CULTURE

The Benaki and its new annual

Since it reopened a few years ago, the Benaki Museum has been active with a rich exhibition program, a host of activities and plans which include a forthcoming branch to host its Islamic art collection, as well as the construction of an entirely new building on Pireos Street. The Benaki Museum, one of the country’s most prestigious art galleries and home to a uniquely diversified collection which represents all periods of history in Greece, is an increasingly expanding and well-organized museum run with an international mentality. One of its recent activities, the publication of an annual magazine, the first issue of which went into circulation a few days ago, attests to this growth. Named after the museum, the magazine is the first of its kind (at least in terms of size and content) to be published by a Greek museum. Intended as an annual publication to be released in early spring, it contains a first segment with specialized essays and a second part with the magazine’s yearbook, a list of all the museum’s activities for each respective year, including publications, exhibitions, seminars, educational and exchange programs, recent purchases and acquisitions, as well as accounts of the activities of each of the museum’s departments, including the library and the archives. The essays included in the magazine (12 in this issue) are all published for the first time and are written chiefly by the museum’s staff and by other specialists who have previously collaborated with the museum. (All texts are printed in the original language with the Greek essays followed by a brief English translation and all other essays by a short Greek translation.) Faithful to the magazine’s objective of promoting the museum’s profile, all essays refer to a Benaki Museum holding. Among the subjects examined in this first issue – which is dedicated to Antonis Benakis’s daughter, Irini Kalliga, who died two years ago – is a fourth-century-BC votive stele of the goddess Ennodia, a Hellenistic sculpture of a male torso, the circumstances behind artistic production and the large painters’ studios in Crete in early 13th century, the letters exchanged between the artists Ghikas and Zerovos in the interwar period, the archives of civil engineer Nikolaos Hadzipanayiotis, and the Umayyad ornamentation on early Islamic woodwork. Intended for the general public but also of interest to specialists, the magazine provides interesting information on the museum’s holdings, and provides access to much of its collection that has never been shown and remains in the museum’s storerooms. It helps make the museum’s permanent collection more known, while providing an outlet of expression for the scientific community, archaeologists and museologists. Since the magazine will also be distributed to international museums, it is also a way of promoting Greek culture abroad. «When I was doing my military service in Limassol, I carved a nude with my bayonet on the wall of the guard post. It was a nude by Degas. As soon as my sergeant saw it, he ordered me to repaint the guard post. I did, but left the design untouched.»