The Art of Archaeology

December 6 – February 18 | MSU Union Art Gallery

Photography by Daniel Trego

While familiar to many, the expression “classical art and archaeology” masks a problem of identity. For much of its early history, the practice was shaped more by an interest in acquiring works of art than in understanding the people and places they represent. Yet, by the middle of the 20th century, this obsession with the sublime beauty of classical art began to draw sharp criticism from scholars who followed a more scientifically rigorous study of the human past. Thus, fieldwork took on an air of emotionless reserve thought to typify the “hard sciences.” To be sure, the adoption of scientific methods has done much to improve the practice of archaeology. But it is also difficult to deny completely the aesthetic appeal of these objects and the work that is involved in their study.

In 2020, thanks to the support of the Department of Art, Art History and Design and the College of Arts and Letters, Michigan State University became the institutional sponsor of the Excavations at Isthmia, an archaeological project in Greece begun in 1952. In 2021, the MSU project hosted its first season of active fieldwork, which was extensively recorded by Daniel Trego, Educational Media Design Specialist at the College of Arts and Letters. The resulting body of work captures the excitement and visual appeal of archaeological research and asks the question: Can the archaeology of art also be the art of archaeology?

This exhibition was organized by Jon Frey, MSU Excavations at Isthmia, and Daniel Trego, Educational Media Design Specialist, MSU College of Arts and Letters. This body of work and exhibition was made possibly thanks to Lynn Aguado, Stephen Bush, Clara Cilano, Alyssa DeTorrice, Timothy E. Gregory, Angeliki Kandri, Dan Meier, Alex Nichols, Brittnay Stahl, Inge Steglitz, Jacquelyn Sullivan Gould, Lita Tzortzopoulou-Gregory. Additionally, we would like to acknowledge the collaborative partnerships that make projects like this possible: the American School of Classical Studies at Athens; The MSU College of Arts and Letters; the MSU Department of Art, Art History, and Design; the Ephorate of Antiquities Corinth; and the MSU Office of Education Abroad.