Four images: a ruined column, a piece of plaster, an etching of a temple and one of a panoramic view of the ocean.

Clockwise from top left:

Unknown (French). Double Capital, early 12th century. Limestone. Museum purchase.
Unknown (Roman). Fragment of a fresco, 1st century CE. Plaster. Gift of Charles H. Morgan.
Giovanni Battista Piranesi (Italian, 1720–1778). Ruins of the Supposed Temple of Hercules in the City of Cori (Rovine del Tempio supposto di Ercole nella cita di Cora), 1769. Etching. Bequest of William R. Mead (Class of 1867).
Douglas Keats (American, born 1948). Near Los Escullos (Cerca de los Escullos), 1991. Gelatin silver print. Gift of Ernesto and Leonor Mayans.

On View january 31 – june 25, 2023

A large, carved stone panel depicting King Ashurnasirpal II in profile, facing right. He holds a small bowl aloft in one hand.

Unknown (Assyrian). Relief representing King Ashurnasirpal II from Room H in the Palace of Ashurnasirpal II, 883-859 BCE. Gypsum alabaster. Gift of Dr. Henry John Lobdell (Class of 1849).

There are an intriguing number of architectural fragments in the collection of the Mead Art Museum. Representing parts and pieces of buildings from around the globe and across time–including 8th century Assyrian reliefs, a chip of a 1st century Roman frescos, 12th century capitals from French cathedrals, 20th century Yoruba and Dogon doors, and others–these objects have been separated from their original architectural surroundings and cultural moments. Each fragment suggests a lost history and an incomplete narrative; they are all haunted in some way.

Shown with paintings, photographs and prints of ruins, the exhibition proposes two entangled modes of inquiry: how can we address the romantic complexity, hopefulness and desire inspired by ruins, as well as the troubled history of architectural destruction and the legacies of heritage?

The aim of this exhibition is to bring together objects from antiquity to the 21st century that examine what it means to be in ruin, as both a material state and a theoretical concept, each with ethical and political features. In their incomplete state, ruins and fragments often inspire the viewer to contemplate the processes of ruination: the forces of nature, the intentional and collateral destruction of war, the passage of time, and the meanings of both individual and collective memories. As we reflect on these objects and try to imagine their original sites, or imagine different, even utopian, constructions, “Architectural Ghosts” also invites a critical look at Western institutional history, including art collecting, as part of a system of power and privilege.

Architectural Ghosts is organized by guest curator Karen Koehler, Chair of the Department of Art and the History of Art and Visiting Professor of Art History, Amherst College, and Professor of Architectural and Art History, Hampshire College.