly as they can muster how antiquities cast their influence into art.
“Mnemosyne: de Chirico and Antiquity” runs at Helly Nahmad Gallery from November 4 through December 23.