They once hung on walls in Paris, Lausanne and Gstaad, in the homes of Greek shipping tycoon Basil Goulandris and his wife Elise. Now, the wait is almost over to see modern masterpieces by the likes of Cézanne, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Monet, Degas, Rodin, Toulouse-Lautrec, Picasso, Miró, and Giacometti take up residence at their new Athens address.
Opening on October 1, 2019, the purpose-built Goulandris Museum of Contemporary Art will be housed in an 11-storey building in Pangrati. For the first time, Athenians will be able to access a singular roll call of rare artworks from the great names of the European masters, alongside works by Greek painters including Parthenis, Bouzianis, Vasiliou, Hadjikyriakos-Ghikas, Tsarouchis, Moralis and Tetsis.
Basil Goulandris, who started collecting contemporary art in the 1950s, founded Greece’s first Museum of Modern Art on the island Andros. By the time of his death in 1994, Goulandris had amassed one of the world’s most extraordinary private art collections, valued at $3 billion. Plans for a museum in Athens to house the collection were first announced in 1992. But the project was dogged by wrangles over ownership of the works and bureaucratic battles.
The original design by I.M. Pei had to be abandoned after preliminary excavations unearthed Aristotle’s Lyceum, now an archaeological site. Construction at the new location in Pangrati began in August 2012. It was Goulandris’ wish that the gallery be located within the cultural centre of Athens, near to the city's great antiquities and museums and easily accessible for visitors. The new museum, which has a total area of 7,250 sq.m., will also house a shop and café, art library, children's workshop, and 190-seat amphitheatre.
Its inauguration on Tuesday 1 October will be accompanied by a series of artistic events.