A collection of modern Greek art in Kalamata

Interesting initiatives, new plans and recent acquisitions may turn what is the first art gallery to have been established in the Greek periphery into a more accessible and vivid cultural venue. The so-called «Pinakotheke of modern Greek art» which operates in the city of Kalamata and belongs to the city’s Popular Library, will open its renovated premises in mid-May with an exhibition including selections of its permanent collection of Greek art. A little more than a half the gallery’s total of 430 works will be structured so as to follow the course of Greek art from the late 19th through the 20th centuries. Art historian Nathalie Sakkoula, who is the gallery’s artistic adviser, made the selections; she is also the author of the gallery’s first catalog that was just released in anticipation of the forthcoming exhibition. The book, which is only available at the Kalamata Gallery of Modern Greek Art, places the collection in chronological order beginning with the 19th century «School of Munich» artists represented in the collection by Ludwig Theiersch (he was one of the first teachers at the Athens School of Arts) and his pupil Nikolaos Gyzis. It moves on to those artists of the early 20th century influenced by French impressionism: Giorgos Roilos, Spyros Vikatos, Oumveros Argyros and Dimitris Geraniotis are several of these artists represented at Kalamata and examined in terms of impressionism in the catalog. The generation of artists which became active in the interwar period and is generally associated with a quest for a Greek identity, is amply represented through paintings by Fotis Kontoglou, Yiannis Tsarouchis, Spyros Vassileiou, and Nikos Eggonopoulos, among others. Artists of roughly the same generation – including Costas Bouzianis, Mimis Vitsoris, Orestis Kanellis and Lili Arlioti – are examined separately and grouped together for their work’s relationship to expressionism. There follows postwar abstraction and the generation of the ’60s. The work of artists that worked in a more figurative style (Dimitris Myraras, Alekos Fasianos and Vassilis Sperantzas) is examined separately. So is the gallery’s collection of engravings and sculpture. Many of the works presented in the catalog and the forthcoming exhibition are donations that 14 contemporary artists made to the gallery, largely through the initiative of Nathalie Sakkoula. They are Nikos Kessanlis, Daniil, Yiannis Bouteas, Giorgos Zongolopoulos, Opy Zouni, Michalis Katzourakis, Aria Komianou, Aphrodite Liti, Tonia Nikolaidou, Nafiska Pastra, Sofia Portalaki, Alekos Fasianos, Chryssa Romanou and Anni Kostopoulou, who also donated a part of her personal collection of contemporary Greek art. Another substantial addition to the collection came through a bequest of late artist Dafni Kostopoulou. The Kostopoulos family, whose origins are in Kalamata, have been continuous benefactors of the Kalamata Gallery. The Kostopoulos Foundation sponsors the Popular Library to which the gallery belongs. Preceding the gallery, the Popular Library was founded during the early ’30s and has since played an important role in Kalamata’s cultural life. It owns more than 85,000 books, most of them donations by the city’s intellectuals. The Popular Library founded the Gallery of Modern Greek Art in the early ’60s and in collaboration with the painter Costas Yiannoukopoulos. Both are currently housed on two separate floors of the Kalamata Cultural Center. The premises are inadequate in showing the full scope of the gallery’s collection, and the collection itself lacks some important names in Greek art (this is an inherent demerit of museums built through donations). Still, recent initiatives such as the publication of the catalog, the exhibition planned for May, the donations and the digital archiving of the collection show that this is a peripheral small museum that tries to make the best out of its existing collection. The Kalamata Gallery is entering a period of renewal that will make it more accessible to the public and better organized for future projects.

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