The Metropolitan Museum of Art to Present First Major Exhibition of Maya Art in the United States in a Decade

Exhibition Dates: Nov. 21, 2022–April 2, 2023

Exhibition Location: The Met Fifth Avenue, Floor 2, Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Exhibition Hall, Gallery 999


In Maya art—one of the greatest artistic traditions of the ancient Americas—the gods are depicted in all stages of life: as infants, as adults at the peak of their maturity and influence, and finally, as they age. The gods could perish, and some were born anew, providing a model of regeneration and resilience. Opening November 21, at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the exhibition Lives of the Gods: Divinity in Maya Art will bring together nearly 100 rarely seen masterpieces and recent discoveries in diverse media—from the monumental to the miniature—that depict episodes in the life cycle of the gods, from the moment of their birth to resplendent transformations as blossoming flowers or fearsome creatures of the night. Created by masters of the Classic period (A.D. 250–900) in the spectacular royal cities in the tropical forests of what is now Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico, these landmark works evoke a world in which the divine, human, and natural realms are interrelated and intertwined. Lenders include major museum collections in Europe, Latin America, and the United States, and many of these works have never been exhibited in the U.S., including new discoveries from Palenque (Mexico) and El Zotz (Guatemala).


“Lives of the Gods invites us to experience the exhilarating and profound power of Maya visual artistry,” said Max Hollein, Marina Kellen French Director of The Met. “This stunning exhibition presents spectacular works of art—many rarely seen, especially in New York—and compelling reflections on depictions of the divine; the importance of ancestral knowledge; and new understandings of Maya creative practices and the artist’s role in court society. This is sure to be a memorable show for our visitors.”

The exhibition is made possible by the William Randolph Hearst Foundation, the Placido Arango Fund, the Diane W. and James E. Burke Fund, the Gail and Parker Gilbert Fund, the Mellon Foundation, and The International Council of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The exhibition was organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Kimbell Art Museum.


Exquisitely carved sculptures were believed to embody divine power and presence; ornaments of jadeite, shell, and obsidian once adorned kings and queens, symbolically connecting them to supernatural forces; and finely painted ceramics reveal the eventful lives of the gods in rich detail.


The exhibition was organized by Joanne Pillsbury, Andrall E. Pearson Curator of Ancient American Art, The Michael C. Rockefeller Wing, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, with Oswaldo Chinchilla Mazariegos, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Yale University, and Laura Filloy Nadal, Associate Curator, also at The Met in The Michael C. Rockefeller Wing. The exhibition was initially conceived with James Doyle, Director the Matson Museum, Associate Research Professor, Pennsylvania State University, and is organized at the Kimbell by Jennifer Casler Price, Curator of Asian, African, and Ancient American Art.


A lavishly illustrated catalogue, published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and distributed by Yale University Press, will accompany the exhibition.

The publication is made possible by the Samuel I. Newhouse Foundation, Inc.


Additional support is provided by the Mellon Foundation and the Doris Duke Fund for Publications.


Programs offered in conjunction with the exhibition will include a “Family Afternoon” on February 12, and a teen-focused “Career Lab” scheduled for Spring 2023. For individuals with learning and developmental disabilities and those on the autism spectrum, there will be special “Discoveries” programs inspired by Lives of the Gods on January 8; and for visitors who are blind or partially sighted, “Seeing through Drawing” (on January 14) and “Picture This” (on January 19).


Education programs are made possible by an anonymous donor.


The exhibition will be accompanied by an Audio Guide, which will include insights by the three curators as well as linguist Romelia Mo, a contemporary native speaker of Poqomchi’—one of the 21 Mayan languages spoken in Guatemala today—presenting visitors with an opportunity to hear the Poqomchi’ language spoken, as well as glyphs read in Classical Mayan. It will be accessible online and through a gallery QR code.


The Audio Guide is supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies.


The exhibition will be featured on The Met website as well as on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter using the hashtag #LivesOfGods.