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Greek push for return of Parthenon Marbles March 18, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Archaeology Greece, Shows & Conferences, Vote For Return Greek Marbles.
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Changes in museum policies and an increase in instances of cooperation between different countries for the repatriation of looted artifacts could pave the way for the return of the Parthenon Marbles, Culture Minister Michalis Liapis told an international conference in Athens yesterday.

“More and more museums are adopting tighter ethics codes and governments are promoting cooperation, so the ideal momentum is being created for clear solutions,” Liapis told the UNESCO event at the New Acropolis Museum.

Museum officials and archaeologists gave several examples of repatriated artifacts, such as the Obelisk of Axum, returned to Ethiopia from Rome in 2005. Experts also remarked upon the increase of works being smuggled out of war zones.

Christiane Tytgat, former curator at the Royal Museums of Art and History in Brussels and director of the Netherlands Institute in Athens, said the Parthenon Marbles, currently in the British Museum, should be sent back too.“I support their return unreservedly… this is where they belong,” Tytgat said.

Piraeus Archaeological Museum reopens March 18, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Museums.
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The Archaeological Museum of Piraeus has reopened to the public following extensive refurbishment work and installation of an air-conditioning system, the Culture Ministry said yesterday.

18-03-08_archaeological_museum_piraeus.jpg  The Museum is open from 8.30 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily except Monday.

Archaeological Museum of Piraeus, 31 Harilaou Trikoupi Street, Piraeus, tel 210 4521598.

MoMA Director visiting Greece for series of lectures March 16, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Greece, Arts Museums.
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Director of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, Glenn Lowry, will visit Greece for the first time and address public audiences in Athens and Thessaloniki as part of the “Great Ideas” series.

Featured in the Megaron Plus series, he will speak at the Athens Concert Hall on Monday, March 17, at 19:00, on “Making the Modern: A Disruptive Theory of the Museum of Modern Art.” His lecture will focus on how the Museum has dealt with the collection and display of artworks, the way in which it periodically reinvents itself, and the changing nature of contemporary art.

On Wednesday, March 19, at 18:30, he will speak in Thessaloniki on the same topic. This event is co-organized with the Thessaloniki Chamber of Commerce and Industry and will take place at the Chamber’s Conference Hall.

During his visit to Greece, Lowry will also address student audiences at the University of Athens School of Fine Arts and the Thessaloniki Aristotle University School of Fine Arts.

Lowry was appointed Director of MoMA in 1995. One of his initiatives was the construction of MoMA’s new building, which was completed in 2004, and was a turning point in the history of the Museum and a major cultural event for the city of New York.

The goal of the “Great Ideas” series is to bring noted American experts and artists to Greece to perform and discuss current topics of interest to the Greek and American people.

Glenn Lowry, MoMA, Making the Modern: A Disruptive Theory of the Museum of Modern Art >
Athens Concert Hall,
 1 Kokkali Street and Queen Sophia Avenue, Athens.
Conference Hall, Thessaloniki Chamber of Commerce and Industry, 29 Tsimiski Street, Thessaloniki.

Related Links > www.moma.org

Be a tourist in your own city March 15, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Greece, Arts Museums, Greece Athens.
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The City of Athens organizes tours of museums and archaeological sites as well as culture walks. On a sunny Sunday, the tour guide is surrounded by men and women of all ages wanting to find out more about their own city’s past.

The City of Athens sends out an army of tourist guides to help its citizens become more informed and enjoy themselves in the process. The tour guides are nothing like those one is used to seeing on trips abroad. Often bystanders don’t even know what is going on. It’s a great way to get to know your own city’s secrets, its old neighborhoods, the monuments of Plaka and neoclassical Athens.

Every Sunday without fail at 10.30 a.m., and some Saturdays for visits to sites that are closed on Sundays, nine months of the year, apart from the summer months, the City of Athens holds free guided tours of the city’s sites and monuments. For the past 27 years, its tour guides have been introducing Athenians to their city’s past. All they pay is the entrance fee to the sites themselves, wherever these are charged.

This is how it works: Check out the capital’s municipal website [ www.cityofathens.gr ] for the dates and schedules, call the Municipal Art Gallery and Museums Department, tel 210 3231841 or 210 3240762, or go to the city’s Cultural Center, 50 Academias Street, nearest metro station is “Panepistimio”. Every Sunday morning there is a different itinerary, but many of these are repeated over the year.

If the idea of a guided museum tour seems too much like a school excursion, there are always the outdoor walks. One of these met at the “Evangelismos” metro station on a recent sunny Sunday. Within a few moments, the tour guide was surrounded by a crowd of over 150 men and women of all ages, but very few children, for a briefing of the tour they were to take along Vasileos Constantinou Avenue, the approximate course of the ancient Ilissos River. The tour was to end two hours later at the Church of Aghia Foteini.

Some of the original crowd dropped off along the way, of course, as happens in tours. There was a smaller tour nearby the War Museum. Many of those in the crowd make a regular habit of the tours, meeting friends every Sunday.

As for the tour itself, the information provided by the guide is detailed, similar to the kind of information one would find in a Google search or travel guide, only here the process is interactive; then there are always the wisecrackers, providing lighter moments.

The winter program, January to March, provides a selection of 40 different meeting points. Tickets are issued at the entrance to 148 Ermou Street at the Church of Aghia Dynami. The only thing one has to make sure of is the meeting point for each tour. For example, Hadrian’s Arch for the tour of the Olympic Stadium, 66A Irakleidon Street in Thiseion for the walk around Athens, Philopappou Hill for the a tour of the Pnyx. All the tours are conducted in Greek. Every tour lasts from two to three or even four hours, depending on the site.

I think about the four-hour walk and sit down on a bench away from the crowd. The lecture on the Ilissos River surroundings began at Aghios Georgios Rizari. The guide indicates on the map the course of the now underground river. The point is to see Athens through different eyes. Not piled into a bus. We will walk along the Ilissos, not along its banks, of course, but above them, on the sidewalks.

Tomorrow’s tours >
Byzantine churches >
Meeting point at the Aghios Eleftherios Chapel next to Athens Cathedral.

Benaki Museum’s folklore exhibits from modern Greek history > Meeting point at the Museum entrance, 1 Koumbari Street, Kolonaki, Athens.

Kerameikos, Athens’ Ancient Cemetery > Meeting point at the site.

Archaeological Museum’s bronze collection > Meeting point at the Museum entrance on Patission Street, Athens, nearest metro station “Victoria”.

Future tours > Municipal Art Gallery, 19th- and 20th-century Athens, the Athens of Costis Palamas, Ancient Agora, Acropolis, Plaka’s monuments, National Sculpture Gallery, Museum of Cycladic and Ancient Greek Art, Acropolis and Syntagma metro excavation finds, First Cemetery, Pnyx, Old Athenian neighborhoods, Museum of Islamic Art, Elefsina sites. Call 210 3231841 to book.

International conference at the New Acropolis Museum March 15, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Museums, Shows & Conferences, Vote For Return Greek Marbles.
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The place, the viewpoint and the general atmosphere of the conference on the return of cultural property for the first international meeting at the New Acropolis Museum in Athens.

15-03-08_new_acropolis_museum.jpg  The photograph is from the Greek Cultural Foundation’s leaflet ‘The New Acropolis Museum’

Nobody can stop an idea whose time has finally come. This blog has written on several occasions about how the issue of the return of the Parthenon Marbles has gone from being a national demand to an international imperative, supported by leading figures from around the world who want to see the parts of the UNESCO-listed monument reunited.

But it will take more than being in the right to get back the marbles that Thomas Bruce, the seventh earl of Elgin, dismantled, stole and took away in 1801, when Athens was under Ottoman rule. With the permission of the sultan, Lord Elgin, then the British ambassador to Constantinople, had the Parthenon friezes cut up and transported to England, where they were bought by the British government. It, in turn, donated them to the British Museum in London where they have remained since.

What was needed, as Melina Mercouri told a plenary session of UNESCO in 1982, when, as the country’s Culture Minister, she initiated her campaign for the return of the Parthenon Marbles, was “a new museum to house them,” given that the existing Acropolis Museum was already full. In order to build the Museum, Mercouri’s husband, the noted American-born French filmmaker Jules Dassin created the Melina Mercouri Foundation, to which he donated his fortune.

The state undertook the project, putting distinguished architect Dimitris Pantermalis at the helm. Renowned architect Bernard Tschumi collaborated with Greek architect Michalis Fotiadis in designing the project that is today coming to fruition opposite the Acropolis.

While the British Museum continues to insist that the Parthenon marbles should stay in the English capital where visitors from all over the world come to see them in the Duveen Gallery, its position is weakening. The upper floor of the New Acropolis Museum will showcase the surviving marbles, together with copies of those in the British Museum so as to show a complete picture of this matchless work of art.

This blog believes that they will return to their place of origin under pressure from the public and governments. One promising indication is that countries and museums around the world are starting to return works of art to the places from which they were removed due to wear, bombardment or illegal activities.

An international conference on the return of cultural property starts Monday, March 17, at the New Acropolis Museum, organized by UNESCO and the Greek Culture Ministry. It is the first in a series of international gatherings organized by UNESCO and its member states to foster awareness and provide a forum for reflection and exchanges on the issue of the return of cultural property.

Greek President Karolos Papoulias will attend the opening of the conference. Culture Minister Michalis Liapis and UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Culture Francoise Riviere will greet the participants. The event is coordinated by Vivi Vassilopoulou, the general manager of antiquities and cultural heritage at the Greek Culture Ministry.

For two days, the conference will address the issue, with examples ranging from Italy’s return of an obelisk to Ethiopia to the return by Edinburgh of Aboriginal remains to Australia. There’s a strong feeling among journalists that Elena Korka, the head of the Culture Ministry’s directorate of prehistoric and classical antiquities, will seize upon the opportunity presented by the conference to raise the issue of the Parthenon Marbles, because nothing can stop an idea whose time has come.

Vincent van Gogh notebook: Is it real? March 10, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Greece, Arts Museums.
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Greek writer insists drawings she found are by Dutch painter

10-03-08_vincent_van_gogh.jpg  A sketch from the notebook purported to have belonged to van Gogh.

Who could have imagined that a Greek woman could have caused such a stir in the international press and the Van Gogh Museum? The first to break the news was the BBC’s Greece correspondent Malcolm Brabant. According to the story, a writer named Doreta Peppa has in her possession a sketchbook belonging to Vincent van Gogh with sketches, some of which are signed “Vincent”. Other prestigious news services followed suit: Reuters, the Daily Telegraph, the Dutch television channel Nederland 1, and more.

The story is as follows: Back in World War II, Doreta Peppa’s father, Meletios Peppas, a partisan, along with a group of other resistance fighters, raided a Nazi train carrying looted works of art, grabbed what they could and then stored the items in a safe place.

Some 30 years after the death of her father (in 1973), Doreta discovers the wonderful sketchbook among her father’s manuscripts. The book is stamped with the words Royal Academy of Art, Brussels. She cannot believe her eyes. She shows it to her friends. Then she takes it to the head of conservation and restoration at the Greek National Gallery, Michalis Doulgeridis.

“She had it wrapped in a cloth and asked me to take a look at it”, he explained after the event. “What is it?” I asked. “You tell me”, she said. “Will you look at it?” Everything pointed to the work of a great artist. “You have to investigate this” I told her.

Athens-born Peppa (1963), an art collector and president of the “Ellin.a.is” foundation for ancient Greek religion, believes the sketchbook to be a diary kept by the artist, which he intended to give as a present to his brother Theo. Her research, which has been published in a book that was launched at Zappeion Hall in late February, takes a novel approach to the work of the artist. According to Peppa, van Gogh hid within his works letters, numbers and symbols representing valuable lessons that he wanted to pass on to mankind. The sketchbook was authenticated for Peppa by a young artist called Athanasios Selia, a photograph in the book was said to be of van Gogh by a dentist called Dimitris Berdelis, and Peppa’s book was published by Giorgos Alexelis of Epos Publications, who is co-author and Peppa’s husband.

The sketchbook may be authentic or it may not. Only an expert can be the judge of that and, even then, there would be a margin of error.

The Van Gogh Museum, after an initial series of contacts with Peppa, has now severed all communication. A spokesperson for the Museum told the Daily Telegraph’s Damien McElroy (January 4, 2008), “We get quite a few requests for authentication from people who believe they have something by Vincent van Gogh”.

Editor’s Note > Peppa made the news a few months back, when her religion group entered the sacred area of the Sanctuary of Olympian Zeus [Columns of Olympian Zeus], located in the centre of downtown Athens, to perform their so-called “religious” ceremony. Ellinais, or the Holy Association of Greek Ancient Religion Believers, was founded in 2005 by a group of polytheists. Doreta Peppa is their spokeswoman and high priestess, and accordingly an avid advocate of their belief. Its followers are causing a stir with ceremonies in old temples, in which they pay homage to the ancient gods from Apollo to Zeus.

Other than that, I strongly believe, that Peppa, is trying to stir the motions and the publicity news!

Related Links > http://www3.vangoghmuseum.nl/vgm/index.jsp?lang=nl

Awaiting the Marbles’ return, and Melina March 8, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Archaeology Greece, Arts Museums, Vote For Return Greek Marbles.
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Ever since her grandfather, Spyros Mercouris, the Mayor of the Greek capital, used to take her out for a walk and tell her “This is your Athens”, Amalia-Melina Mercouri knew that this was her home town.

The woman who had everything – beauty, dynamism, an unquenchable thirst for life, love and service – managed to fit it all in to her glittering life, which was not without its shadows during the years of the dictatorship. Exiled to New York at the time, where she was starring on Broadway in a production of “Never on Sunday” she was at the head of all the demonstrations for freedom and democracy in Greece. Recruited to serve her country again in the government of Andreas Papandreou in the 1980s, she was the first to demand the return of the Parthenon sculptures from the British Museum.

Fourteen years ago on March 6, Melina died in New York after an operation. Her beloved companion, the film director Jules Dassin who gave up his career for her, also gave his fortune after her death to found the Melina Mercouri Foundation for the purpose of building a new Acropolis Museum, now completed.

08-03-08_melina.jpg  “When the sculptures come back to Athens, so will I,” she promised.