Goulandris Museum of Contemporary Art opens in Athens, take one:
Oh Aristotle (384–322 BC), that hard-thinking wretch. Were it not for the Greek philosopher’s rock-star status through the centuries, the Goulandris Museum of Contemporary Art might have actually have seen the light of day years ago. You see, back when Greek shipping magnate Basil Goulandris was alive there was talk of displaying his now $3 billion-strong art collection in a structure on the edge of Athens’ posh Kolonaki district—but then it was discovered that the site was home to Aristotle’s Lyceum. That was in 1994; Basil passed away in 1996. There was no way anybody was going to plop a museum on top of the ground zero of Western thought and so paintings by Picasso, Van Gogh and El Greco simply languished—while appreciating in value, of course…
Goulandris Museum of Contemporary Art opens in Athens, take two:
Thank God (maybe the Russian oligarchs have gobbled it all up by now?) there’s no Jeff Koons here. But what you will find is…
Goulandris Museum of Contemporary Art opens in Athens, take three:
The most interesting (and perhaps only) cultural news in Europe this season is the opening of the Basil & Elise Goulandris Foundation museum of modern art in Athens.
As eclectic as the collection of these Greek philanthropists is what’s also unique about it is the location in the up-and-coming Pagrati (also spelled Pangrati) neighborhood of the Greek capital. According to me, “the hills that flank the Kallimarmaro stadium adjoin one of the most charming and authentic Athenian neighborhoods. Once you’re inside, Pangrati feels like you’ve stepped backstage at a small theater,known only to the locals who run the show out front. This is where real Athenians live, work, eat and play.” And now, it’s also where they will go to gawp at Degas, Monet and many more A-list artistes.
According to the museum, “the Collection is one of the most important private collections created during the second half of the 20th century.” Contemporary Greek artists are well represented here, but the things that are bound to draw the Instagrammers are the heretofore rarely seen paintings by the likes of Picasso, Van Gogh and El Greco. There’s also Roy Lichtenstein, Ed Ruscha…but mercifully no Jeff Koons. This intermediate-sized, deftly curated collection, showcased in an elegantly refurbished neoclassical style building, feels much more like labor of love than product.
The design is fittingly contemporary with absolutely brilliant lighting that makes several of the paintings (particularly El Greco’s arresting depiction of Jesus on the ‘Veil of St Veronica’) seem to miraculously glow, but neither is it so outré as to detract from the quiet power of the heavyweight artists whose oeuvre is rather triumphantly contained in these unexpected premises.
There’s a fine gift shop and nice café on site, too.
The museum and café are closed on Mondays. Visit goulandris.gr