THE EXHIBITION of women in Greek classical art at the Walters Art Gallery also displays the gallery's own prowess. There is more to it than classically beautiful ancient Greek sculpture and vases.
This is the first major museum exhibition that looks at how a distant civilization regarded women, as evidenced by its works of art. "Culture" is used in an anthropological rather than art sense. Such an approach has been taken in university courses. Now other leading museums are about to emulate the Walters' lead, with shows on women in other cultures.
"Pandora's Box" is borrowed from many collections in the U.S. and Europe as well as from downstairs on Charles Street. Organized by the museum's curator of ancient art, Ellen Reeder, it is also the first exhibition created entirely by the Walters Art Gallery to be shown abroad. After closing here, Jan. 7, it will go to Dallas and to Basel, Switzerland. It is the first Walters exhibit to have an international sponsor, the Swiss pharmaceuticals firm, Ciba.
This is one of the first times the Walters has had simultaneous temporary exhibitions -- for a while, four of them. Some regular visitors who take the permanency of its collection for granted have been startled to find things moved about. Medieval Italian paintings descended from fourth floor paintings to third floor medieval religious objects. Nineteenth Century paintings went temporarily out of sight. The net effect is the impression that what has been Baltimore's most stable and dependable institution is dynamic and changing.
It is. Planning is complete for renovation of the city-owned museum's 1974 wing. This will involve re-installation of half the art on display over several years. It should become more inviting for children and families. There will be high-tech labeling and a bigger shop. Fund-raising for all this began with a bond issue approved by city voters a year ago.
Attendance is steadily increasing and topped 300,000 in the last fiscal year, nearly equal to that of the Baltimore Museum of Art. It ought to go higher; the Walters has strengths not found elsewhere in Baltimore or Washington. And it should be on the must-see list of any tourist. "Pandora's Box" shows why.