George Petrides on His Exhibit Hellenic Heads at National Hellenic Museum

Petrides NHM exhibition
Petrides: the exhibit is “my personal reflection on six periods of Greek history.” Credit: Christos Simatos/NHM handout

Chicago’s National Hellenic Museum (NHM) is hosting the “Hellenic Heads” exhibition by sculptor George Petrides, featuring six larger-than-life busts inspired by key periods in Greek history spanning 2,500 years, from ancient times to the present.

Speaking to Greek Reporter, the artist, who was named a “globally recognized sculptor” by Forbes in 2022, said that the exhibit is “my personal reflection on six periods of Greek history.”

These include the Classical Greek Period (510 BC to 323 BC); Byzantine Period (330 AD to 1453 AD); Greek War of Independence (1821 to 1829); Destruction of Smyrna (1922); Nazi Occupation and Greek Civil War (1941 to 1949); and the Present.

“Important periods that were formative for modern Greeks, including my parents, grandparents, and by extension myself.”

Petrides, who lives and works primarily in New York City, creates sculptures that include the figurative and abstract, in sizes ranging from palm-sized to over 12 feet on a base.

How George Petrides got the idea of “Hellenic Heads”

He explained to Greek Reporter that the idea of the “Hellenic Heads” came from a friend who encouraged him to do a sculpture of a large head as part of an exercise.

“I did a very large head of myself and a large head of a female which became the head of my mother. Those two are part of the six in the exhibition. I added another four over time to make this collection.

“Each head is about a specific historical period and depicts a family member. My mother, for example, posed for Ancient Greece and my father for the Byzantine period.”

The heads are approximately three feet in height and stand taller than six feet on pedestals.

Petrides NHM exhibition
The Hellenic Heads exhibition. Credit: Facebook / National Hellenic Museum

Born and partly raised in Greece, Petrides is steeped in ancient Greek and Roman sculpture and the later works that were influenced by it (Donatello, Michelangelo, Rodin, Maillol, et al.).

Furthermore, modernist sculptors of the mid-20th century such as Giacometti and contemporary sculptors who reference ancient Greek sculpture such as Ray and Bhabha have played an important role in his work.

Petrides to move exhibition to Venice after the National Hellenic Museum

His primary artistic interest is in the human experience in the form of the body and the head, exploring the beauty and the imperfection of people and of life.

Petrides grew up in a family of artists and business people and his first career was on Wall Street. He took his first art class at age 32 and continued taking art classes for some 20 years before committing to making art full-time.

The exhibition launched on July 21 at the National Hellenic Museum and will remain open till December 10.

Petrides told Greek Reporter that after Chicago, the “Hellenic Heads” exhibition will move to Venice for the Biennale 2024 starting on April 17. The exhibition will be launched at the Hellenic Institute of Byzantine Studies.

The National Hellenic Museum, dedicated to connecting generations to the legacy of Greek culture and history and the Greek story in America, recently hosted the ceremony for the return by the US of dozens of ancient coins to Greece.

The Museum highlights Greek American contributions to the American mosaic, and inspires curiosity about visitors’ own family stories through cultural expression and oral history. Field trips and tours are available every day.

Public programs and community events are scheduled throughout the year. The NHM Greek Language Program offers semester-long lessons in modern Greek to all ages.

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