Conceiving Byzantium: Behind the scenes at 'Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition'
From March to July 2012 Dr. Helen C. Evans curated her third blockbuster exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition. Following Glory of Byzantium and Faith and Power, themselves successors of The Age of Spirituality, it was a critical and popular success. Smaller and more focused than the others, it allowed Dr. Evans to bring astonishing and unfamiliar objects to bear on a focused problem. Of all exhibitions this was the one with a story, of the continuing impact of Byzantine art and culture on the empire’s wealthy southern provinces even as they became part of the emerging Islamic world from the seventh to the ninth century. Historians of the period were fascinated by the strength and immediacy of the ways she found to tell the same story that they had been writing--of piecemeal transition rather than cataclysmic invasion. The general public was attracted both by the story, and by the beauty of the objects on display. On September 20, 2012, in the Music Room of Dumbarton Oaks, Dr. Evans reflected on the story behind the exhibition.