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Portrait of a queen regent trampling a captive (Stela 24). Estela 24 de Naranjo-Sa'al, Petén, Guatemala. MUNAE 15213. Registro 1.1.1.11100. Courtesy Ministry of Culture and Sports of Guatemala.

NEW YORK, NY.- The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced today that it will unveil a new installation of two eighth-century Maya stone monuments, known as stelae, in its iconic Great Hall on September 2, 2021. The two massive stelae—both significant long-term loans from the Republic of Guatemala—feature life-sized representations of influential Indigenous American rulers: a king, K’inich Yo’nal Ahk II (ca. A.D. 664–729), and queen, Ix Wak Jalam Chan (Lady Six Sky) (ca. A.D. 670s–741), one of the most powerful women known by name from the ancient Americas. The installation heralds the upcoming exhibition Lives of the Gods: Divinity in Maya Art, which is scheduled to open in fall 2022 and will highlight Maya visual narratives featuring a cast of gods: sacred beings that are personified elements of the cosmos, nature, and agriculture. The Great Hall display is also the first in a series of special exhibitions and installations that will present art of the ancient Americas, sub-Saharan Africa, and Oceania throughout The Met’s galleries while the Michael C. Rockefeller Wing is closed for a renovation project that will reenvision these collections for a new generation of visitors.

“This is a transformational moment for The Met's Great Hall: The ancient Hellenistic sculpture of the goddess Athena that has presided over the space leaves as Lady Six Sky, a queen from the ancient Americas, arrives to be prominently displayed alongside a life-sized representation of a second influential Indigenous American ruler," said Max Hollein, Marina Kellen French Director of The Met. "The Metropolitan Museum of Art is honored to collaborate with our friends and colleagues in the Republic of Guatemala on the celebration of these most important and exceptionally beautiful Maya monuments. As a Museum of the world and for the world, it is a great privilege for The Met to share these masterpieces with the thousands of visitors who walk through our Great Hall each day. They are also there to highlight the extraordinary visual culture of the ancient Maya, which will be featured in our upcoming Lives of the Gods exhibition next year, and in the completely renewed display of works from ancient Americas set to open when the Michael C. Rockefeller Wing renovation is complete in 2024.”

Both stelae will remain on view in the Great Hall until 2024. As part of the long-term collaboration, two additional works from the Republic of Guatemala will be treated by The Met’s conservation team alongside conservators from Guatemala.

These stelae are ambassadors for one of the world’s great visual traditions, embodying layered cultural meanings and introducing the legacy and rich histories of two Indigenous leaders,” said James Doyle, the curator of the installation and Assistant Curator of Ancient American Art in The Michael C. Rockefeller Wing. “This display truly reflects the fruitful partnership the Museum enjoys with the Ministry of Culture and Sports and the National Museum of Archaeology and Ethnography in Guatemala and highlights the important ongoing archaeological projects and preservation efforts led by our colleagues in the Maya region.”

Felipe Aguilar, Guatemala’s Minister of Culture and Sports, commented: "Guatemala is a country with a cultural wealth of more than 3,000 years of history. My vision as Minister of Culture is that the culture of Guatemala transforms into an engine of economic development for all Guatemalans." The Republic of Guatemala is celebrating its bicentennial of independence in 2021.

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Portrait of a seated ruler receiving a noble (Stela 5) Yok’ib (Piedras Negras, Guatemala). Courtesy Ministry of Culture and Sports of Guatemala.