Past Exhibitions

Feature Exhibition: Olympia Meets Japanese Art
June 5, 2021 - July 4, 2021

The Kyoto National Museum is pleased to present treasures from its collection to compare and contrast the ancient Olympics in Greece and religious folkways in Japan. The people of ancient Greece worshipped many gods and goddesses, and among the famous Panhellenic Games held to honor their deities, the most important and famous were the games held every four years at Olympia. Sacred ground to all Greeks, Olympia was a center of religious worship and the location of a magnificent temple to Zeus, lord of the heavens and almighty in the Greek pantheon. The athletes who competed at Olympia trained their minds and bodies to compete before these gods. The victors were feasted for days on end and gained the right to dedicate a statue of themselves on the temple grounds. In their home communities they were honored for the rest of their lives.

Like the ancient Greeks, Japanese since distant antiquity worshipped many deities, competed with each other in the presence of the divine, trained themselves mind and body, celebrated their victories, and feasted together with their gods.

This exhibit introduces art of Japan and East Asia that resonates with the stories and legends of the ancient Olympics, creating what we hope will be an opportunity to enjoy the arts of Asia while learning more about the world of ancient Greece.

10. Feasting

The winners of the games in Olympia received olive-wreath crowns. The wreaths for the Nemean Games, also held in ancient Greece, were made of wild celery. At the Isthmian Games, dedicated to the god Poseidon and held at the Isthmus of Corinth the crown was of pine or wild celery, and at the Pythian Games held in Delphi in honor of Apollo, the winner was crowned with laurel leaves and received an armful of apples. The reward for years of training was thus a crown made of plants, a jubilant celebration, and much personal glory. Moreover, once back in their home city-state, the winners who had been honored by the gods were treated as persons who had benefited the city; they were entertained with great banquets day after day and honored until the end of their lives. We close the exhibition with works evoking the atmosphere of feasting and celebration at banquets.


Feature Exhibition: Olympia Meets Japanese Art

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