For the better part of a decade, if you were an art lover visiting Athens and you wanted to bone up on the formative works of modern Greek art, your options were rather lean.
With the National Gallery of Greece shut for renovations, you would have had to gallery hop between various independent art spaces. Or be lucky enough to catch a temporary exhibition somewhere. More recently (since 2019), you might have soaked up the rich private trove of contemporary Greek art, belonging to the late shipping tycoon Basil Goulandris, at the new B&E Goulandris Foundation.
But in the absence of an Athenian answer to a Tate Britain or Musee D’Orsay, there was nowhere to definitively trace the national narrative of Greece’s artistic evolution over the course of its Modern History - under the one roof.
Now, after an extensive 8-year remodel, at a cost of nearly 60 million euros, the nation’s most important art gallery is ready to welcome the public again in Pangrati with the largest single collection of Greek modern art and sculpture.
The sleek glass-clad site, across from the Hilton Athens, has essentially doubled the gallery space – from 9,270 sq m to 20,760 sq m – and spread out across a new annexe (the Stavros Niarchos wing), allowing it to display at any one time, more than twice as many pieces from its permanent collection of 20,000+ works, dating from the post-Byzantine era to the present.
Once galleries and museums re-open, you’ll be able to see iconic works from the Great Greeks, such as Yannis Tsarouchis, Konstantinos Parthenis and Dominikos Theotokopoulos (better known as El Greco) chronologically organized, alongside a sizeable haul of European masterpieces by the likes of Rembrandt, Durer and Goya.
Additionally, there’s a new amphitheatre to accommodate up to 450 people; a 1,000 sq m museum shop; ramp and elevator access for disabled visitors; an art conservation lab; sculpture garden with works by Rodin and Greek star sculptor Costas Varotsos – who gave Athens “The Runner” landmark nearby - and (shortly, we're told) two new food and drink options: Ilissos café at ground level (named after the river that once flowed through the area) and the Parthenis rooftop restaurant and café (where diners will enjoy dramatic views across Lycabettus Hill and the Acropolis, towards the sea).
In the lobby, a monumental artwork of the Greek domestic domain greets all visitors. Called “People’s Market”, it’s by Greece’s greatest post-war plein air colourist, Panagiotis Tetsis, and strikes an uplifting opening note.
Stay tuned for our insider’s guide on what other highlights to look out for at this shiny new art space that now joins the ranks of Athens’ other 21st century culture hubs, such as the Acropolis Museum, Onassis Stegi, EMST and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre.
In the meantime, you can get a taste of what to expect on the gallery's extensive new website.