Artists lament museum that will not be

Prominent Greek artists yesterday expressed dismay at the final collapse, following a court decision on Tuesday, of a project to provide a permanent showcase in Athens for one of the most important art collections in the world. The sculptor Pavlos said the Basil and Eliza Goulandris Foundation’s offer of 158 works by masters such as El Greco, Cezanne, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Picasso, Matisse, Rodin, Modigliani, de Chirico and Nicholson had posed a unique opportunity for Greece. «These are pieces that cannot be bought nowadays,» he told Kathimerini. «They do not exist in the market, so even if somebody had the means to purchase them, they would be impossible to find.» Ten years after the foundation was first granted state-owned land in central Athens – which proved unusable when remains of the ancient Lyceum of Aristotle were unearthed – to build its long-planned modern art museum, the Council of State ruled that a second, 1.2-hectare plot in the Rizareio Park, opposite the War Museum, had been illegally ceded by the government in 1999. Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos, who held the same portfolio when the grant was approved, had called the process «legally safe.» The court decision put the lid on the project, according to which the foundation’s collection of art was to have been donated to a state-controlled museum designed by I.M. Pei – the architect who drew up the plans for the glass pyramid entrance to the Louvre. The foundation has already paid for the plans, and proposed to cover the building’s construction costs. « I am really saddened by all this,» painter Costas Tsoclis said. «But it could have been expected. These people are not interested in the arts.» The decision followed an appeal by local residents, the Greek branch of ICOMOS (the International Committee on Monuments and Sites) and the Association of Greek Town Planners, who questioned the legality of the grant as well as arguing that the museum would destroy one of the capital’s few parks. The decision, however, did not touch on the latter issue. Painter Dimitris Mytaras blamed local residents for «trying to avoid (the) fuss in their neighborhood… If a block of flats was to have been put up on the same spot, the problem would have been solved instantly.»

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