Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Carlos Museum: Monsters, Demons, and Winged-Beasts

Surrounded by imagination-twisting monsters, demons, and winged-beasts, one is taken on an epic journey of exploration in the Michael C. Carlos Museum's newest exhibition. And the excitement doesn't stop there. In a second new exhibit, one gains a unique insight into the bridge between Africa's art and religion.

The Exhibits

"Monsters, Demons, & Winged-Beasts: Composite Creatures in the Ancient World" mostly focuses on Greek art and the borrowed imagery from Egypt and the ancient Near East to create a mythical world of creatures, many of which today remain popular in literature, cinema, and body art.

The Judgement of the Dead
The Judgement of the Dead
The exhibit is more than a display of art. It's also a history lesson. Many of the placards describe the origin of the creature depicted and its place or influence on various cultures.

There's a lot to see in the three galleries of this exhibition. A few of the creatures you see and learn more about include: Bellerophon, Bull-men (one in particular looks a lot like Yoda), Chimaera, Gorgons, Griffin, Hippocamps, Sirens, Skylla, Sphinxes, Sytars, and Triton.

Head of Pazuzu
Head of Pazuzu
One thing that I found fascinating was that in the Ancient Egyptian culture, monsters were not fear-inducing…quite the opposite actually. Monsters were creatures that provided protection, in life and the afterlife.

My new favorite mythical creature is the griffin…and there are quite a few in this exhibit. Actually, I don’t think I had a "favorite" mythical creature before, but after seeing such awe-inspiring examples, I hereby declare the griffin "the coolest mythical creature ever!"

With the head, wings, and talons of an eagle and the body of a lion, the griffin was often iconic for bravery and heroism. One of the pieces in the exhibit of a griffin was selected to be the cover art of the exhibition brochure. Look for a pair…they were originally handles on a vessel.

Griffin is also a city in Georgia, approximately 40 miles south of downtown Atlanta. And, possibly the best Beatles tribute band in the country, The Return is based in Griffin.

Buffalo Cap Crest Mask
Buffalo Cap Crest Mask, Cameroon
Opened the same day is the exhibit "Divine Intervention: African Art & Religion," an appropriate excursion during the month of February…Black History Month.

The exhibit consists of more than 50 artifacts from 20-plus African cultures that tell the story of "agents of communication between the divine and earthly realms."

I was particularly drawn to a buffalo cap crest mask from Cameroon and a hunter's shirt from Mali that is adorned with teeth, feet, claws, and horns.
Free admission to any museum is always a treat and the Michael C. Carlos Museum is doing its part (while at the same time meeting the mandate of its mission: "…to provide unique opportunities for education and enrichment in the community") with free admission on the following Fridays from 1:00 p.m. to 4 p.m.:

  • March 18
  • April 8
  • May 27
  • June 10
  • July 15
  • August 5

Both Monsters and Divine include artifacts from the Museum's permanent collections and loans from certain private collections. There are numerous lectures and educational programs associated with the exhibits taking place throughout the duration of the exhibition.

Opened on February 5, 2011, Monsters runs through June 19, 2011, and Divine runs through December 4, 2011.

The Other Exhibits

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the other galleries of the Museum. Keep in mind that this museum is expansive…you will want to plan ample time to discover all of its treasures.

I would be hard pressed to name a favorite gallery or collection in the Museum…each is impressive. Your choices are: 
Egyptian, Nubian, and Near Eastern; Greek and Roman; Ancient American; African; and Asian.


The Michael C. Carlos Museum, at Emory University, offers numerous tour options.

I'm finding that local colleges and universities tend to offer docent-led tours on Sundays…the Carlos Museum falls into that camp. Their docent-led tours are offered on Sundays at 2:30 p.m., during the academic year. Docent-led group tours are available, but require prior arrangements.

Belshazzar's Feast
Belshazzar's Feast
For an additional $2, an informative audio tour is available. A special audio tour, Times and Texts of the Bible, discusses connections between the Museum's permanent collection and the Bible. The Bible tour costs an additional $3.

Upcoming Attractions

Saturday, September 10, through Sunday, December 11, 2011.

Saturday, February 26, through Sunday, June 5, 2011.

Gift Shop

Want a unique souvenir? Stop by the gift shop…they have a little bit of everything and the prices are quite reasonable (especially compared to some other gift shops I've been in).

Other Information

Michael C. Carlos Museum
Michael C. Carlos Musuem
Unique, as far as I know, the Michael C. Carlos Museum offers 20% off admission to visitors who travel to the Museum on foot, bike, or bus…an attractive offer just for doing something beneficial for the environment.

And such efforts are important to cultural artifacts. When I lived in Greece in the mid-1980s, there were numerous initiatives to reduce air pollution caused in large part by automobile traffic. There had been more destruction done to ancient Greek ruins in the preceding 40 years than there had been in the 3,000 years preceding that.

In addition to an impressive permanent collection and special exhibits, the Carlos Museum hosts a number of other events. Throughout the year, a visitor can choose between activities ranging between book signings and book clubs to concerts and tastings.

Divine Intervention Gallery
Divine Intervention Gallery
Check the Museum's calendar on their website for more information.

The Return

Will I be going back to the Carlos? I'm hooked…I'll definitely be back and probably before the next new exhibit opens. This museum is amazing and has one of the most impressive collections. Its' Greek and Egyptian collections could be described as a smaller version of the collections of the same cultures at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, which I try to visit every time I'm there.

Touring Michael C. Carlos Museum

Date toured: Saturday, February 5, 2011
Location: 571 South Kilgo Circle, on the main quadrangle (
directions and map)
Parking: Fishburn Parking lot; Boisfeuillet Jones lot (details)
Cost: $8 Adults; $6 Student, Seniors, Children
Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.; Sunday 12 p.m. – 4 p.m.; Mondays Closed

Medusa, a Gorgon
Medusa, a Gorgon

1 comment:

Terry said...

An Atlanta treasure, very easy to visit. Stunning exhibits. Few people know it exists.