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October 18, 2008 - January 18, 2009

The Museums of Berlin and the Legacy of James Simon

Legion of Honor


Ancient Art Council

Ancient Art Department

Ancient Art Council
Legion of Honor

100 34th Avenue, Lincoln Park
San Francisco, CA 94121

An outstanding collection of the treasures of the State Museums of Berlin honors the contributions of patron James Simon. This exhibition is a case study of the history of collecting during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and features approximately 150 works from nine separate Berlin museums. These objects feature Egyptian and Near Eastern antiquities, Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque sculptures, Old Master paintings, works on paper including eighteenth and nineteenth-century Japanese woodblock prints, art of the Silk Road, and European folk art donated by Simon for the State Museums of Berlin. James Simon (1851–1932), a German Jew, was a patron of the arts, connoisseur, collector and philanthropist best known for his sponsorship of excavations in Egypt, the Near East, and Central Asia that brought great riches from the ancient world to Berlin including the bust of Nefertiti and the Ishtar Gate of Babylon and its Processional Way. Dedicating his life to public welfare, Simon displayed a remarkable social commitment and created an extraordinary cultural legacy. His gift of thousands of items to the State Museums of Berlin identified him as one of Berlin’s most important patrons and elevated Berlin to the ranks of museum capitals such as London, Paris, and Vienna. His support of archaeological excavations, including the Amarna and Mesopotamia expeditions, helped to preserve some of the most rare and important objects from antiquity. "When one realizes the extent of James Simon’s gifts and his foresight in saving the art of the past, it is hard to believe this is all the result of one individual," says Renee Dreyfus, curator-in-charge of ancient art and interpretation for the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Organized by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco in partnership with the State Museums of Berlin.

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This exhibition will be held in the 

Legion of Honor

About Exhibitions at the Ancient Art Council

Exhibitions are an important aspect of a curatorial department. The Ancient Art Department has organized and mounted over the years exhibitions showcasing art from different ancient cultures in the Mediterranean. Some of these exhibitions are also accompanied by scholarly catalogues written, edited, or with contributions by the curator in charge of Ancient Art and Interpretation, and published by the Publications Department. Exhibitions, like publications, fulfill the fundamental commitment of the Department to education, research, and scholarship.

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