New York, April 16 (Xinhua) -- Some 5,300 ancient Greek and Roman antiques will be unveiled to the public at the Metropolitan Museum of Art here on Friday and stay in the permanent galleries ever since.
At an inauguration ceremony on Monday attended by New York State Governor Eliot Spitzer, Philippe de Montebello, director of the museum, said: "Today we celebrate a landmark moment in the history of this institution -- a truly defining moment."
"What you will see are entirely new galleries, a grand architectural statement -- light-filled, airy spaces installed with thousands of works of art not previously on view, and in such a way that they can be seen clearly, cleanly and beautifully for the first time," he said.
The display of the Met's long-stored collection of Hellenistic, Etruscan, South Italian, and Roman art -- much of it unseen in New York for generations, was considered unrivaled outside of Italy.
The centerpiece of the New Greek and Roman Galleries is the Leon Levy and Shelby White Court -- a monumental, peristyle court for the display of Hellenistic and Roman art, with a soaring two-story atrium.
In the middle of the court stands a marble statue of Dionysus, god of wine and divine intoxication. He wears a panther skin over his short chiton and high sandals. Beside him is an archaistic female image, whose pose and dress imitate those of Greek statues carved in the sixth century B.C. This work is known as the Hope Dionysos, after the prominent collector Thomas Hope, who acquired it in 1796.
On either side of the court stand two larger-than-life-size statues of Hercules facing one another. A lion skin is draped over the left arm of the young, beardless Hercules. The older, bearded Hercules wears the lion skin across his shoulders, with the lion's head and mane forming a hood on his head. Both works were part of the Giustiniani Collection in Rome, first published in 1631.
In an adjacent gallery featuring Hellenistic art and architecture, a 12-feet-high marble column is displayed. It once stood in the Temple of Artemis at Sardis, the ancient capital of Lydia, in western Turkey. Sardis was one of the cities of western Asia Minor in which Greek influence was continually interwoven with local traditions.
In a gallery for Hellenistic art and tradition located on the mezzanine, a statue of Eros sleeping shows the plump body and relaxed pose of a child. This concept of Eros, the god of love, is different from that of the powerful, often cruel, and capricious being more commonly known in the past.
The works of art on display, created between about 900 B.C. and the early fourth century, ranges from bronzes, marble sculpture to coins, jewelry, vases and wall paintings.
The long-awaited opening will conclude a 15-year project for the complete redesign and reinstallation of the Museum's superb collection of classical art.
"The New Greek and Roman Galleries are a milestone in an unprecedented building campaign -- more than a dozen years in the making -- to construct anew within the framework of our historic building, to make use of new methodologies while honoring the old, and to encourage our visitors to look at ancient art in a new way," commented Philippe de Montebello.
Audio guide offers more than 100 new messages about the display and will be available in translation in five languages, English, Spanish, French, Italian and Japanese.