Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Nassos Papalexandrou on "Our Presidents’ Gifts: The Role of Greek Antiquities in Greek-U.S. Political Relationships after WWII"

Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 11am in the Pillsbury Auditorium at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

Diplomatic gift-giving in the early years of the Eisenhower administrations (©Eisenhower Museum, Kansas)

Political gift exchange implicates givers, receivers, and objects in a semantically complex relationship. In the late 1940s the U.S. involvement in Greece ushered in a new, unprecedented role for Greek antiquities as state gifts to American presidents or to high ranking officials in their administrations or in the US political life.  Scattered in presidential museums and collections, these spectacular objects have largely escaped scholarly attention. My project seeks to assess the character of these antiquities and why they were chosen as diplomatic gifts. All of them were carefully chosen by Greek governments to epitomize a conception of ancient Greece as the political and cultural paragon of the West during the Cold War period. This message was communicated in well-staged ceremonies that resonated with the main political actors, the press, and diverse publics such as the Greek-American community. My lecture covers in detail these unpublished antiquities, their qualities as ancient artifacts, the rich symbolic connotations they carried at the moment of their presentation, and their reception by all those who experienced them as diplomatic gifts.

Nassos Papalexandrou is with the University of Texas at Austin, and holds his degrees from the University of Athens and Princeton University (Ph.D.).  His areas of specialization are the ritual dimensions of Early Greek figurative art and archaeology, Orientalizing phenomena, and the archaeology of Cyprus; he has done field work in Athens, Crete, Naxos, and multiple sites on Cyprus. His first book, The Visual Poetics of Power: Warriors, Youths, and Tripods in Early Greece, was published in 2005. He is currently working on a second book that explores the role of monsters in the arts and rituals of Early Greece. A second project focuses on an exhibit that will showcase antiquities exchanged as diplomatic gifts between Greece and the USA after WWII. He is currently involved in two projects that have to do with the archaeology of ancient Italy. One focuses on the tranlsation/reception of the Greek tripod cauldron in Magna Graecia and Sicily in the Geometric, Archaic, and Classical periods. The other has to do with the importation and emulation of griffin cauldrons from the Aegean to Italy, especially Etruria, in the Archaic period.

A no-host lunch open to AIA members with the speaker will follow the lecture at Christos Greek Restaurant, 2632 Nicollet Avenue, Minneapolis

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