Minoan Art – Restored or Reconstituted?

(Image via Greek News)

Sir Arthur Evans, who conducted archaeological excavations from 1900 to 1931 of the ancient Minoan civilization in Crete, may have taken some liberties in “reconstituting” the works unearthed under his watch. Now, artist Elizabeth Price “explores the intricate relationship between restoration and art by presenting artifacts from Minoan Crete and archival materials from the Sir Arthur Evans Archive,” writes Vicki James Yiannias in Greek News.

Price’s examination is the subject of a book, “Restoring the Minoans: Elizabeth Price and Sir Arthur Evans.” An exhibition by the same name can be viewed at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at New York University through Jan. 7, 2018.

From the day excavations began on the massive Bronze Age architectural complex that he associated with characters from ancient Greek mythology, Evans and his hundreds of workmen, team of architects, engineers, masons, carpenters and artists physically “reconstituted” (his term) it was along the lines of his own interpretations of the beliefs and practices of this lost world.  Commissioning replicas and reconstructions of the artifacts and frescoes he found, Evans at times extrapolated from the Minoan style to reflect the tastes of the times, modern concepts and styles, such as Art Nouveau and Art Deco.

Evans fundamentally shaped our understanding of the Minoan world.  As the first person to recognize the distinctiveness of the Minoans, his contribution to archaeology cannot be underestimated, yet his bold restoration of the site at Knossos, says one of the exhibition’s wall texts, “confronts viewers with images of an ancient world that appears distinctly modern.

Art Nouveau-styled women and reinforced concrete structures invite questions about the archaeologist’s boundaries between interpretation and speculation.”

Go to Greek News to read more about how “what we see of Knossos now is apparently not how it once was,” and to learn how Price’s video installation at the NYU exhibit juxtaposes some of Evans’ images from his archaeological excavation with rhythmic electronic music.

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