Art & the City: The B&E Goulandris Foundation & Pangrati

Art & the City: The B&E Goulandris Foundation & Pangrati

When the new building of the National Art Gallery was delivered, Greece was celebrating the bicentenary of the revolution that led to its national freedom. The newly renovated National Art Gallery is proof of the incredible journey that the Greek visual arts has taken over the last two centuries.

The impressive new glass-and-metal structure more than doubled the available exhibition space of the old building, allowing at least 1,000 artworks to be exhibited from a permanent collection numbering over 20,000. You’ll find the works of all the major Greek artists, including Nikiforos Lytras, Nikolaos Gyzis, Theophilos, Konstantinos Parthenis, Konstantinos Volanakis, Yannis Tsarouchis, Yannis Moralis, Nikos Engonopoulos and Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghikas. Through their works, you can trace the styles and movements that flourished on the Greek art scene, including marine art, orientalism, ethnography, portraiture and modernism.

At the National Art Gallery, where works by leading Greek artists share the space with creations from their international colleagues. [George Vitsaras/AMNA]

Special mention should be made of the works of Domenikos Theotokopoulos (El Greco), one of the greatest artists this country has produced, as well as of the works of female artists who thrived in a largely male-dominated world; for instance, the “Girl on the Shore” (oil on canvas, c. 1922-1925) by Greek artist Thalia Flora-Karavia. One of the most notable artworks is undoubtedly “Street Market” a depiction of colorful human figures by Panayiotis Tetsis, which you’ll see as you enter the museum.

A newly opened wing features artworks by leading artists from other European countries. Among these pieces is “Woman’s Head”(1939) by Picasso; the artist gifted the work to the Greek people in honor of their role in the Resistance.

Degas’ “Little Dancer” graces the Basil & Elise Goulandris Foundation. [Courtesy of Basil & Elise Goulandris Foundation]

The Basil & Elise Goulandris Foundation

Not far from the National Gallery is the wonderful Basil & Elise Goulandris Foundation. In Greece, there have been many instances of wealthy art lovers, usually from the world of shipping, who have developed significant private collections, and Basil and Elise Goulandris fall into this category; the name of their foundation graces an international-caliber art museum featuring paintings and sculptures created by leading 19th and 20th-century artists, individuals who shaped the creative movements of their time and had an impact on the way we think today.

The perception of freedom and the definition of beauty are just a few of the issues these masters were contemplating as they created some of the masterpieces on display at the museum; highlights include “Little Dancer” by Degas, “Countryside in Auvers-Sur-Oise” by Cezanne, “Eternal Springtime” by Rodin, “Olive Picking” by Van Gogh, “Nude Woman with Raised Arms” by Pablo Picasso, “The Grasshopper” by Miro, and “Both Striped” by Wassily Kandinsky, as well as works by Toulouse-Lautrec, Jackson Pollock, Giorgio de Chirico, Francis Bacon and Fernando Botero. Make sure you see Amedeo Modigliani’s“Caryatid,” a sensual figure bearing little resemblance to the Caryatids at the Acropolis Museum.

Japanese Garden. [AMNA]

A short walk

The Japanese Garden is located between Vasileos Alexandrou Avenue and Michalakopoulou and Niriidon streets. Here, you’ll find an area of Asian zen in the heart of bustling Athens. Although it extends over 3,500 square meters, it can be traversed within minutes. Nonetheless, with its lush vegetation and plentiful running water, it offers the calming power characteristic of certain aspects of Japanese culture.

A stroll through Pangrati

Updating a traditional kafenion

The café Louvron first opened in 1937, and there’s clear evidence of this on display today. During the course of modest renovations in 2019, the new owners came across a clipping from the British newspaper The Daily Mail dating from 1938, which they framed and hung on the wall. As for any major changes, they freshened up the place and repaired the old refrigerator, but kept the overall style of the establishment and preserved its nostalgic atmosphere. Once a hangout for the intellectuals of its time offering “tea with cognac,” Louvron now serves coffee, desserts, and cocktails featuring Greek spirits (such as the Bloody Mary made with tsipouro), as well as an all-day menu featuring such popular Greek meze as keftedakia (fried meatballs), sausages, and more.

Italian sandwiches

If you’re not in the mood for a snack at the courtyard café of the Basil & Elise Goulandris Foundation, you might instead opt to walk the short distance to the sandwich shop Borghese for an authentically Italian treat. The charcuterie – everything from mortadella Bolognese with pistachios to porchetta or prosciutto San Daniele – is sliced right before your eyes. The sandwich chef prepares all the sauces, mayonnaises, compotes, pickles, relishes, and jams for the 20 or so options on the menu. We can heartily recommend the one with goat’s cheese, green apple compôte, almond flakes and arugula, as well as the spicy BLT with pancetta and chili tomato relish.

Beautiful and delicious

Grapes and Salt, a modern delicatessen, opened in the Pangrati area about a year ago. Valentina, the owner, stocks not only some of the best products in the country but also some of the most beautiful, as she seeks out both quality and appealing packaging. As a result, the store’s shelves are stunning to behold, but it’s what you can buy here that really counts: fine cheeses, charcuterie, wine, pasta and more. We recommend Melima pasta, Esophy chocolates with their unique fillings, natural herbal beverages from Rhoeco in Thessaloniki, and Kiss The Earth peanut butter from the island of Chios.

Pizza pairing

Tre Sorelle, a pizzeria awash in Italian aromas, became a hotspot on Archelaou Street almost from the moment it opened in 2018. Even now that the novelty has worn off, it’s still difficult to find a table here during the peak hours for Athens’ drinking and dining scene – namely, after 20:30. If you’re in the neighborhood and you do find a seat, it’s definitely worth giving a go to this uber-chic pizzeria, which features an impressive marble bar. Be prepared for a tasty match made in heaven: a light aperitivo, sparkling or not, paired with any one of their nine Neapolitan-style pizzas with fluffy dough edges. Their Parma pizza, for instance, goes great with a classic Negroni.


Apparel appeal

Eleftheria Domenikou has been designing elegant women’s clothes made from select fabrics, mostly cotton, since 2008. Her style is simple, but her creations aren’t everyday garments; they’re fashion statements. In addition to her clothing designs, her small boutique, called Hallelujah, on Archelaou Street also stocks jewelry, accessories and some interior design objects; most of these are made in Greece, but there are a few items by select independent designers from abroad.

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