Lack of vision

The prime minister often speaks of a «new national self-confidence,» citing examples from the economic and foreign policy spheres. In a television interview with Bernard Pivot many years ago, the late French President Francois Mitterrand listed the major projects that came to life during his tenure: The Bastille opera house, the Musee d’Orsay, the National Library of France. Apart from the obvious benefits regarding employment, he said, such projects boost national self-confidence and the collective will for progress and development, for they spark vision and a sense of quest and optimism. Mitterrand’s vision thereby acquired shape, volume and size. Greece of the postwar period has no great cultural venue to be proud of. It has no National Opera, no real Museum of Contemporary Art. It has a National Gallery of questionable taste and functionality, a National Theater and Archeological Museum that are under reconstruction, and plans for a National Library only in the distant future. Any venues come from the reuse of existing buildings: The National Sculpture Gallery will be hosted in a former military stables complex, the National Museum of Contemporary Art in a former brewery. Alexandria was brought back into the global cultural network thanks to an inspired project to build a new national library. The social gain is huge: a new strong focus for spiritual and, by extension, economic development. Creating such a focus, however, requires long-term planning and painstaking examination of its potential relation with the existing metropolis. Athens of the Cultural Olympiad is struggling to meet deadlines and promises, or at least to meet the basic requirements somehow or other, all at the eleventh hour. A partial renovation here, an incomplete structure there. Any sort of a cultural vision has been indefinitely postponed.