Post-Byzantine Greek art goes on show in New York

NEW YORK – In the bitter cold of a New York winter, a frozen chapter of Greek history – four centuries of Venetian and Ottoman occupation – went on show last week. After three major exhibitions on Byzantium at the Metropolitan Museum, it is time for one on the 377 years that followed the fall of Constantinople, and which were by no means a «black hole» for Hellenism. Time didn’t stop in 1453, according to the exhibition «From Byzantium to Modern Greece: Greek Art under Difficult Circumstances, 1453-1830,» which was opened this week by Greece’s Deputy Culture Minister Petros Tatoulis at the Onassis Cultural Center in New York. Over 137 exhibits from the Benaki Museum collections, paintings, sculptures, silver, embroideries, costumes, jewelry and ceramics show that the Greek world continued to produce art of a high standard even under adverse circumstances, Benaki Museum Director Angelos Delivorias told a press conference on Tuesday. Antonis Papadimitriou, the new president of the Alexander S. Onassis Foundation, emphasized that the Benaki’s treasures showed the unity and continuity of Greek civilization within the spiritual heritage of the Orthodox Church, the somewhat unknown lay art of that time, the decisive role played by Greek communities in Europe and elsewhere at the time (Marseilles, Venice, Odessa), women’s adornments, descriptions by foreign travelers, the Philhellene movement and the Greek War of Independence that led to the founding of the new Greek state. If one were forced to choose from among the exhibits, it would have to be the period when Greece was under foreign yoke; the carved stone lintels, painted wooden chests, bright pottery and beautiful jewelry were the products of a time when Byzantine traditions came in contact with European influences from the late Baroque and Rococo, as well as Ottoman decorative art.