Gallery battles on in spite of debt troubles

The beginning of the new season finds many Greek museums in limbo. The National Museum of Contemporary Art has a new board of directors and is awaiting construction at the former Fix brewery on Syngrou Avenue to finish before it can move into its premises. The National Gallery on Vassileos Constantinou and the Glyptotheque at Goudi Park have announced a rich program of events for the 2005-2006 season, with exhibitions featuring artists such as Georgios Iakovidis, Fernando Botera, Yiannoulis Halepas (a retrospective), Julio Gonzales and Marino Marini. But it looks like both museums will still have to do battle with the burden of debt. Kathimerini spoke to Marina Lambraki-Plaka, director of the National Gallery, who is set to receive an award from the French government on September 12 for her contribution to the arts, about the museums’ activities and events. The first big event of the season, due to open in mid-November, is an extensive tribute to Iakovidis, the museum’s founder and first director. «It is a tribute of honor to the great artists and founder of the National Gallery comprising 200 works of art,» explained Lambraki-Plaka. «Athens will also see the works of the great German artists who influenced his work. The exhibition has been curated by art historian Olga Metzafou. The public loves Iakovidis’s work very much, so we are expecting a very good turnout.» Later on in the year, the National Gallery will be showing work by Simeon Savvidis and Michalis Economou, while the year will end with a big exhibition event, the «Paris – Athens» show, set to feature famous works by great Greek painters who studied in Paris alongside the work of their teachers. Artists such as Constantinos Maleas, Nikos Hadzikyriakos-Ghika, Yiannis Tsarouchis, Spyros Papaloukas, Nikolaos Xydias, Theodoros Rallis and Constantinos Parthenis will be exhibited alongside Matisse, Picasso, Deren and others. The focal point of the 2006 part of the season is the retrospective on Halepas. Asked about the much-needed annex to the National Gallery, Lambraki-Plaka explained that the matter was still pending, as the initial study has not been paid for yet. Furthermore, the National Gallery is also facing a large, and growing, debt burden. Even though the National Gallery director did not want to dwell on the financial circumstances of the institution – hoping that the government will come through with the vital funding – sources say the Ministry of Culture has so far only deposited a fraction of the amount it owes from the events of the Cultural Olympiad. The same sources say that the money paid out so far is around 200,000 euros, while the ministry’s total debt to the museum stands at 1,650,000 euros – a figure revealed a few months ago by Takis Arapoglou, president of the National Bank of Greece and a member of the museum’s board. Sources close to the National Gallery administration say since the museum has not received the funds owed it, it is unable to meet its own responsibilities toward third parties, which keep increasing because of unpaid interest. Not only is the museum having trouble meeting its obligations to its suppliers, insurers and movers, but sources say it owes money to museums abroad and even – as crazy as it may sound – to the United Kingdom’s Queen Elizabeth II. The Glyptotheque has yet to secure sponsors for the shows it has planned for 2005-2006 at Goudi, such as tributes to Gonzales (scheduled to open October 24) and Marini (slated for February). If the funds for these exhibitions are not secured and the shows are subsequently canceled, the fledgling Glyptotheque will suffer a serious blow to its reputation.