Today, the artifacts that once belonged to separate private collections have been integrated by the museum curators into the corresponding chronological and thematic groups, their provenance being indicated clearly in the label of each object. In addition, several of the museum galleries have been named after the most important donators (The K. Politis Gallery, The Athens Academy Gallery, The Th. N. Zintilis Gallery)
The N.P. Goulandris Collection was established by Nikos and Dolly Goulandris in the 1960s, following the granting of licenses by the competent state authorities. The collection gained international notoriety and recognition mainly due to the rare Cycladic artifacts (figurines and marble vases), which were first published in 1968 in a scientific catalogue by Professor Christos Doumas.
Apart from Cycladic antiquities, Dolly and Nikos Goulandris incorporated into their collection a significant number of works of ancient Greek art, including vases, sculptures, bronze objects, glass utensils, coins and clay figurines spanning from the 2nd millennium BC to the 4th century AD.
The collection was first exhibited in 1978 at the Benaki Museum and from 1979 to 1983 it was exhibited in major museums and exhibition centers abroad: Washington (National Gallery) in 1979, Tokyo (Museum of Western Art) and Kyoto in 1980, Houston (Museum of Fine Arts) in 1981, Brussels (Musées Royaux d’Art et d ‘Histoire and Palais des Beaux Arts) in 1982, London (British Museum) in 1983 and Paris (Grand Palais) in 1983. In 1999, representative samples of the Cycladic Collection were presented in Madrid (Museo Nacional – Centro de Arte Reina Soﬁa of Madrid), Rome (Musei Capitolini) in 2006, Beijing (Art Museum, Imperial City) in 2008 and Istanbul (Sakip Sabanci Muzesi) in 2011.
The collection of the Museum of Cycladic Art is constantly growing mainly through donations from major collectors and friends of the Museum.
Ever so often, the museum has been granted entire private collections of Cycladic and Ancient Greek Art, which have been included in the existing exhibition spaces (Karolos Politis Collections, Academy of Athens, Emporiki Bank), while in 2002 the Museum acquired one of the largest private collections of Cypriot antiquities, donated by the collector Thanos N. Zintilis.
Objects from other private collections have been added in the N.P. Goulandris Collection, such as the collections of L. Eftaxias (donations, 1984, 1986), T.I. Dragoumis (donation, 1987), L. Spartitis (donation, 1987), Ant. Varvitsioti (donation, 1988), Ath. Chatzidimou (Agora, 1997), Chr. Basti (donation, 1997) among others.
The collection now encompasses more than 1,100 archaeological artifacts from prehistoric times to early Byzantine times: more than 300 objects of Cycladic Art, an important set of geometric vases and jewelry as well as a series of excellent archaic and classical vases, to name a few. The Collection serves as the backbone of the Museum and is constantly enriched with new objects, primarily from private donations and national institutions.
The exhibits in the Museum’s collections originate from donations of important collectors, public or private organizations who devote themselves to cultural issues as well as anonymous individuals.
Today, the objects of the various collections have been included by the archaeologists of the museum in the chronological and thematic sections to which they belong, while the visitor is informed about their origin through the accompanying etiquette.
Karolos Politis was an ardent collector of Greek antiquities. After his death, his wife Rita Politi, fulfilled his wish by donating most of his collection to the Museum of Cycladic Art.
The Karolos Politis Collection comprises 128 objects, with notable highlights including the well-preserved Corinthian bronze helmets, Bronze Age bronze manuals, immaculate geometric and archaic vases, as well as figurines of various periods.
The Museum of Cycladic Art’s coin collection is primarily based on the donations of Rena Evelpidi-Argyropoulou, a renowned collector and numismatist. She contributed 111 coins from the Cycladic islands to the Museum in 1991 and a set of 236 coins from the Ionian islands in 1994.