Olmec images

(Left to right) Colossal Head 5, 1200–900 BC. Museo de Antropologia de Xalapa, Universidad Veracruzana; Archaeologists study a monumental stone head discovered at the La Venta site in Tabasco State, Mexico. © Richard Hewitt Stewart / National Geographic Stock; Monument 1 (seated figure), 1200–900 BC. Museo de Antropologia de Xalapa, Universidad Veracruzana (Reg. 49 P.J. 4023). Object photos: Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes–Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia–Mexico–Javier Hinojosa

Olmec: Colossal Masterworks of Ancient Mexico

February 19, 2011May 8, 2011

Considered the “mother culture” of Mesoamerica and recognized as America’s oldest civilization, the people known today as the Olmec developed an iconic and sophisticated artistic style as early as the second millennium BC. The Olmec are best known for the creation of colossal heads carved from giant boulders that have fascinated the public and archaeologists alike since they were discovered in the mid-19th century. The monumental heads remain among ancient America’s most awe-inspiring and beautiful masterpieces today. Olmec: Colossal Masterworks of Ancient Mexico, featuring more than 100 objects, drawn primarily from Mexican national collections with additional loans from over 25 museums, is presented at the de Young Museum. Included in the exhibition are colossal heads, a large-scale throne, and monumental stelae in addition to precious small-scale vessels, figures, adornments, and masks. Olmec brings together for the first time new finds and monuments that have never been seen by American audiences and reveals new scholarship on Olmec culture and artifacts. 

On February 19, 2011 the de Young hosted a day-long symposium featuring presentations from major Olmec archaeologists and scholars. To listen to these lectures, please click here.

Exhibition Preview

Olmec head
Twin I
Twin II
Feline
Stela
Figures and celts
Ball baby

Funding for the San Francisco production of the exhibition is provided by the Phyllis C. Wattis Fund for Traveling Exhibitions

The exhibition was organized by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in collaboration with the Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes—Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia de México.

INAH

The exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Education programs and events presented in conjunction with the exhibition are sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts, Wells Fargo, the Winifred Johnson Clive Foundation, Gail and Alec Merriam, the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, Lauren L. T. Hall and David Hearth, and the Friends of AOA.

National Endowment for the ArtsWells Fargo