The Met to Feature New Installation of Extraordinary Cycladic Art from The Leonard N. Stern Collection on Loan from the Hellenic Republic
Marquee: Female figure, Cycladic, Early Cycladic II, ca. 2500–2400/2300 BCE.
Marble. Leonard N. Stern Collection, Loan from the Hellenic Republic, Ministry of Culture
Exhibition Dates: January 25, 2024–ongoing
Exhibition Location: The Met Fifth Avenue, The Robert and Renée Belfer Court, Galleries 150–151
On January 25, The Metropolitan Museum of Art will open a new display featuring some 161 works made in the Cyclades primarily in the Early Bronze Age (3200 to 2000 BCE) from The Leonard N. Stern Collection, which is owned by the Greek state. The loan is the result of a landmark 50-year partnership among the Ministry of Culture of the Hellenic Republic, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens, along with the Hellenic Ancient Cultural Institute, regarding Leonard N. Stern’s Collection of Cycladic art. The collection includes nearly all the major types of Cycladic marble figurines representing the Late Neolithic period to the end of the Early Bronze Age.
The agreement, which was ratified by Greek parliament in 2022, brings the stunning Cycladic artifacts from The Leonard N. Stern Collection to The Met for a 25-year display. A selection of 15 of the collection’s most significant works was first displayed in November 2022 at the Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens, in the region where the objects originated. After the collection is on view in its entirety at The Met for 10 years, select works will periodically return to Greece, while other loans of Cycladic art will come to The Met. Following that 25-year loan period, The Met will continue to display important works of Cycladic art on loan from the collection of the Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens and other Greek museums for an additional 25 years.
Max Hollein, The Met’s Marina Kellen French Director and Chief Executive Officer, commented: “We are thrilled to present this truly striking display of exceptional Cycladic art to our visitors in New York. Thanks to the important partnership and agreement between the Greek government, The Met, and the Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens, this historic presentation is sure to foster the study and appreciation of Early Cycladic art and culture for visitors and scholars, now and for generations to come. We are incredibly grateful to Greece for authorizing this long-term loan and to Leonard N. Stern for forming the collection and for dedicating funds for their study.”
As the President and CEO of the Museum of Cycladic Art Kassandra Marinopoulou stated: “After last year's first worldwide presentation of 15 unique antiquities from the Stern Collection here at the Museum of Cycladic Art, I am very happy for the realization of the transition into the second phase of the agreement. All 161 exhibits of the collection are now presented to The Met's global audience. The dissemination and promotion of Cycladic and ancient Greek culture internationally has always been the mission of the Museum of Cycladic Art and it is now being fulfilled to the utmost. The completion of this goal is achieved through this historic agreement between the Greek Ministry of Culture, The Met and the Museum of Cycladic Art. The study, analyses, and scientific collaborations at various levels of research of the Cycladic culture, will now be a common purpose. For Greece, for the Museum of Cycladic Art, but also for me personally, this is a one-of-a-kind collaboration with the Greek State and The Met. This contributes to the global promotion of Cycladic Culture, through the exhibition of the 161 Cycladic masterpieces at The Met, before their return to their country of origin.”
The Leonard N. Stern Collection is comprised of the major types of Cycladic marble figurines, including violin shaped, Plastiras, Hybrid, Louros, Precanonical and Canonical, with variations such as Kapsala, Early and Late Spedos, Dokathismata, Chalandriani and Koumasa. The collection also has rare examples, such as a “Double figure” of the Early Spedos variation. The objects range in size from small-scale figurines to a reclining female figure that is more than four feet long and one of the few monumental Early Cycladic statues to survive. In addition to the figures of marble, there is a remarkable head carved from a fossilized sea sponge and a small pregnant figure with folded arms made from serpentinite. A large number of marble vessels, including beakers, bowls, collared jars (or “kandilas”), and footed cups and palettes, are also included. Other object types of diverse media include a terracotta “frying pan,” a pair of silver bracelets, and a copper alloy chisel.
The Leonard N. Stern Collection significantly enhances The Met’s ability to represent Cycladic art within the context of its encyclopedic collection. The Met’s collection of Greek and Roman art—more than 33,000 works ranging in date from the Neolithic period to the time of the Roman emperor Constantine’s conversion to Christianity in 312 CE and beyond—includes the art of many cultures and is among the most comprehensive in North America. More than 7,500 of the department’s most important works are displayed in an acclaimed, award-winning installation in 26 galleries within The Met’s historic main building.
In 2022, Stern graciously made a major gift to The Met to support the display and study of Cycladic art, including an endowment of an archive room in the Department of Greek and Roman Art’s Onassis Library for Hellenic and Roman Art and the endowment of a position to facilitate the care of the archives and scholarly visits.
The fund supports the publication of all the Cycladic works in The Leonard N. Stern Collection to The Met’s website with a full scholarly description—including technical analysis, provenance, and ownership history—for each work and new color photography. The research for the online publication is being conducted by members of the Department of Greek and Roman Art with colleagues in the Department of Objects Conservation and the Department of Scientific Research and with the collaboration of colleagues from the Greek Ministry of Culture and the Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens. This is the first major systematic study to combine scholarly, technical, and scientific analyses of a large group of Cycladic artifacts assembled from the art market. Only noninvasive methods of analysis were used, and analytical techniques included special photographic techniques, such as raking light and multiband imaging, as well as digital microscopy, X-radiography, X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy, Raman spectroscopy, and micro X-ray diffraction. The research identifies a variety of surface conditions and accretions and numerous traces of original paint, as well as breaks, ancient and modern repairs, restorations, and modern cosmetic interventions. The present study represents the beginning of the research on the Stern Collection of Cycladic Art and opinions of the works will continue to evolve as further work is done, new analytical techniques are applied, and technical examination is undertaken on excavated objects. A related print publication by The Met’s Department of Greek and Roman Art and made possible by Leonard N. Stern will also be made available in early 2024.
An additional endowed fund supports adult and family educational programs around the collection, residencies for Greek scholars to study Cycladic art at The Met, and a forthcoming scholarly symposium on Cycladic art. Additional programs will continue to be developed throughout the course of this major international project and will be announced on The Met’s website.
Cycladic Art: The Leonard N. Stern Collection on Loan from the Hellenic Republic is organized by Seán Hemingway, The Met’s John A. and Carole O. Moran Curator in Charge, Department of Greek and Roman Art, with Alexis Belis, Assistant Curator in The Met’s Department of Greek and Roman Art.