Sunday, August 24, 2003

Daoud sees exhibit as a tool for understanding

"It's a great opportunity for our community and for Americans to appreciate the depth of the past of Jordan and the antiquities of Jordan," says Dr. Fuheid "Fred" Daoud, member of the board of trustees of the Cincinnati Art Museum and a supporter of the upcoming Petra: Lost City of Stone.

"In the U.S., when you say 'Jordan,' it is associated with King Hussein and Queen Noor more on the personality level, and there isn't much knowledge ... about Jordan as the crossroads of culture in the Middle East."

That will change in October when the exhibition, conceived and co-curated by Glenn Markoe of the Cincinnati Art Museum, opens at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. The show travels to Cincinnati in September 2004.

"Petra is a story not only of the Nabataeans (an ancient people of Arabia of what is now western Jordan) but also of the unique collaboration between Jordan and the United States," says Timothy Rub, Cincinnati Art Museum director. "In a time of turmoil, the United States and Jordan have formed a unique cultural collaboration. Just as Petra was a center of global commerce in ancient times, we are bridging cultural divides in our global society through the exhibition Petra."

More than 200 objects on loan from collections in Jordan and Europe will be part of the exhibition that will showcase the creators of Petra, the Nabataeans, by revealing their technological and artistic virtuosity in a uniquely challenging environment.

"Petra is one of the world's most spectacular archaeological sites, combining an extraordinary natural landscape and monumental buildings," says Craig Morris, senior vice president, dean of science and curator of the Division of Anthropology at the American Museum of Natural History in New York and co-curator of Petra.

"The exhibition re-creates many aspects of this impressive natural and human setting, using artworks, photographs and actual architectural elements to tell the fascinating story of life in this ancient city (and) using the eloquent beauty of the work of its people."

Included are stone sculptures and reliefs, ceramics, metalwork, stucco works and ancient inscriptions - many on view in the United States for the first time. There will also be a selection of 19th-century paintings, drawings and prints and architectural cross-sections of Petra's most important monuments.

Among highlights are an elephant-headed capital from Petra, a monumental frieze from a Nabataean temple at Khirbet Sharih, a sculpted window frame from a private villa and a limestone pulpit from a Byzantine church (sixth century A.D.).

Key masterworks include a limestone head of a Nabataean male deity, a seated sandstone cult statue of a storm god, a life-size cast bronze statue of the goddess Artemis and a marble head of a Roman emperor.

The Cincinnati Art Museum has the most extensive collection of Nabataean art outside Jordan. These holdings were excavated in 1937 at the site of Khirbet Tannur and were originally divided between the American and Jordanian authorities. Petra will reunite the two collections, which together are considered the most important works of Nabataean art in existence.

"This is a great opportunity for Jordanians to expose their heritage to the American public and for our relationship to transcend the political and go into the cultural where we have many things in common," Daoud says.

- Marilyn Bauer

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