One of the leading museums in Athens, the Benaki Museum is well worth a visit. It was founded by patrician Antonis Benakis (1873-1954) and inaugurated in 1931. Over the last forty years, and under the leadership of the late Angelos Delivorrias, Benaki Museum Director, member of the Athens Academy and renowned archaeologist, who strengthened the finances of the museum, multiplied its exhibition space and collections, the museum became one among the leading few of Greece. The central, older building, at Koumbari Street in Kolonaki, is among the most impressive neoclassical buildings of Athens. It was built in stages from 1910 to 1931. Formerly the residence of Antonis Benakis, since 1931 it houses the more than 45,000 museum exhibits of the collection of Antonis Benakis and other donors, organised in six collections.
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The Benaki Museum of Athens, Central Building.
Central Building 1 Koumbari St. & Vas. Sofias Avenue, Kolonaki
Greece at the Benaki Museum:This group of collections comprises of several categories totaling more than 40,000 items, illustrating the character of the Greek world through a historical panorama: from antiquity and the age of Roman domination to the medieval Byzantine period; from the fall of Constantinople (1453) and the centuries of Frankish and Ottoman occupation to the outbreak of the struggle for independence in 1821; and from the formation of the modern state of Greece (1830) down to 1922, the year in which the Asia Minor disaster took place.
The collection of Prehistoric, Ancient Greek and Roman antiquities which is formed through the contributions of several Greek and foreign donors, as well as from the reserves of other museums, covers a vast chronological period stretching from the dawn of prehistory to the end of the Roman era.
The Byzantine collection links the ancient Greek world to that of modern Greece. The collection is exceptionally rich, although it is not representative of all the different artistic tendencies and currents which flourished during the thousand-year Byzantine Empire, and is divided into two groups. The first group comprises bronze and silver household and ecclesiastical vessels, miniature sculptures and enamels, ceramics, manuscripts, etc., many of outstanding quality and workmanship.The second group includes Byzantine and post-Byzantine icons, through which the evolution and development of iconography from the Byzantine period and the Palaeologan renaissance can be traced in the workshops of Crete and the artistic production of Mount Athos, up to the early stages of the modern Greek painterly tradition.
A number of household vessels from the early Byzantine period (4th - 7th c. AD) help to create a picture of the domestic surroundings of late antiquity. The rich selection of lamps and chandeliers is also of special interest.The important collection of decorative silver plates dating from the late 6th and early 7th c. clearly preserves the subject matter of the artistic tradition of Greco-Roman antiquity and the manner of depicting the human figure. The Museum's collection of ceramic platters likewise offers a rich selection of decorative themes.Several ecclesiastical vessels, censers and chalices, dating to the early Byzantine period, as well as other groups of objects such as matrices, tools and measuring instruments, cast light on contemporaneous trade, crafts and scientific advances.The entrancing collection of Byzantine jewelry presents an obvious continuation of Roman forms and techniques, including golden necklaces and earrings set with sapphires, amethysts, emeralds and pearls, and exquisitely worked bracelets and rings decorated with Christian emblems.A large group of crosses, reliquaries, amulets and miniature steatite icons are indicative of the rich production of small-scale works of art in Byzantium.A number of superb censers and processional crosses are representative of ecclesiastical vessels and furnishings of the middle and late Byzantine periods. Finally, it is worth noting that the general public has always reserved its greatest affection for the Benaki Museum's collection of Byzantine and post-Byzantine icons.
Post-Byzantine and Neo-Hellenic art: The collections of ecclesiastical and secular art cover the historical period from the 15th to the 19th c. and provide evidence of the high level of culture in the Greek world during the Frankish and Ottoman occupations.
Historical heirlooms: The collection of historical heirlooms recreates the history of modern Greece from the end of the 18th century onward.Many of the objects in the collection are family heirlooms donated by the descendants and relatives of individuals who are intimately connected with the history of modern Greece.A number of the more important items are connected with the Philhellenic movement and the struggle for Greek independence, as well as with Ioannis Kapodistrias' attempts to create a modern Greek state (1828-1831). Others date to the reigns of King Othon (1833-1862) and King George I (1863-1913).The contents of the collection also reflect the complex and laborious processes that were required to bring about the liberation of the Greek populations living under Turkish rule and the formation of a distinct national identity, such as the Macedonian struggle, the reforms of Eleftherios Venizelos, and the Asia Minor disaster of 1922.This collection includes swords and other weapons which belonged to the heroes of 1821, battle standards from the War of Independence, nautical instruments such as Laskarina Bouboulina's telescope and Andreas Miaoulis’ compass, personal belongings such as Ioannis Kapodistrias’ seal and Lord Byron's pistols, manuscripts written by the poets Dionysios Solomos, C.P. Cavafy, Kostis Palamas, Angelos Sikelianos, Kostas Karyotakis and Yannis Ritsos, and the Nobel prize certificates and gold medals won by the poets George Seferis and Odysseus Elytis.
The Nikos Hatzikyriakos-Ghika Gallery was gifted to the Benaki Museum by the artist.
The ground floor contains an urban drawing room, a gift by Litsa Papaspyrou, in memory of her father Gustave Boissière. It came from her paternal family’s house in Paris, containing works by French painters from the first decades of the 20th century and furniture dating back to the 16th. From the ground floor to the third floor the galleries highlight the intellectual and artistic output of Greece during the Interwar Years, a particularly crucial era, from the end of World War I and the disastrous Asia Minor campaign until the eve of the 1967 dictatorship, which is also the time during which Nikos Hatzikyriakos-Ghika lived and formed his artistic conscience. This is the first ever attempt in Greece to create an imprint of the overall intellectual output, underscoring the internal dialectic relationships between different forms of expression of the human spirit. Artistic creations (painting, sculpture, engravings, music, theater, cinema, photography) encounter architecture, the art of the word (literature, poetry, philology, criticism), but also historical and philosophical thought. Through works of art, manuscripts, publications, photographs and personal artifacts belonging to two-hundred-and-one artists and intellectuals, visitors can partake of an exciting journey through the world of ideas in Greece in the 20th c. The materials on display are an eloquent record of the concerns, the anxieties, and the achievements of creative Greeks, highlighting the relationships that existed between them, and especially their ongoing debate with corresponding concerns that existed in the rest of Europe. This final aspect is crucial, given that during this period in particular, the focal presence of the Thirties Generation, established a need for a constant flow of intellectual ideas between Greece and the rest of Europe. The third floor contains paintings, drawings, sculptures, set designs, manuscripts, illustrated books, photographs, as well as furnishings from the Hatzikyriakos-Ghika houses on the island of Hydra and on Kriezotou Street. The next two floors, which were preserved in their initial form, allow visitors to become familiar with the artist’s personal world: the impressive drawing room with its avant-garde architectural design, the living room, his father’s office with the family portraits and heirlooms, the dining room with the large-scale oil-painting Kifissia, and, naturally, the artist’s studio, an imposing space, where easels and painting supplies coexist with old furniture and artifacts from his journeys. Visitors can also tour an original multimedia application, entitled Nikos Hatzikyriakos-Ghika and the Thirties Generation, designed by the Information Technology Department of the Benaki Museum, which contains all his works and provides information about the artist’s life and work both in Greece and in Europe.
Painting by Yannis Pappas.
The studio of Yannis Pappas 38, Anakreontos St., Zografou
The studio of the artist Yannis Pappas (1913-2005) donated by him to the Benaki Museum, covering the greater part of his output from 1930 to his death. So that these works remain in their natural environment, the artist’s son Alekos Pappas donated the studio building to the Benaki Museum.
As the artist himself wished, the studio remains a vital working space for the students of the Athens School of Fine Arts, and one section of it hosts a small permanent collection of his paintings. A minor extension to the building will enable it to meet all modern museological specifications, ensure the appropriate storage facilities and facilitate the flow of visitors. This valuable contribution from one of the most significant representatives of artistic quests in interwar and postwar Greece assists the Benaki Museum in its effort to depict the panorama of the country’s modern creative activity and gradually to supplement the presentation of the cultural continuity of the Greeks.
The Museum of Islamic Art, Benaki Museum, Athens.
The Museum of Islamic Art 22 Ag. Asomaton & 12 Dipilou St., Kerameikos tel.: 210 325 1311 The Museum of Islamic Art of the Benaki Museum is housed in a neoclassical building complex dating from the beginning of the 20th c., consisting of two residential buildings and located in the Kerameikos area.
It is one of the leading Islamic Art collections in the world. It displays more than 8,000 exhibits from Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, Persia and India, representative of the development of Islamic art from the early Islamic age to the 19th c.
The new Benaki Museum at Pereos Street.
New Benaki Museum Peireos Street
The New Benaki Museum is a modern building covering an 8,200 sq m area, containing a 3,000 sq m space reserved for exhibitions, an 850 sq m indoor atrium and an amphitheater that provides seating for 300. It hosts mostly art exhibitions. The Benaki Museum organizes interesting exhibitions in both the central and other of its buildings. You will also find an interesting museum store and a café-restaurant.