Athens culture gets a boost

Nothing beats a combination of passion and vision when it comes to giving to society. This is the case of Herakleidon, Experience in Visual Arts, a new private museum established by Paul and Anna-Belinda Firos. These days, the new establishment presents its first exhibition, «Beyond Infinity: The Art of M.C. Escher» (To June 2005). The show focuses on the achievements of the leading Dutch graphic artist, with a collection featuring more than 250 major works, as well as woodcuts, mezzotints, lithographs, photographs, sculptures and a number of Escher’s personal items. Situated in Thiseion, the museum opened its doors in July, and has welcomed more than 4,000 visitors so far. How did this major collection come about? «The first thing is love for the artist,» noted Paul Firos at a recent press conference. Together with his wife, Firos had, over the years, built a highly important collection. Then one day, when they saw the Thiseion building, they came up with ideas for extensive renovation. «Instead of the collection sitting in drawers, it is now for all to see,» said Firos. In the mid-1970s, the family had left Greece for the United States, where Firos established a hotel-management software company in Connecticut. He sold the company in March this year, and now is able to spend more time here. Why did the family chose to establish the museum in Athens instead of the United States? «Because of our love for Greece and because the city needs cultural input,» said Paul Firos, adding, however, that the Greek state should abolish taxes for incoming works of art. Through the creation of Artistic Investments, the Firos family is rapidly developing a network of ideas and venues. Also on the agenda is the complete renovation of Kallikrateia, yet another Thiseion building with spectacular ceiling paintings, which will serve for a number of artistic events, as well as the management of the Epistrofi gallery in Psyrri. The Firos family has also set up a scholarship fund, helping less fortunate students carry out postgraduate studies. Ten students have already benefited from the scholarships in the last three years. Escher At the Herakleidon, unique works by Maurits Cornelis Escher (1898-1972) – some of which belonged to the artist – have gone on optimum display, through the use of optical fibers. Well known for his so-called impossible structures, after 1937 Escher dedicated himself to his concept of the «Regular Division of the Plane.» He remains highly popular with mathematicians, though he himself was far from being a maths expert. Besides Escher, the Firos family are major collectors of works by Op Art pioneer Victor Vasarely, Greek artist Alekos Fassianos, and the entire works of Carole Wax (brass engravings). Works by one of the above artists will go on display following the Escher exhibition. Meanwhile, the art of Escher is further explored through a series of educational programs, while, at the same time, the museum is in touch with the ministries of Culture and Education for future collaboration. Special mention is due to the museum shop which currently features a plethora of items inspired by Escher, including watches, puzzles, ties and posters, as well as a special bilingual edition on the exhibition. Herakleidon, 16 Irakleidon, Thiseion. Tel. 210.346.1981. For more information go to Opening hours: Mondays-Sunday, 1-9 p.m.