The antiquity

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Antiquities that have long gathered dust in museums are at last coming out of hiding and finding new homes in contemporary spaces around the globe. For those fed up with what they believe is the shallowness of contemporary art, the arrival of ancient sculpture in the domestic interior is a welcome relief. Busts are not just visually beautiful – extraordinary examples of master craftsmanship – but a visual dive into deep history. This beautiful 2nd-century white crystalline marble bust of a woman’s head, for instance, from Kallos Gallery, is a depiction of Ariadne, who became the bride of Bacchus, the god of wine. It would have adorned the home of a wealthy Roman, who appreciated not just luxury materials, but the craftsmanship: the wreath here is made of finely carved pine cones and clusters, each finely modeled and hand-drilled. Heads such as this are also becoming extremely valuable at market. In 2010 a Roman marble portrait bust sold at Sotheby’s New York for $23.8 million – ten times the expected $2 million – and in 2014, an Egyptian limestone statue sold for over $20m at Christie’s: almost five times what they expected. Today, dealers and galleries such as Ariadne Galleries, David Ghezelbash, Phoenix Ancient Art, and Gordian Weber Kunsthandel feed an increasingly hungry group of collectors. The current trend is to mix antiquities with modern pieces, in the style of the Belgian seer of modern collecting, Axel Vervoordt. The trick if you get one? Backlight it, says Vervoordt. “That really brings an ancient head to life.”