I hope people know about the Museum of Classical Archaeology in Cambridge. It is one of the world's best collections of plaster casts of Greek and Roman sculpture. And it's not just a dusty corner (like, I have to confess, it may once have been -- however much loved locally). For decades now it has been hosting modern artists engaging with the classical past. One of my favourites was a 1991 show by the photographer, David Ward, then artist in residence at King's, who covered the (casts of the) Olympia pediments with a large yellow sheet (above) and blew a fan against it: it was called, yes, "Pneuma". And it provoked a frank exchange of views about the point of casts and where exactly they met modern art practice. I am using 'frank exchange of views' in its usual euphemistic sense. There were some then who thought this was playing silly buggers with the classical casts.
A few years later, with one of my best colleagues, I staged a reworking of Euripides' Hippolytus using the casts in the Museum. We tried to get them to act out the play, including the dead Phaedra and Theseus holding the fateful letter. It wasnt quite modern art in the Ward sense, but it did take the plaster casts as modern actors (and play with the word 'cast' of course). It isnt accessible eaily on line but we wrote about it in Arion 1997.
Right now there is an even more ambitious show there, worth taking a look at.
It's called 'Recasting'. And it features a whole lot of engagements between modern artists and the classical past, from Maggi Hambling to Paul Kindersley. It is the brain child of two of our doctoral students, Ruth Allen and James Cahill, who want to make a point about the conversations that are possible between the ancient and the modern world via plaster casts. Here's Maggi Hambling among the heads:
Do go and have a look if you are passing. It's free and fun!