Monday 13 September 2021

The new National Gallery in Athens

The new National Gallery in Athens.

After eight years of work to expand and modernise the National Gallery, the new building opened in March of this year, the day before the 200th anniversary of the start of the Greek War of Independence from the Turks. The work was undertaken by Mylonas and Fatouros.

Part of the old modernist building has been preserved and behind it is a huge construction of glass that allows light to enter the building whilst at the same time, provides excellent views of Athens. The expansion allows more than 1,000 works to be displayed compared with 400 pieces in the old facilities. New venues, an amphitheatre, an education program hall, a new gallery shop and two cafe-restaurants have been added.

Across the road from the gallery, in the middle of a roundabout stands Kostas Varotsos'  iconic glass sculpture, The Runner. 

Sculptures abound on the gallery's grounds as well: in the front of the building is one by Takis.

The grounds are closed to the public at the moment, so I was not able to find out who this sculpture is by

and right by the entrance is Auguste Rodin's 'Walking Man on Column'

Given that this was our first visit we decided that before going in, we would walk around the new, shining building

Huge expanses of glass and from here you can see the ramps that one can use instead of stairs

another sculpture, the sculptor unknown to me

a water canal with a glass sculpture by Kostas Varotsos

a different view - the building on the left at the back is the Hilton hotel

We walked back to the main entrance and entered the building

In the foyer, we were stunned by colour

Street Market by Panayiotis Tetsis, (1979-82)

Pulsating with life and engaging the viewer in fully immersive colour, this painting dominates the foyer. Colourful crowds, awnings, trucks, shopping carts amidst stalls overflowing with fruit and vegetables, this painting is a tribute to the open-air event that unfolds every Friday on Xenokratous Street in Kolonaki, a few steps away from the artist's studio. 

Panel 1

Panel 2

Panel 3


Panel 4

We spent some time looking at the painting, then we paid the entry fee and walked across the glass bridge that connects the foyer to the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Wing, which houses the permanent collection. 

all around us, glass

A good view of the water canal from here, and of the George Zongopoulos sculpture, Umbrellas

a view of Lycabettus Hill 

There are lifts and stairs, but we prefer the ramps that run along one side of the building - you get good views of the galleries but also outside the building

a better view of Zongopoulos' Umbrellas

not sure who this is by, could be Vasso Katraki

while walking on the ramp,

 as you reach each floor, there is a seating area

which provides good views of Athens, as well as time to reflect on what one has seen

I love the architecture of this building

and some of the detail, like this marble panel on the side of the ramp

walking the ramps also gives you an added opportunity to appreciate this wonderful building.

and here's another seating area.

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Given that they opened in March, the gallery is not fully operational yet. What is open to the public is the permanent collection of Greek art. It took us three visits to explore this: the first Saturday we looked at the top floor which is dedicated to Greek contemporary art. The second visit was dedicated to Greek modern art on the second floor, and the third was art of the 19th century on the ground floor..

The shop is open, but there is hardly anything in it yet; the two bars/restaurants have not opened yet. The gallery space dedicated to West European Art will open in November. In the future there will be temporary exhibitions, and events in the auditorium. We are looking forward to all of those.

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