National Gallery plans to expand

Marina Lambraki-Plaka is to remain at the helm of the Greek National Gallery – the centerpiece of the local museum scene – for another five-year term, making it her third consecutive term in office. The announcement was made on January 29. In an interview with Kathimerini, Lambraki-Plaka commented on a variety of subjects. How do you feel about this new, third term? Do you have any fresh plans for the museum? I am very happy and honored that the State is trusting me with the position, once again. Great things are in the pipeline. Two very important exhibitions are coming up, for instance, and both are part of the Cultural Olympiad. The first one, called «Under Apollo’s Light,» will be inaugurated in October 2003 and links ancient Greece to works of the Italian Renaissance. A second one, «The Image of Man,» is concerned with the human body, how it became the symbol of civilization, from antiquity until today. An interesting element of this second show – which will open in spring 2004 – is that it includes works from countries outside Europe. What are all the latest developments in the National Gallery’s extension plans? The plans – drawn up by the National Gallery’s architects Fatouros and Mylonas – are already in their final stages. Our primary goal is to give the National Gallery a proper infrastructure, both as a museum and a building. This means creating both new office and storage space, as well as putting all the existing areas to better use. It also includes plans for the establishment of a cafe-restaurant, a museum shop and a cloakroom. We also expect to add one extra floor, creating more space for exhibitions; this idea featured in the building’s initial plan, but was not carried out due to problems with the Hilton Hotel across the road. The works, which will have started in 2003, will not ruin the museum’s garden; on the contrary, they are to take place exactly at the point where the two buildings connect, while most of the work will be done underground. Once the works are completed, the museum’s entrance will be situated in the garden, while the marble hall at the entrance will be used for the restaurant and the rest of the facilities. Our plan is to keep the museum open for the duration of the works, and in case we have to close it, to do so for only a short period. What is the news on the Sculpture Gallery? This project enjoys the support of the minister of culture and is funded by the Third Community Support Framework. I believe it will be operating in about one and a half years. Bear in mind that the buildings already exist: two 19th-century stables with art nouveau pillars in Goudi. That is where modern Greek sculpture will be housed. And what about the National Gallery’s annexes? The Nafplion annex is making steady progress. We found the building, and its renovation is currently being undertaken by the Onassis Foundation. That is where works with historical themes will be exhibited. In Sparta, on the other hand, a collection of art ranging from post-Byzantine to modern times is on display; finally, we are planning a small modern art museum for Corfu. What about people who would like to help the museum on a voluntary basis? We would like to welcome a number of volunteers so that the museum can enjoy its very own powerful club of friends; just like similar institutions do abroad.

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