Tug of war over the Passas art collection

The history of the Passas collection has all the elements of a good novel – a little bit of mystery, art and politics. The truth is, however, that no one knows – or else doesn’t want to say – much about the collection of valuable objects that has spent decades locked in showcases in a house in the Athens district of Kypseli, and is now caught up in a tug of war between the Benaki Museum and the Byzantine and Christian Museum. For the time being, the famous collection (or at least what is left of it) has been cataloged and transferred to the latter museum’s restoration department. This summer, the collection’s European-made ceramics will go on show there. Meanwhile, the Benaki Museum has taken its claim to the collection to the courts. Passas, a journalist who later made his fortune as the publisher of the «Helios» encyclopedia and in the paper trade, began to gather the collection during the 1960s on his travels around the world. His friends describe him as having been an intelligent and resourceful person. A large part of the collection consists of reproductions, mainly from the Renaissance; although Passas himself referred to them as genuine, there is no evidence to that effect. Then there are European and Chinese ceramics, precious stones, ivory and jewelry as well as ancient artifacts. Passas is said to have given a piece of jewelry from his collection to the film star Jayne Mansfield when she visited Greece.

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