Thursday, June 26, 2008

Babylon. Myth and Truth Opens at Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Prozessionsstraße, Detail: schreitender Löwe, Babylon, 6. Jh. v. Chr. Tonziegel, gebrannt und farbig glasiert. Vorderasiatisches Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. Foto: Maximilian Meisse.

BERLIN.- Babylon - myth, city, legend and truth. Vivid associations, which no other city can quite evoke as strongly in our minds. With this major exhibition, the National Museums in Berlin, jointly with the Musée du Louvre in Paris and the British Museum in London, venture to explore the myth of Babel and the true facts surrounding the ancient city of Babylon: two worlds - one exhibition.

The first section of the exhibition (=Truth) exposes the roots of our Western culture by looking at the archaeological remains of Babylon, thus revealing what lies behind the legends. This section centres around the Ishtar Gate and the Processional Way of Babylon, one of the ancient Seven Wonders of the World. Over 800 objects are exhibited, among them statues, reliefs, votive offerings, architectural fragments, and documents.

The second section of the exhibition (=Myth) regards Babylon as a metaphor for the dark sides of civilisation - repression and the lack of freedom, terror and violence, hubris and madness. In European art and culture, the myth of Babel is closely related to mankind's primal fears. Here, visitors experience the mythical story of the rise and fall of Babylon as a city of sin and tyranny, as the site of the confusion of tongues and the metropolis of eternal apocalypse. They venture on an expedition to the mysterious roots of these ideas, their emergence and establishment throughout the centuries up to the current day. The story is not one of a historical truth about Babylon, but of a truth about a civilisation that needs the myth of Babel in order to understand itself.

This is the first exhibition to present the Babylonian treasures from the world's ‘universal museums' jointly in a single show. In this way, 3000 years of Babylonian history is brought to life in a unique and comprehensive fashion.


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