“Our history needs to be written; you will bring it to life through your images,” the Greek Prime Minister Ioannis Kolettis implored the nation’s artists back in September 1844, in the early years of Greece’s hard-won independence.
After a long and extensive remodel, Greece’s most important historical art gallery is now open to the public again, with essentially double the space. The sleek glass-clad site, just across from the Hilton Athens, houses the country’s largest single collection of modern art and sculpture, dating from the post-Byzantine era to the present. For the first time in nearly a decade, visiting art lovers can trace Greece’s artistic progress over the course of its modern history, all under the one roof.
With a heady haul of iconic works from great Greek artists such as Yannis Tsarouchis, Konstantinos Parthenis and Dominikos Theotokopoulos (better known as El Greco), chronologically organized over three gleaming floors, you’ll need hours to take it all in properly. To help you cut to the chase and make your visit more meaningful, we’ve scoured the permanent collection—with some invaluable help from the gallery’s Katerina Tavantzi—to share some of our favourite highlights. It pained us greatly to single out just thirteen. But all of the following were chosen for their unique artistic merit and status as formative works of modern Greek art.
Photos by Thomas Gravanis