Museum Brings Art of the Ancient Near East to the Northwest

Share Article

The Hallie Ford Museum of Art in Salem, Oregon will be the sole United States venue showcasing 64 ancient artworks created between 6000 - 500 B.C. from an area stretching from Turkey to Iran, which is often referred to as "the cradle of civilization." The exhibition will be on display from August 31 to December 22, 2013.

Male figure; Iraq; Mid-to-Late Early Dynastic Period, 2700-2500 BCE; alabaster; University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Photo: Penn Museum image no. 152346.

This exhibition represents a rare opportunity to view many culturally significant ancient artworks that are not normally available or accessible to audiences in the Pacific Northwest.

“Breath of Heaven, Breath of Earth: Ancient Near Eastern Art from American Collections,” showcases 64 ancient works, created thousands of years ago in the Fertile Crescent, an area stretching from Turkey to Iran, often called “the cradle of civilization.” This exhibition runs August 31 to December 22 at Willamette University’s Hallie Ford Museum of Art in Salem, Ore. and will be the sole venue for this important collection of cultural treasures.

Visitors will find exquisite pieces created between 6000 – 500 B.C. The museum will present the ancient work thematically, by the “Divine Realm,” the “Human Realm” and the “Animal Realm.” Drawn from over 20 distinguished collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Brooklyn Museum, “Breath of Heaven, Breath of Earth” tells the stories of Babylonians, Israelites, Persians and other ancient Near Eastern people and cultures.

Quintessential pieces include the head of Gudea, one of the earliest examples of royal portraiture, as well as lesser known works of artistic and cultural significance.

"This exhibition represents a rare opportunity to view many culturally significant ancient artworks that are not normally available or accessible to audiences in the Pacific Northwest,” says John Olbrantz, museum director. “While we often look to Greece and Rome as the birthplace of our Western culture, it is the even older cultures of the ancient Near East to whom we owe an equally important cultural debt.”

The exhibition includes a variety of special activities. A lecture series features experts such as Dr. Brian Fagan, one of the foremost archaeologists in the United States. A film series focuses on several of Agatha Christie’s most famous mysteries that were inspired by her work at archaeological sites. A family activity day will provide art-making and archaeological activities for all ages. Story telling sessions will introduce audiences to the literature and poetry of ancient Mesopotamia.

Olbrantz and Trudy Kawami, Director of Research at the Arthur M. Sackler Foundation, co-organized the exhibition and authored a full color book including illustrations and essays about the art, cultures, themes and the American discovery of the ancient Near East.

Financial support has been provided by an endowment gift from the Hallie Ford Exhibition Fund, an Art Works grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, and by general operating support grants from the City of Salem’s Transient Occupancy Tax funds and the Oregon Arts Commission. Additional support was provided by the Center for Ancient Studies and Archaeology and the Department of Art History at Willamette University.

Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Andrea Foust

Kara Kuh
Travel Salem
(503) 581-4325 24
Email >
Follow us on
Visit website