Cavafy museum a step closer

Though still unconfirmed, a prospective museum to honor the late poet Constantine P. Cavafy may be housed in an historic building in the capital’s Plaka district that once served as the residence of the mid-19th-century political leader Ioannis Kolettis. The building, one of the capital’s oldest, is one of many premises owned for a number of years now by the Culture Ministry. Following renovation work, some of these have been used as homes for various Culture Ministry departments. Others, including the Kolettis residence, have remained unutilized. The residence’s development into a Cavafy museum still requires Culture Ministry approval if the plan is to go ahead. The decision for such a museum was reached last July after a proposal was made by the head of the Hellenic Postbank, Angelos Filippidis, to the curator of the Cavafy Archive, Manolis Savidis. The latter is also the director at the Center for Neo-Hellenic Studies. Filippidis’s plan envisages a museum in central Athens to house the late poet’s manuscripts, books and many personal items, which are controlled by the Center for Neo-Hellenic Studies. The Hellenic Postbank has pledged 1 million euros for renovation work on the new museum or rental fees, should the Culture Ministry not come through with any of the buildings under its auspices. The agreement stipulates that the Hellenic Postbank will supply the prospective museum with a monthly fee of 20,000 euros for a 50-year period to cover its operational costs. «A deal has been reached and the search for a building has begun,» Filippidis, the bank chief, told Kathimerini. «We’ve already looked at a number of buildings owned by the Culture Ministry and the City of Athens and have chosen the Kolettis residence… However, it is a building that still requires a lot of work.» Renovation work on the building had been carried out for a number of years. The property’s developer agreed to abandon the project in return for a 400,000-euro fee from the Culture Ministry. Culture Minister Antonis Samaras has approved the payment and renovation work for the prospective Cavafy museum is expected to soon begin. Savidis, whose family has owned the Cavafy Archive’s rights for four decades, has, for a number of years, sought the best possible option for a Cavafy museum, the objective being to serve both the public and researchers as best as possible. Savidis ranks an offer made by Yale University in the USA as the best he has received. But Filippidis’s bid surpassed Yale’s, as accepting it means keeping the archive of modern Greece’s best-known poet at home. Judging by the impressions of a tour of the Kolettis residence offered recently by Filippidis, it seems like a most appropriate choice of premises to house both the works and spirit of Cavafy. A fabulous garden adorns the property’s front, while its rear is graced with a great view of the Acropolis. Inside, the building’s ceilings have been beautifully painted. Filippidis was full of ideas and excitement about the project. «The projection of modern Hellenism is just as important as the projection of ancient civilization,» he said. The Hellenic Postbank’s move into the world of the arts is not unprecedented. Initiatives have included financial support for the Athens School of Fine Arts. «I wish we were in the position to do even more,» remarked Filippidis. The postal bank chief was adamant about the prospect of a new Cavafy museum. «Even though the situation with the Kolettis residence remains unclear, one thing is certain – the Cavafy museum will be realized, even if it requires choosing another building and renting it.»