By Codie Barry
The Irving Arts Center is featuring an exhibit on the ancient art of Peru called “Peruvian Gold: Ancient Treasures Unearthed” until Dec. 31, 2014. The show is presented in partnership with the National Geographic Museum in Washington D.C. and is curated by National Geographic’s Archaeology Fellow Dr. Fredrik Hiebert.
The exhibition boasts an incredible amount of artifacts from ancient Peru, excavated from the tombs of royalty. Perhaps the most impressive artifact, and certainly the most important to the exhibition, is “El Tocado”, the largest pre-Columbian headdress ever discovered, dating from the Middle Sican period (A.D. 900-1100). The exhibition seeks to educate and illustrate the incredible beauty, advancement and development of the art of the ancient, pre-Inca world of Peru. Because this civilization did not have a written language, we must rely on the art to speak for its people.
The exhibit highlights the importance of symbolism as a mode of communication with incredibly detailed animal and humanoid masks, which were used as funerary masks. The pieces are brightly colored and richly decorated with gold and other precious metals. Another way to communicate social status without written word was through appearance, specifically with the use of nose rings. Nose rings were worn to communicate high social status. The nose rings clipped into the nose and covered the whole lower portion of the face. One nose ring at the exhibit is a dual metal ring, one half gold and the other half silver to represent the sun and moon. It is carved with cats, a symbol of power and strength. The exhibit also features rich examples of Peruvian textiles, jewelry and pottery. The pottery and textiles have utilitarian purposes, but are woven and painted with stories of mythology. They are physical vessels of history.
Peru is now considered one of the six cradles of civilization. The art to come from this civilization is a testament to the incredible detail and craftsmanship of the ancient people of South America. The desires and motivations of this art to understand the world, and to attempt to appease and define the supernatural are not any different from the desires and motivations of modern man. From a purely artistic standpoint, this is an important exhibition to visit. It is even more important from a historical standpoint. Irving is the only location outside of Washington D.C. to host “Peruvian Gold,” and this is the first time these artifacts have ever been on display in the United States.
The exhibit is open Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. On Thursdays it is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. On Sundays it is open from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. It is closed on Mondays and will be closed on Christmas Day. To visit, it is $12 for adults and $8 for senior citizens, students, COI Employees, Art Connection and National Geographic members and the members of the military.