A new Gilcrease exhibit of ancient Panamanian gold reveals a complex culture.
These days, everyone is keeping an eye on gold futures. It wasn’t any different more than 500 years ago when inhabitants of the Americas wanted to establish wealth and advertise it with the precious metal.
To Capture the Sun: Gold of Ancient Panama, currently on exhibit at Gilcrease Museum, tells a story of a long ago culture, economy and mindset through a collection of more than 250 gold objects.
The museum’s collection, from the Gran Coclé culture of Panama, includes effigy pendants, pectorals, cuffs, bands, ear rods as well as vessels and other ceramics. With this assembly of pieces, visitors can begin to understand how metallurgy affected life in the Western Hemisphere.
The symbolic significance of adornment pieces comes through in details revealing the rituals and belief systems of the people of Panama before the arrival of European ships and the obliteration that followed.
The exhibit contains pieces from 750-900 AD. Visitors will get a look at the methods – such as wax casting – used to create gold and copper alloys that became signature processes to the region and to a people who looked at the products of these works as more than just currency. In the shapes of birds, monkeys, seahorses and other organisms of the natural world, these pieces represented a way for the wearer to connect to the natural and cosmic force of the universe.
To Capture the Sun runs through Jan. 15. Gilcrease Museum is scheduled to display a number of other special exhibits through the end of the year, including its Collectors’ Reserve American Art Exhibit and Sale.
For more information about the Panamanian gold exhibit or other details of Gilcrease, go online at www.gilcrease.org.