DESTE Foundation’s “Liquid Antiquity” latest project explores the possibility of reinventing classicism and argues for its enduring influence on contemporary art. Conceived by Brooke Holmes, Robert F. Goheen Professor in the Humanities and Professor of Classics at Princeton University, in collaboration with Polina Kosmadaki, curator at the Benaki Museum, and Yorgos Tzirtzilakis, artistic advisor to the DESTE Foundation, the project includes a book with critical contributions by renowned scholars and conversations with prominent artists, as well as a site-specific video installation of artist interviews, conceived and designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro. The installation will be on view at the Benaki Museum, Athens, from April 4 through September 17, 2017.

Liquid Antiquity is organized by the DESTE Foundation in collaboration with the Benaki Museum and the “Postclassicisms”, a global research network dedicated to redefining the study of classical antiquity, based at Princeton University.

Liquid Antiquity Book: An open-ended dialogue with a series of critical texts

Bringing together artists, classicists, critics, historians, political theorists, and philosophers, the book, edited by Professor Holmes and Karen Marta, is a critical reflection on the fluid and open-ended relationship between antiquity and contemporary art. Liquid Antiquity is made up of two interweaving strands: a visual essay spanning more than twenty-five hundred years of art history, set in an open-ended dialogue with a series of critical texts by twenty seven scholars, and interviews with ten contemporary artists.


Radically breaking the traditional notion of temporality, the visual essay creates a dialogue across twenty-five hundred years by presenting images of contemporary art alternating with images from antiquity and the long history of classicism in Western visual culture. The structure and design of the book, reminiscent of that of a classical lexicon, reiterate the overall attempt to create a new vocabulary that will help catalyze connections between antiquity and contemporary art. By facilitating conversations across disciplines and eras, Liquid Antiquity aims to create a space in which artists and scholars can reflect on their practices, while delving deeply into the past to uncover its resonance with the present. The hope is that, through this unique discourse, readers can forge their own critical and creative connections between antiquity and its legacies, and their own perspectives on contemporary art.

Liquid Antiquity is distributed in the USA and Canada through Distributed Art Publishers and in Europe through Buchhandlung Walther König. In Athens, the book is available at the Benaki Museum shop, the Museum of Cycladic Art shop and the offices of the DESTE Foundation.

Liquid Antiquity: Conversations

A site-specific video installation, Liquid Antiquity: Conversations, conceived and designed by New York City-based Diller Scofidio + Renfro studio is a complement to the launch of the Liquid Antiquity book. It places six conversations with Professor Brooke Holmes and artists Matthew Barney, Paul Chan, Urs Fischer, Jeff Koons, Asad Raza, and Kaari Upson, in dialogue with the Benaki Museum’s permanent collection of antiquities.

The original settings of the interviews—artists’ studios and apartments—are superimposed on the real space of the museum and the dialogue is extended to the museum visitor. The Benaki galleries are both the backdrop and context in which ancient artifacts mix with contemporary artists in dialogue with the past and present. Moving experientially from the private reading relationship with the book, to the static presence of the artifact, to the active video encounters with the featured artists, the visitor is invited not only to reassess our relationship with ancient Greece, but also to participate in the shifting scales and contours of the “we” who encounter the classical past.