Dinner with Greece’s modern masters

Dinner with Greece’s modern masters

An elegant dining table has been laid out in the Modern Greek Art Gallery on the third floor of the Basil & Elise Goulandris Museum in the downtown Athens neighborhood of Pangrati. It’s like being invited to dinner at the home of an art collector whose walls are decorated with stunning paintings by the likes of Konstantinos Parthenis, George Bouzianis, Spyros Vasiliou, Chronis Botsoglou and George Rorris, while sculptures by Yannis Pappas, Michalis Tombros and Eleni Parmakeli adorn other parts of the room.

As the lady sitting beside me comments that Panayiotis Tetsis’ “Farmers’ Market” (Laiki Agora), which takes up much of one of the gallery’s walls, has a twin just a short walk away in the foyer of the National Gallery, I relish the idea of a wonderful meal with such a vibrant backdrop.

“The purpose is to create a museum that makes all its guests feel welcome, makes them feel at home,” says Fleurette Karadontis, head of the B&E Goulandris Foundation board, as she explains the museum’s decision to allow the option of private, sit-down dinners in the third-floor gallery, “in a way that is absolutely safe for the art,” she stresses.

Across the globe, museums are looking for new sources of revenues after the massive drop in ticket sales during the pandemic. Cultural marketing, which seeks to enrich the experience of art, provides them with a useful tool to not only improve their finances, but also to expand their visitor base.

The dinner service, says Karadontis, “is a source of income for the museum at a time when culture needs support and is just one of many activities we offer.”

It is also important for the museum, she adds, “to make art accessible to everyone, which is why we are planning free activities for people over the age of 65 as well as programs that have been specially designed for toddlers and older children.”

Museums all over the world have been transforming themselves from “temples” for aficionados or high-brow educational institutions, to become more open and inclusive. At the British Museum, for example, children can spend the night among the Egyptian and Assyrian collections, the same as at the American Museum of Natural History, where spots for the sleepovers for children, families and adults sell like hotcakes.

An initiative in 2019-2020 by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts inviting visitors to spend the night in a specially designed space inside the exhibition “Edward Hopper and the American Hotel” was also enormously successful.

Here in Athens, apart from the Goulandris, the Museum of Cycladic Art recently offered its visitors a culinary experience set up in the gallery on “Scenes from Daily Life in Antiquity.”

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