Published  05/12/2002


Aztecs at the Royal Academy of Arts

Aztecs, Royal Academy of Arts, London opened on 16 November. It is a remarkable and brilliant exhibition. This is a groundbreaking show of the same ilk as the Tutankhamen show of the 1970s or the Africa exhibition of 1995.

Devoted to the cultural riches of Mexico's Aztec, this is the most comprehensive survey of their culture ever mounted, and one of the most ambitious exhibitions ever mounted at the Royal Academy. The sheer size of the exhibition requires considerable time to take in. The catalogue is a brick - a most beautifully designed, scholarly and comprehensive production - a must for all educational institutions and libraries. There are some 380 exhibits; the catalogue combines scholarly essays with informed entries for all the exhibits. Key themes of Aztec culture including the importance of the cosmos, the role of the different gods, the issue of kinship, the culture of war and human sacrifice as part of the cycle of life and death, and the natural world.

A great range of activities to accompany the show at the Royal Academy: chocolate tasting, puppet-making, Latin American music evenings, Mambo dance classes, lectures and seminars have been organised. In spite of their grotesque gods, their demonic animals and human sacrifice, the Aztec civilisation is presented as a spectacular and fascinating other world. It will be fully reviewed by Studio International in December.

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