Archaeological excavations throughout the Americas have revealed the extraordinary diversity and continuity of the continent's native civilisations and cultures, from around 40,000 BC to the present day. However, very few exhibitions in Europe have explored this rich cultural heritage.
Sacred Symbols aims to highlight the beauty, variety and complexity of the art of America's native peoples. Some 125 objects from the best-known civilisations, dating from around 4,000 BC to the arrival of the first Europeans in the 16th century, represent every aspect of the daily lives of their creators: their religious beliefs, history and society. Important masterpieces from the native cultures of North, Central and South America (the Olmec cultures, Mayas, Aztecs, and Incas) have been loaned to the exhibition from the rich collections of the Musée Fabre's American partner institutions in the FRAME network (French American Museums Exchange). The exhibition presents a remarkable, rarely-seen panorama of art from across the Americas: elegant ceramics decorated with abstract and figurative motifs from the south-western US; superb jade sculptures of human and animal figures from ancient Mexican cultures; the stone statues of the Mayan civilisation, worked with extraordinary skill and attention to detail; gilded mythological figures from central America; Nazca ceramics from Peru. After Montpellier, the show tours to the art museums of Rouen, Lyons and Rennes, throughout 2002-3.