The Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation Has Opened a New Contemporary Art Museum in Athens

The museum realizes a major ambition of the late collectors.

The Basil and Elise Goulandris Museum of Contemporary Art in Athens. Courtesy the Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation.
The Basil and Elise Goulandris Museum of Contemporary Art in Athens. Photo courtesy the Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation.

Athens is now the home to a new museum of Modern and contemporary art.

After 26 years of planning and six years of construction, the Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation opens its new public space this week. Included in its collection are around 180 paintings, sculptures, and artifacts that once belonged to the late Greek collecting couple, who made their money in the shipping business.

In 1979, Basil and Elise opened the Museum of Contemporary Art in Andros (the island of Basil’s birth), which was then the country’s first institution devoted to the art of the present.

But they always had ambitions to open another institution located in the center of Athens, which would offer broader audiences an opportunity to see contemporary art.

Now, 30 years after Basil’s death and 20 years after Elise’s, their vision has come to fruition.

The new Neo-classical-inspired building that will house their collection—an 11 story-space, with 5 floors dug below ground—includes works by European masters such as Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet and Auguste Rodin. Among the first works visitors will see in the museum is a 1966 portrait of Elise by Marc Chagall in 1966.

Elsewhere, the museum has all the relevant and standard institutional amenities, including a museum shop, restaurant, education spaces, and a library with 4,500 volumes. It also includes a 190-seat amphitheater, where screenings, concerts, and other events can take place.

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