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24 May 2004
Olympic News , museum-news-articles

Destination Olympia: the genesis of an exhibition

No less than 900m2 of frescoes have been painted for the new exhibition in the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, entitled “Destination Olympia”. This exhibition will open for the public on Thursday 27 May 2004.

Immersed in the atmosphere of two ancient Greek cities
The idea of an exhibition on the Ancient Games came about spontaneously in this Olympic year, and the scenario was rapidly defined. However, to succeed with this project, a scenario had to be found in order to highlight the two symbolic places of the Ancient Games: Elis and Olympia.

Elis with its agora, shops and a fountain
Elis, the town where the athletes train one month before the Olympic events. The exhibition will cover daily life, political life, the birth of democracy and training in the palaestra. The city had to be reconstructed with the original décor, in this case, Greek, with an agora, buildings and shops, a palaestra, a fountain and columns.

A life-size column of the temple of Zeus
Olympia is the sanctuary where the Games take place. The exhibition covers the competitions, victory, the role of mythology in Ancient Greece and sculpture, through the reconstruction of Phidias’s workshop and the interior architecture of a life-size column of the temple of Zeus (2.25m in diameter).

Atmosphere recreated through optical illusions and trompe-l’oeils
The new exhibition also aims to be a theatre, which visitors can wander around and immerse themselves into. It was therefore necessary to find the people capable of recreating this atmosphere through optical illusions and trompe-l’oeils, while scrupulously respecting the architectural constraints of the Doric order. Jean-Blaise Guyot and Marie Foucart, seconded by Ali Bachir-Chérif, three specialists in trompe l’oeils, took up this challenge with great success, taking into account the precise and valuable advice given by Prof. Klemens Krause, an archaeologist and architect specialising in Antiquity.

Constant concern for historical authenticity
However, to succeed in this project, the help of other professions was indispensable: a carpenter for the porticos of the house and palaestra, a cabinet-maker to make the couches in the andron (the banquet room, reserved for men), cut out the mouldings and reproduce the kloreterion (machine for drawing lots to select judges), a ceramicist to reproduce Phidias’s vase, the klepsydrae (water clocks) and the various ceramics we need. All these pieces were fired in a wooden kiln, in keeping with the ancient procedure. As a guiding principle, the constant concern for historical authenticity.

A pattern using pebbles from Ravenna
The mosaic artist went to Ravenna to find the pebbles she needed to recreate a pattern from the 5th century. A restorer specialising in antique reproductions was responsible for creating a mould, in two sections, because of the size of the shaft, for the 20 or so columns and their capitals. He was also behind the reproduction of the seated bath and the antique toilets.

An ancient punching ball
Then, the choice of colours for the materials to cover the andron’s seven couches had to be made. An original oil lamp from Geneva’s Museum of Art and History served as a model for the replica lamps that will light this room. A cellarer, using the picture of a bronze engraving, managed to reproduce a koricos. This ancient punching ball was used in training by pugilists and pancratists.

Learn more on the Olympic Museum

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