Artistic treasury goes on display

The paintings range from the work of Nikiforos Lytras to Constantinos Volanakis and from Alexis Akrithakis to Costas Tsoclis. The works reflect the taste and mentality of a number of National Bank governors, but also reveal a sensitivity about the institution’s public image and for the art happenings of its time. At the exhibition «Greek Artists from the National Bank Collection,» which opened recently at the National Gallery, Nikos Engonopoulos coexists with Georgios Iakovidis and governors’ portraits by Giorgos Rorris. It is the portraits that welcome visitors. Some are original works, but there are also a number of digital prints, because it was difficult to transfer the originals from the halls of the National Bank. The collection comprises 2,500 works in total, 200 of which are on display at the National Gallery. «Immediately after the bank’s founding in 1841, art played a major role: It was institutional, with the governors’ portraits, it was ideological, with the promotion of the – still recent at that time – war of independence and it was also a matter of aesthetics,» said National Gallery director Marina Lambraki-Plaka. Important function Olga Mentzafou-Polyzou, director of collections and museum programming as well as curator of the current exhibition, pointed out the importance of this particular display in strengthening Greek art over the decades as well as in putting together a full archive on the history of Greek art. The works are displayed on three levels: As one descends, one encounters the work of the most recent artists, which are much more colorful. At the lowest level, the architecture also changes, with arches and benches popping up in the exhibition hall. They create an environment that may wish to serve as a reminder of the works’ permanent residence, inside the offices and halls of the National Bank. The collection itself is so rich that this architectural intervention seems somewhat irrelevant. What is interesting in this display is that in the 21st century, the National Bank collection is not just decorative. The scientific documentation, digital recording and maintenance of the works are a top priority, with efforts continuing under the administration of Takis Arapoglou. National Gallery, 50 Vas. Constantinou, tel 210.723.5937-8. To March 22.

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