Kallos means “beautiful” in Greek (remember the Callipygian Venus admiring her beautiful buttocks). Lorne Thyssen's antiquities gallery opened in London’s Davies Street last month with just 15 very beautiful objects, of which he commissioned over life-sized replicas in ice for the launch party in Claridge’s. But even more remarkable than these chilly objects were the guests: the Prince of Wales at the gallery; the ex-King and Queen of the Hellenes at the dinner, seated for reasons of protocol with that avid collector of antiquities and much else, Sheikh Saud bin Mohammed al Thani of Qatar, and Professor Lord Renfrew. When challenged as to why this fierce opponent of the trade in unprovenanced antiquities was honouring such an event with his presence (only two of the items in the gallery have a listed provenance dating back before the 1970 Unesco Convention, which is the cut-off point for archaeological items if they are to be considered by most public collections in the West), Renfrew smiled benignly and said that he must be mellowing. And he was not alone in the academic stakes: there was Ian Jenkins of the British Museum, Professor Bert Smith of the University of Oxford, who leads excavations at Aphrodisias in Turkey, and Professor Nicholas Purcell, also of Oxford, who gave an eloquent speech about Roman “stuff”. Lorne Thyssen said that there would be a 10% discount for any buyer with a First in classical studies, but a 20% surcharge on anything bought by Sheikh Saud because of the number of times he had bid him up at auction.
Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Academic warmth and icy antiquities at gallery launch'