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Sacred Symbols:  Four Thousand Years of Ancient American Art October 26, 2003 - January 11, 2004

About the Exhibition

The Sacred Symbols exhibition provides a unique opportunity to see the arts created by the people of the ancient Americas in all their beauty, variety, and complexity. It features works from a selection of the notable civilizations found throughout North, Central, and South America, objects ranging in time of creation from 2500 B.C. to the initial period of contact with Europeans in the 16th century. These pieces represent a great variety of artistic styles powerfully expressing the fundamental religious, historical, and political aspects of the lives of the people who created them.

All of the approximately 180 objects in the exhibition have been selected from the collections of American museums in the FRAME (French Regional American Museums Exchange) consortium and are masterpieces reflecting the strongest works available throughout the United States. Highlights of the show include elegant ceramics decorated with abstract and representational art designs from the Southwestern region of the present United States, as well as refined stone sculptures, ceramics, and personal ornaments from the Southeast. Ancient Mexican cultures are represented by the superbly carved jade statues of figures and animals of the Olmec, the expertly painted ceramic vessels illustrating themes from mythology and history, and elaborately carved stone figures created by artists of the Maya civilization, and the inventive ceramic sculptures from the people of the Colima, Nayarit, and Jalisco regions representing different aspects of everyday life. From Central America there are magnificent golden ornaments fashioned in the form of human beings, mythological figures, and animals, which were used by chiefs and other people of high status to adorn themselves and mark their status. There are also beautifully modeled and painted ceramics from Ancient Peru, representing individuals, animals, and objects from the ceremonial and political culture of the Moche and Nazca people, plus some highly ornamented Incan vessels showing the interaction of Native Americans and Europeans.

Sacred Symbols recently completed a successful tour of these four French museums:
Musée Fabre, Montpellier, July 17–September 29, 2002
Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rouen, October 25, 2002–January 13, 2003
Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon, February 20–April 28, 2003
Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rennes, May 28–August 25, 2003
See related web site (in French only):

This exhibition was organized by The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, led by Evan M. Maurer, Curator, and Molly E. Hennen, Assistant Curator, of the Department of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas.



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