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Christchurch quake shatters Greek art collection

Last month's eathrquake in Christchurch caused substantial damage to the University of Christchurch's collection of Greek art

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Red-figure vase.

Red-figure vase painting is one of the most important styles of figural Greek vase painting.

Staff entering the premises on Saturday were confronted with damage which ranged from minor chipping to substantial breakages.
05 October 2010

The University of Canterbury's acclaimed James Logie Memorial Collection sustained significant damages as a result of the 7.1 magnitude earthquake, which struck New Zealand's second largest city Christchurch, on September 4.

Damages to one of the finest collections of Greek and Roman antiquities on public display in the southern hemisphere are devastating to the University, Vice-Chancellor Dr Rod Carr said.

"Staff entering the premises on Saturday were confronted with damage which ranged from minor chipping to substantial breakages," he said.

The university was fortunate that one of the most valuable items - the Stilts vase by the Swing painter - is currently on loan to the Getty Villa in Malibu, California, where it features in The Art of Ancient Greek Theatre.

The Logie Collection, established in the 1950s in memory of the former registrar of the university, James Logie, is valued at several million dollars.

It is best known for its holdings of black-figure and red-figure vases. Recent acquisitions to the collection include an Athenian red-figure calyx krater by the Kleophon painter, Medea and the rejuvenation of the ram from 440 BC.

The collection also contains Minoan, Mycenaean, Geometric and Orientalising pottery, Greek and Roman inscriptions and coins and some fine examples of sculpture from the Hellenistic and Roman periods.

The collection includes almost 250 items, of which some are on loan from the Otago Museum, the Christchurch Art Gallery, Canterbury Museum and the estate of Marion Steven.

The Head of the Classics programme, Dr Alison Griffith, said staff were "heartbroken" at the extent of the damage but that it could have been worse.

"We have special display cases with sand bags in them. In five of the eight cases, the items wiggled and fell but only suffered minor damage such as chips and paint scraps. With the larger items, there was more serious damage as they hit the glass," she said.

Dr Carr said the University was extremely fortunate to hold the rich collection of antiquities and would be doing all it could to do to preserve and restore the precious items. The University is working closely with its insurer and the assessors.

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