30 years Museum of Cycladic Art

by Sandra Marinopoulos

30 years of exhibitions, educational programs, conferences, research, publications, have brought the Museum of Cycladic Art into the international spotlight, alongside the Cycladic civilization itself.

10 years ago, I accepted an invitation from my aunt and founder of the Museum, Dolly Goulandris, with the mission of increasing its awareness to a wider Greek and international audience, while turning it into a meeting point for children, young people and the elderly.

Succeeding the Founder, a significant and distinguished personality, was no easy task. However, after getting the right team on board we managed to significantly broaden the museum’s scope of activities and expand its outreach

By creating groundbreaking archaeological exhibitions with relevance to contemporary society such as the exhibitions on Eros, the Afterlife and even Health in Antiquity, visitors of all ages with no special interest in archaeology, started to fill the museum’s galleries, strolling among the exhibits with enthusiasm and curiosity.

Next step was to enrich the museum’s program with exhibitions by renowned artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Jannis Kounellis, Ugo Rondinone and Thomas Struth.

By inviting curators to converse with its archaeological identity, even within the context and galleries of its permanent collections, contemporary art gradually became an integral part of the Museum’s identity.

Ancient civilization began to converse with contemporary art. The museum galleries were flooded with younger crowds on late night opening parties. The audience profile began to shift.

On another note, social programs have also become part of the museum’s practice. The development team manages to acquire sponsoring for specific vulnerable groups such as the elderly, visitors with disabilities and refugees, in order to be able to offer them specialized guided tours.

At the same time, the Μuseum reaches out to gain international exposure, so as to raise the awareness of the Cycladic and ancient Greek civilization. To this end, it organizes annual presentations of its anthropocentric archaeological exhibitions in major museums abroad, inviting lovers of Greek archaeology and culture to enjoy Ancient Greek history.

Its museum learning kits travel to museums and schools in far corners of the world (the education department of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York being one example).

The celebration of its 30 years of creative presence involved the following program of actions:

In May, Ai Weiwei accepted our invitation to create an exhibition inspired by the refugee crisis. This gave the Athenian audience the opportunity not only to discover his international body of work, but also more importantly to better
comprehend the strong and moving context of this enormous humanitarian

Even though the Museum of Cycladic Art is a private institution and does not receive any state funding, thanks to our sponsors of Weiwei’s exhibition, we were able to offer part of its proceeds to two NGOs supporting the refugees, Médecins Sans Frontières and Metadrasi.

This minor gesture attested our strong belief that Art is not a luxury, but an utmost necessity and that when combined with acts of solidarity, the effect can be life changing.

In December, we inaugurated the 30 years anniversary exhibition Cycladic Society 5000 years ago, an exhibition that takes us back in time in an attempt to reconstruct -despite the lack of writing- the everyday life of the Cycladic people, their main habits and activities, their daily family life and death rituals

Research being one of the Museum’s most important missions, in 2016 an innovative research program was launched in collaboration with the National Archeological Museum, exploring the technology of marble.

Among other things, the program examines the possibility of coloration of the marble of the Cycladic figurines, based on the few traces of color, still left on the marble, that may suggest they were once painted.

For the visually impaired the education department specifically designed, an innovative multi-sensory kit which will travel throughout Greece and abroad: Within a round (cycle-Cyclades) vessel filled with water, marble stones, when touched, convey the sense of the islands, the marble, the space, the seabed.

Finally, our newly designed e-shop comes as an addition to our recent architectural intervention on the existing Museum store by the awarded Greek architect Stelios Kois. The E-shop will serve all of us who wish to send gifts inspired by Greek culture and history to Greeks, Philhellenes and art lovers to every corner of the world.

In 2017 we plan to continue our work with passion and commitment, believing that Art teaches us to love and appreciate the beauty around us, in all its forms.

About the blogger

  • Sandra Marinopoulos / President, Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens, Greece