Goulandris Museum of Contemporary Art
The long-awaited Goulandris Museum of Contemporary Art finally opened its doors on October 2nd 2019. It is located on Eratosthenous Street in Pangrati and shares a small plaza with the adjacent church of Saint Spyridon. The museum is only a stone’s throw from Lyceum of Aristotle, Panathenaic Stadium and Pangrati’s hippest area, Plateia Proskopon.
Officially called the Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation and more commonly known as the “new museum”, the Goulandris Museum of Contemporary Art has been in the making for over 30 years. It is fast becoming one of the best things to do in Athens and should be on everyone’s list of the top museums in Athens as well. Its art collection (estimated to be worth $3 billion) is one of the world’s most valuable private collections amassed during the second half of the 20th century. Visitors can admire rare treasures by seminal artists like Cézanne, Monet, Picasso, Pollock, Van Gogh, and many others.
The long-awaited 11-story museum is now open to the public. In addition to a gift shop and café, visitors can enjoy a library containing Basil and Elise’s personal collection of 4500 art books. The museum’s upper floors are dedicated to 19th and 20th-century Western art, while the lower floors showcase Greek art from the past 100 years. From 2020, the lower ground floor gallery will host temporary exhibitions.
The museum’s opening included a stunning display of 180 works, including some of the most valuable pieces in the collection. Van Gogh’s Olive Picking (1889) is the first of a series of three the artist made during his stay at the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole asylum in the south of France. The painting gleams with a dream-like light as if painted on metal—a unique example of Van Gogh’s masterful appreciation of light and colour.
Other key pieces include:
- Picasso’s Woman Nude with Raised Arms (1907), also known as the Avignon Nude
- One of Claude Monet’s thirty or so paintings of the Rouen Cathedral painted during the 1890s (the Goulandrises owned two)
- Auguste Rodin’s Eternal Spring (1884), an exquisite brass sculpture that was part of the artist’s studies for his magnum opus, the Gates of Hell
- Other masterpieces by fin-de-siècle artists like Degas, Gaugin and Modigliani.
The museum also has some captivating works by the most celebrated artists from the post-war era, many of whom were personal friends of Basil and Elise. In the foyer, a portrait of Elise by Chagall (1969) beautifully captures her elegance and well-mannered disposition, with Basil’s figure looming over her like a shadow. Jackson Pollock’s Number 13 (1950) is a surprisingly small work from the artist’s famous “drip period”. Francis Bacon’s Three Studies for Self-portrait (1972) held emotional significance for the artist because they were drawn right after his partner tragically passed away.
The Greek section of the museum features works by renowned 20th and 21st-century artists, including Ghika, Tsarouchis, Moralis, Takis, Kounelis, Fassianos, Tsoclis, and Tombros. These galleries are an extension of the Goulandris Museum of Contemporary Art in Andros, founded by Basil and Elise in 1979 to house their extensive collection of Greek art. The importance of making a collection of this status accessible to the public cannot be overstated, especially given that most of these treasures have been hidden worldwide for decades.
The most important pieces from the collection will be on permanent display. At the same time, the rest will rotate so that, eventually, the entire collection can be seen by visitors. However, it’s important to remember that this is a private museum for a private collection.
History of the Foundation
The Basil & Elise Goulandris Foundation is a non-profit organization passionate about art. Its two museums, on the island of Andros and in Athens, are dedicated to promoting visual arts domestically and internationally.
The Foundation was established in 1979 by Basil and Elise Goulandris, who was inspired by the post-war Paris art scene. They were committed to helping young Greek artists evolve their art and expand their artistic horizons.
The Goulandris Foundation is home to one of the most important private collections from the latter half of the 20th century. In accordance with the wishes of its founders, the Foundation’s primary goal is to make the collection accessible to the public. As is typical with private collections, the selection criteria for works included were purely subjective.
The Goulandris couple chose the pieces for their museum with only their personal preferences in mind. They wanted to create a lively cultural hub in Athens that would be on par with other internationally acclaimed institutions. This would provide a broader audience with the opportunity to come into contact with and appreciate the art they so loved.
The Basil & Elise Goulandris Foundation, located in the heart of Athens, is home to the Foundation’s Collection and temporary exhibitions, educational programs and cultural events. The Foundation uses modern museological methods to showcase a wide range of contemporary art.
Based on my personal experience, these top two Goulandris Museum tickets are a must for any visitor. If you’re keen on exploring all the options, just click right here for the complete list of tickets to make the most of your visit.