published 3.07.2017

New Exhibition at the Onassis Cultural Center New York—A World of Emotions: Ancient Greece, 700 BC – 200 AD

by Onassis Foundation USA


On View March 9 – June 24, 2017

Distinguished Guests Including Actress Fiona Shaw and Author Judith Thurman to Join Hosts Simon Critchley and John Freeman for Public Conversation Series in the Gallery

Cross-Disciplinary Spring Season Dedicated to the Theme of Emotions Also Features a Commissioned Work by Artist Jannis Varelas, Family Programs, Free Guided Tours, and a Special Concert of Byzantine Hymns for Holy Week

NEW YORK, NY, March 7, 2017 — On March 9, the Onassis Cultural Center New York will bring to vivid life the emotions of the people of ancient Greece, and prompt questions about how we express, control, manipulate, or simulate feelings in our own society, by presenting its groundbreaking exhibition A World of Emotions: Ancient Greece, 700 BC – 200 AD. On view through June 24, 2017 exclusively at the Onassis Cultural Center New York, where admission is always free, the exhibition brings together more than 130 masterpieces from some of the world’s leading museums—including the Acropolis Museum, Athens; National Archaeological Museum, Athens; Musée du Louvre (Department of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities), Paris; British Museum, London; and Musei Vaticani, Vatican City—to explore the ideas and attitudes of people in classical antiquity toward emotion and the ways in which the emotions were depicted, revealing how some are strikingly familiar to us and some shockingly alien. Although ancient Greece is often said to have been flooded with the light of reason, A World of Emotions lays bare the far different reality addressed in the Iliad, whose very first word is menis: wrath.

Developed by a team of esteemed guest curators, A World of Emotions features vase paintings, sculptures (ranging from life-size statues from the Acropolis to relief carvings from cemeteries), theatrical masks, amulets, coins, and votive offerings, among other artifacts from the early 7th century BC (the traditional date of the Iliad) to the late 2nd century AD. Many are on view in the United States for the first time, and some seen for the first time outside Greece. Together, these objects provide a timely opportunity to think about the role of feelings in our own personal, social, and political lives, while helping to advance the relatively new field of the history of emotions.

Accompanying the exhibition to create a spring season dedicated to the theme of emotions is a cross-disciplinary constellation of other artworks, programs, and events. A vibrant large-scale diptych painting, Black Frames, commissioned from artist Jannis Varelas is installed on the Art Wall in the Onassis Cultural Center New York’s atrium space. Philosopher Simon Critchley and author John Freeman will host the peripatetic conversation series Let’s Walk, engaging celebrated guests such as actress Fiona Shaw and author Judith Thurman in discussions in the gallery. A regular schedule of guided tours and family programs will be provided, and on April 3, in collaboration with the Axion Estin Foundation, the Onassis Cultural Center New York will host a concert of Byzantine hymns for Holy Week, performed in the gallery. In a lighter vein, illustrator Brooke Barker, author of the bestselling Sad Animal Facts, will produce a series of drawings spinning off emotions for the spring season, which will be posted weekly on the Onassis Cultural Center New York’s website and social media and displayed on a video monitor in the gallery foyer.

Dr. Anthony Papadimitriou, President of the Onassis Foundation, said, “A World of Emotions and the programs that accompany it are powerful expressions of the mission of the Onassis Foundation: to support initiatives in education and culture as a means to achieve social cohesion. Although this exhibition is a rare and thoughtful thematic gathering of beautiful and fascinating objects from the ancient world, it is also much more: a contribution toward a better understanding of our present-day reality. We are deeply grateful to our distinguished guest curators for this important exhibition and its revelatory catalogue.”

Amalia Cosmetatou, Executive Director and Cultural Director of the Onassis Foundation USA, said, “Thanks to the brilliant work of our guest curators, A World of Emotions will make an important new contribution to scholarship, while bringing the public into the presence of objects that still have the power to move and astonish more than 2,000 years after they were made.”

About A World of Emotions Theoretical writings about human emotions date back to ancient Greece itself. Only within the past few decades, however, have scholars begun to investigate emotional life as a force that shapes societies, influences historical processes, and varies in different contexts—giving rise, for example, to such unique characteristics of ancient Greece as the belief that figures such as Eros (love) and Phobos (fear) were not just representations of emotions but actual gods to be supplicated or placated. These investigations face an inherent challenge, however, since the principal medium for research—textual evidence—is often a thin source, composed to filter, disguise, or even mute emotions as much as to reveal or arouse them. A World of Emotions expands the possibilities of a history of emotions in classical antiquity by going beyond literary texts and inscriptions to include the evidence of the visual arts.

The distinguished historian Angelos Chaniotis, co-curator of the exhibition, said, “We cannot directly study neurobiological processes in ancient Greece. But we can see how social norms, religious beliefs, philosophical ideas, and education determined the manifestations of emotions, and how emotions in turn determined social interaction, political behavior, and religious practice. This is our gain from studying emotions in the Greek world. What we learn about emotions in one culture and one historical period helps us understand another. It sharpens our mind to reflect on our lives and our world.”

A World of Emotions: Ancient Greece, 700 BC – 200 AD is curated for the Onassis Cultural Center New York by Angelos Chaniotis, Professor of Ancient History and Classics, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton; Nikolaos Kaltsas, Director Emeritus, National Archaeological Museum, Athens; and Ioannis Mylonopoulos, Associate Professor of Ancient Greek Art and Archaeology, Columbia University. The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue featuring essays by scholars including the co-curators, David Konstan, and Joseph E. LeDoux, as well as contributions from nearly 60 European and American authors.

Lenders to the exhibition include:


The Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports:

  • Archaeological Collection of Acharnes, Ephorate of East Attica
  • Acropolis Museum, Athens
  • Archaeological Museum of Kerameikos, Athens
  • Epigraphic and Numismatic Museum, Athens
  • Museum of the Ancient Agora, Athens
  • National Archaeological Museum, Athens
  • Archaeological Museum, Delos
  • Archaeological Museum, Heraklion
  • Archaeological Museum, Ioannina
  • Diachronic Museum, Larissa
  • Archaeological Museum, Marathon
  • Archaeological Museum, Piraeus
  • Archaeological Museum, Pella
  • Archaeological Museum of Pythagoreion, Samos
  • Archaeological Museum of Vathi, Samos
  • Archaeological Museum, Thera
  • Archaeological Museum, Thessaloniki
  • Archaeological Museum, Thebes
  • Archaeological Museum, Veria
  • Archaeological Museum, Brauron

Nicholas P. Goulandris Foundation—Museum of Cycladic Art, Athens
George Tsolozidis Collection, Thessaloniki

Musée du Louvre, Department of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities, Paris

Staatlichen Antikensammlungen und Glyptothek, Muenchen

Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples
Musei Capitolini, Centrale Montemartini, Roma Capitale, Rome

Antikenmuseum Basel und Sammlung Ludwig, Basel

United Kingdom
The British Museum, London

United States
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Vatican City State
Musei Vaticani, Vatican City 

A World of Emotions Playlist

Carnegie Hall, a program partner of the Onassis Foundation USA, has curated a playlist to accompany A World of Emotions: 700 BC – 200 AD. Available at and on Spotify, the playlist highlights musical expressions of emotion through works composed in diverse genres and time periods and with varying instrumentation, with special attention to the human voice. Selections range from excerpts from the Byzantine funeral mass to medieval songs, Baroque opera, an aria from Cherubini’s Medea sung by Maria Callas, and contemporary works by Osvaldo Golijov, Arvo Pärt, and Alfred Schnittke.

Spring Season Programs

In conjunction with the exhibition, the Onassis Cultural Center New York is offering a dynamic roster of programs to engage audiences in the discussion around the subject of emotions, including the signature Let’s Walk series, Family Sundays at Onassis, public and school tours, and off-site programs in collaboration with the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) and LIVE from the NYPL, among other initiatives.

Let’s Walk

A highlight of the spring season is Let’s Walk, in which philosopher Simon Critchley and author John Freeman hold discussions in the gallery with an eclectic series of guests.

  • Thursday, March 23: Simon Critchley with curator Angelos Chaniotis
  • Wednesday, March 29: Simon Critchley with actress and director Fiona Shaw
  • Thursday, April 6: John Freeman with poet Lawrence Joseph
  • Thursday, April 13: Simon Critchley with Peter Meineck, Professor of Classics in the Modern World at New York University
  • Thursday, May 4: John Freeman with essayist Garnette Cadogan
  • Thursday, May 11: Simon Critchley with author and New Yorker staff writer Judith Thurman
  • Thursday, May 25: Simon Critchley with designer Michael Bierut


Additional Let’s Walk programs will be announced in the coming weeks.

Family Sundays at Onassis

A rotating series of Family Sundays at Onassis brings together children and their families for interactive tours, live music, art projects and guided conversation around a variety of themes. Sessions of scheduled programs with tours begin at 11:30 am and last approximately 75 minutes each, with advance registration required. Drop-in art activities in the Atrium are held from 11:30 am to 4:00 pm.

  • March 26 and April 23: Emotions of the Gods (ages 5-9)
  • May 21 and June 11: Everyday Emotions (ages 5-9)
  • April 23 and May 21: Messages from Ancient Greece (ages 10-12)

A tour about the significance of emotions in Greek myth, with live music to highlight the emotions behind the artifacts. Families will be invited to create artworks and original music inspired by the exhibition, guided by guest artists and musicians. On April 23 at 11:30 am, there will also be a special tour presented in Greek.

A tour exploring the importance of everyday emotions through the stories of ancient Greece. Families will be invited to create artworks and original music inspired by the exhibition, guided by guest artists and musicians.

A tour exploring how ancient Greece inscriptions teach us about emotions in our own society. Participants will have the opportunity to create music to accompany stories in the exhibition.

Onassis Programs at Live from the NYPL

On Monday, May 15 at 7:00 pm, the Onassis Cultural Center New York will co-present Clytemnestra Revisited, a conversation featuring author Colm Tóibín on his new book House of Names. Additional participants will be announced in the coming weeks.

Public Tours

The Onassis Cultural Center New York offers guided tours of A World of Emotions on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 1:00 pm.

The Onassis Cultural Center New York is located in midtown Manhattan, in Olympic Tower, 645 Fifth Avenue at 51st Street. The exhibition is on view Monday through Saturday, 10:00 am to 6:00 pm, with extended hours on Thursdays until 9:00 pm, and also open to the public on Family Sundays. Admission to the Onassis Cultural Center New York is always free.

About the ONASSIS CULTURAL CENTER NEW YORK The Onassis Cultural Center New York explores Greek culture from antiquity to today, through a diverse program of exhibitions, events, and online engagement for audiences of all ages and interests. All programs and exhibitions—from scholarly to those designed for families, novices, and experts—are presented free of charge to make the experience accessible to all. About the ONASSIS FOUNDATION USA The Onassis Foundation USA, an affiliate of the parent Foundation in Greece, is committed to the promotion of Greek culture. By cooperating with educational and cultural institutions in Greece and throughout the Americas, the Onassis Foundation USA promotes cultural relations. The mission of the Onassis Foundation USA is realized through two major initiatives, one cultural and educational for the general public through its Onassis Cultural Center New York, and one academic, the University Seminars Program, that places eminent scholars from all over the world in universities in North and Latin America for courses on topics related to Hellenic civilization. To learn more about the Foundation and the Onassis Cultural Center New York, please visit:  


Polskin Arts & Communications
Counselors Meryl Feinstein

Onassis Cultural Center New York
Eleanor Goldhar / Maria Galanou
917.732.7166 / 917.913.0787 /


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