The permanent and official blog of the University of Leicester's School of Museum Studies PhD student conferences and special events.

28 March 2011

Hop the Third

Laura Snook - A Metro-Station, A Restaurant and a Couple of Contry Houses - Curious Homes of Greek Architectural Sculpture

Much of Greek Architectural sculpture has been appropriated from its original homes, and utilized in other buildings and forms. Many times they are found in museums, large manner houses, who collected very often to keep up with the Joneses - hence the prevelance of casts. But they're found in more unexpected places too. In the Acropoli Metro Station, the Lawns Restaurant in the Wirral, Aynhoe Park in Oxfordshire, you can find the Parthenon Marbles. Lyme Park has a full scale replica of the figures of the BassaeTemple of Apollo. Does a location so curious mean a curious display, and ontology for those objects? How did they get there in the first place?

The aesthetic qualities of ancient Greek sculpture have been appreciated for many years - since the Roman times - but it was really during the Neo-Classical period, in which they were used to inspire the British art scene, that they really began to appear. But why would you go to a restaurant to see Greek sculpture? The answer seems to be that you wouldn't. You'd go for dinner, but you'd appreciate these sculptures on a purely aesthetic level - not as objects to be studied.

At the Acropoli Station, however, the situation is more complex, because the Metro functions as an approach to the Acropolis - an indication of what you are going to see. At Bassae, the Public Library acts as an archaeological museum for the area, and displays plaster casts from the British Museum of the iconic freizes. Usually, they are mounted on walls to imitate their original use as architectural sculpture. However, this also serves to hide the plain, back side of the peices. The wall mounting, and long walls of museum display along which you move to view the sculptures, are imitated at Howsham Hall, and the Acropoli Station. These sculptures follow the passage of time, and do not always need to be the originals - the Acropoli Museum uses casts from the London Museums, and recreations of lost peices, to demonstrate the stories which the friezes tell.

Museums, for some reason, tend to display their Classical sculpture seperately from their other things. At the Archaeological Museum in Olympia, for instance, the statues from the Temple of Zeus are given a cloistered environment. However, in other locations, this doesn't always apply. Aynhoe Park, for instance, display theirs accompanied by a stuffed Giraffe. Curiousity, it seems, comes from interpretation rather than display. Museums seek to explain, to teach. These other places don't. Perhaps, as Elee suggests, this is more akin to their original, decorative display, which museums tend to underplay by displaying the sculptures as objects in their own right. Finding such sculpture in unexpected places doesn't mean that their display is curious - and thus we need to question what it is that makes these spaces curious?

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