CULTURE

Facing a new set of challenges

Marina Lambraki-Plaka will continue as head of the Greek National Gallery for another five-year term, following a surprising renewal of her contract by Culture Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis that will come into effect in January 2007. In a recent telephone interview with Kathimerini, Lambraki-Plaka appeared optimistic about the new challenges facing her in plans to further develop the museum. So far, her place at the helm of the organization has yielded positive results: large exhibitions, the completion of the Glyptotheque and the gallery’s annex in Nafplion in the Peloponnese, as well as a sizeable addition to the gallery’s collection through donations, purchases and endowments. «I am especially honored by the trust and support the state has shown me,» said the director. «As far as my new tenure is concerned, the most important goal right now is to expand the museum – a project that has been on the table for some years now but is finally coming to a head. Plans include adding another floor to the existing building on [Vassileos Constantinou and] Michalakopoulou Street by 2010, in order to furnish us with more necessary auxiliary rooms and exhibition halls. The National Glyptotheque will also be extended and we are planning to make a request for the use of other buildings in the area of the old equestrian center [in Goudi], which currently form the core of the museum.» Despite her age, 74, Lambraki-Plaka feels ready to take on the challenges that lie ahead, answering critics who would have liked to see a younger person in her position: «Fatigue does not appear on our faces, but in our work,» she said. «I don’t think there has been a reduction in the work the museum has done over the past few years, but a crescendo. Of course time goes by, but we don’t all age in the same way. The minister of culture is pleased with the 15 years I have put in so far and decided to renew my tenure for another five years,» noted the director. Lambraki-Plaka has experienced all the good, and bad, times of the National Gallery since she took over in 1992: «One of my most memorable moments was when we purchased Domenikos Theotocopoulos’s ‘Saint Peter,’ but I am also very moved when I see the public embracing our exhibitions so warmly. «The National Gallery, in collaboration with other important institutions such as the refurbished Benaki Museum and the Athens Concert Hall, has played a catalytic role over the past few years in bringing art and the public closer together. We had 618,000 visitors at the El Greco exhibition, 600,000 at ‘Theotocopoulos to Cezanne’ and 500,000 more in 2004 at the three major exhibitions on the Renaissance, the six sculptors at the National Gallery and Henry Moore at the Glyptotheque,» she added. The director of the institution, however, does not measure the success of the National Gallery simply in terms of ticket sales. «The public has developed a much stronger interest in culture over the past few years,» she said. «The catalog for Fernando Botero’s exhibition, for example, sold out in a very short period of time. We are living much better times today compared to the past.»