Tuesday 1 August 2017

National Museum of Contemporary Art in Athens

National Museum of Contemporary Art (EMST) in Athens.

We were very pleased to finally visit the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Athens as our previous attempt in January had failed - the museum was closed even though their website said otherwise.

The Museum is housed in a former brewery, Fix,  that was abandoned in 1982.

The initial brewery building was renovated by architect Takis Zenetos, one of the major exponents of post-war modernism in Greece, in collaboration with his colleague Margaritis Apostolidis and was completed in 1961.  The aim was to integrate the old factory's successive extensions. The result was a sharp and lucid summary of the principles of modernism: dynamic forms, clear and austere lines, large opening and an emphasis on the horizontal axis. The building extended to infinity, while the operations of the factory were visible at street level, where the machinery was installed.

In 1994 the northern part of the building was demolished to make room for the new metro station which opened in 2000. The rest of the building was repaired, reinforced and laid out specifically to meet the needs of a museum which finally opened last year.

The museum has two facades, one on Syngrou Avenue which you can see above

and one on Kallirrois Avenue, seen above, which is the main entrance.

The interior is spacious and airy

The shop

The multilevel staircase and the escalators form a luminous circulation space that spans the entire height of the building

The view of the terrace when we reached the fourth floor was a pleasant and unexpected surprise

The views are spectacular spanning all the main landmarks of the city

Filopappou Hill

The Acropolis

Lycabettus Hill

and another view of Lycabettus Hill and Sygrou Avenue from a different part of the building.

How successful the new museum will be, will depend on the Greek State. In a country that has been hit as savagely by austerity as Greece has, the future is uncertain, particularly for the arts. The museum opened last autumn. When we went to visit in January we found it closed, a small, handwritten notice on the door informing us that they would be closed for three months. It opened again three months ago for the Documenta 14 exhibition but now that Documenta has moved to Kassel, it is closed again.

I do not know when it's going to open again. The most affordable solution as far as I can see, is to move in all the permanent exhibits that were housed in the previous site and forget about temporary exhibitions until it's financially viable - but even with just permanent exhibits extensive funding is needed to run a museum. I hope that somehow a solution is found.

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