Tribute to an overlooked artist

Last Saturday, Minister of Culture Antonis Samaras inaugurated an exhibition of works by Paul Delvaux at the Basil & Elise Goulandris Museum of Contemporary Art on Andros. It has been a long time since a minister of culture opened one of the annual exhibitions that the museum organizes each summer. Samaras’s presence conveyed a feeling of optimism, making people feel that things are moving once more. Over the years the Goulandris Foundation has lost part of its shine and there are many who recall with nostalgia the times when the Goulandris shipowning couple were still alive and drew famous guests. Unfortunately, at last year’s opening of the retrospective on Yiannis Moralis, no officials were present. This summer’s exhibition, an extensive tribute to Belgian artist Delvaux, helps us discover a painter whose work has remained somewhat overlooked. The exceptional sketches as well as the large oil paintings that are on display were selected by Jean Clair, who recently became a member of the French Academy. Clair, who came to Andros for the opening, contributed greatly to Delvaux’s recognition as an artist of the same caliber as Rene Magritte, Max Ernst and Giorgio de Chirico. The Andros tribute highlights the special relationship that the Belgian artist had with Greece, a country he first visited in 1938. It is curated by Michel Draguet, director of the Musees Royaux des Beaux-Arts in Brussels. Clair told Kathimerini that, unlike de Chirico, Delvaux viewed his inspiration from Greek antiquity not as an intellectual but rather as a child that is discovering a magical world full of myths and joys. In his paintings, ancient monuments come together with naked women, heroines from Greek mythology or creatures of Delvaux’s imagination. Delvaux experienced a sexually deprived youth and in his works women are inaccessible, pale, eerie and detached from mortals. Director of the Goulandris Museum Kyriakos Koutsomallis informed the press about the progress on the construction of an Athens museum to house the Goulandris couple’s famous art collection. It is widely known that this is a problem that has remained unresolved for many years. The plot of land on Rigillis and Rizari streets, near Evangelismos metro station, turned out to be unsuitable for the project; the scheduled construction of the impressive building designed by architect I.M. Pei kept coming up against obstacles in the form of excavations, inadequate legislative regulations, reactions from local residents and state neglect. Recently, the Goulandris Foundation purchased a neoclassical building on Eratosthenous in Pangrati, which has a capacity of 7,000 square meters. According to Koutsomallis, the Andros museum will cease hosting large exhibitions as of 2011, because it is extremely difficult to transfer large-size works to the island. Major tributes will instead be held at the Eratosthenous building, which is expected to be ready in two to three years’ time. Apart from the temporary exhibitions, the Athens museum might also house a small part of the collection, which according to the catalog comprises 158 works by El Greco, Paul Cezanne, Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Pablo Picasso, Georges Braques, Henri Matisse, Auguste Rodin, Alberto Giacometti, Paul Klee, Joan Miro, Marc Chagall and Jackson Pollock. Koutsomallis noted that they are still awaiting the outcome of the initially proposed Pei project. It is possible that the Pangrati partial solution will be the bitter conclusion to the dream of creating a large-scale museum in Athens. The Andros museum will be weakened and the capital will have neither the building nor the entire collection of works that Basil and Elise Goulandris had expected to see housed in a splendid museum. Responsibility lies both with the state and the foundation. Basil & Elise Goulandris Museum of Contemporary Art, Hora, Andros, tel 22820.22444. To September 27.