London report with Greek slant, international interest

The 14th Runciman Lecture at King’s College and the formal dinner at the Athenaeum in Pall Mall that preceded it were the high point of early February for the diplomatic and intellectual elite. Benaki Museum Director Professor Angelos Delivorrias delivered a lecture on Islamic art and the Benaki’s collection at its new museum in Kerameikos. At both events, hosted by artist Nicholas Egon and his Greek wife Matti, attention focused on the achievements of the Benaki Museum. Among those present were Aimilia Geroulanou, chair of the Benaki’s board of management and granddaughter of the museum’s founder Antonis Benakis, her husband, the former chair Marinos Geroulanos, Greek Ambassador to London Anastase Skopelitis and his wife Helene. Other Greeks in attendance were Edmee Leventis, representative of Cyprus to Unesco in Paris, Professor Maria Vassilaki, Vana Solomonides, the Greek cultural attache in London, and her husband Keith Hunter. Former British ambassador to Athens the writer Sir Michael Llewellyn-Smith and his wife Colette and his predecessor Sir David Miers also honored both events with their presence. The audience was impressed by slides of the Islamic art exhibits that were collected by the museum’s founder in Alexandria. Delivorrias used period photographs to illustrate the remarkable development of the Benaki Museum which, thanks to his devoted efforts, has expanded the scope of its collections and established two more museums, one on Pireos Street and one at Kerameikos, but Delivorrias modestly passed over his own contribution. Presenting the speaker were Dr Karim Arafat, president of the Center for Hellenic Studies at King’s College, and Doris Abouseif, professor of Islamic Art at SOAS University of London, who explained the museum’s achievements, and Islamic art expert Michael Rogers, director of the Khalili Foundation. The amphitheater of King’s College was packed with the Greek colony of London, actor Nonika Galinea, and philhellenes such as the writer William St Clair and British Museum Director Ian McGregor. There was no debate, just warm welcomes and handshakes, since the subject this time was not the return of the Parthenon Marbles, but the enrichment of an Athenian museum with exhibits of Islamic art. There was another dimension to the Greek focus: a dinner given at the Hellenic Center on February 8 by Matti Egon, founder and chairwoman of the Greek Archaeological Committee (UK), and her husband Nicholas Egon, to celebrate nearly 20 years of activity and to thank its sponsors. In that time, 28 lectures on new archaeological material have been presented and 14 postgraduate students in archaeology from universities in the UK, Greece and Cyprus have received scholarships. Two new scholarships have been offered: the A.G. Leventis Foundation Scholarship of 8,000 pounds sterling each year for three years, in memory of the celebrated benefactor Dino Leventis, and a 5,000-pound scholarship by Nicholas Hadjipateras in memory of his late wife Irene. All were members of the committee. The evening ended with a presentation of a documentary of the ancient hydraulis made by the European Cultural Center at Delphi.

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