For years, Athens was the only European capital without a (state) contemporary art museum.
Fortunately, there are many private museums and amazing art galleries in Greece showing contemporary art by Greek and foreign artists, but it is a pity that in Greece there is a general lack of state support given to contemporary art.
However, there is good news!
Housed in a former FIX brewery in centre Athens, the 18,142m2 Museum Of Contemporary Art reopened in February 2020. Now, the EMST hosts a collection of over 1,000 works of contemporary art, covering areas such as “paintings and 3D objects”, “photography and new media” and “architecture and design”.
Unfortunately, due to COVID, the museum had to close down one again for many months, but we hope that soon museums will be re-opened again.
What means EMST?
It is simple! EMST is the abbreviation of Εθνικό Μουσείο Σύγχρονης Τέχνης (ΕΜΣΤ)
which is Greek for “National Museum of Contemporary Art”
Useful words to remember in Greek 😊
Εθνικός, -η, -ο : national
To Μουσείο: museum
Σύγχρονος, -η, -ο: contemporary
Η Τέχνη: art
Why I mention “reopened”?
Well, the collection was founded 20 years ago in 2002, when it found a home in the former FIX brewery in central Athens.
During the following years, unfortunately, there were continuous construction delays and a lack of funding, with the result that the EMST struggled to get its permanent home ready for the public; it only got a fraction of the space operational since 2015 and the official opening was repeatedly postponed.
The opening in 2020 is largely thanks to an additional €3m grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation. This grant helped to finish the exhibition spaces and prepare the permanent collection. SNF also supported the upgrade of various spaces, including the Media Lounge, the Conservation Laboratory, the Library and Artistic Archive, and the Screening Room.
However, occasionally some temporary exhibits were organized, and in 2017 the EMST hosted the Documenta in Athens in cooperation with Kassel (Germany).
The presentation of the artworks of Documenta 14 was spread in the whole building of EMST, as well as in the whole city of Athens institutions, where most of 160 artists from all over the world presented their new works.
EMST was the main venue of “Documenta 14” from April 8 to July 16, 2017. the visibility of this internationally important event generated crucial interest and “moral support” among the Greek and international art community.
From FIX brewery to Museum – the building
The “old FIX brewery”, designed by the innovative architect Takis Zenetos (1926-1977), is an example of post-WWII modernism and always stood out. Due to its location, situated between two of the city’s main streets (Syngrou and Kallirois Avenues ), this building could never go by unnoticed. For the people of Athens, it served as the most famous abandoned building in the city for decades!
Fortunately, from 2000 onward, the building was completely redesigned in order to house the National Museum of Contemporary Art (EMST). The 50-year lease was signed in 2002.
After more than 12 years in planning and construction, the museum was completed in 2014 but has largely remained closed because of financial and bureaucratic obstacles.
The first exhibition was inaugurated in 31.10.2016 in the temporary exhibition spaces of EMST.
(You can find more detailed info about the Fix beer and building at the following website http://www.emst.gr/en/museum/the-fix-building)
The museum has eight levels. Three of these will be used to house the permanent collections, while the others will be reserved for the periodical exhibitions. The eighth level has amazing capabilities for outdoor multipurpose use during the summertime, with amazing views of the Parthenon.
The EMST collection
The EMST’s collection includes important works of art by Greek and international artists, such as Jannis Kounellis, Stephen Antonakos, Gary Hill, Vlassis Caniaris, Chryssa, Mona Hatoun, Emily Jacir, Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, Kim Sooja, Nikos Kessanlis, Shirin Neshat, Lucas Samaras, Costas Tsoclis, Bill Viola, Joseph Kosuth, Pedro Cabrita Reiss, Costas Varotsos, George Lappas, Oliver Ressler, Gulsun Karamustafa, which essentially cover the spectrum of post-war and contemporary artistic creation.
The museum’s activity will be divided between hosting its permanent collection, periodical exhibitions and events.
How to reach the EMST
It is easy to reach since it is located exactly at the FIX metro station (Red line) or at 15 minutes on foot from the Acropolis Museum.
Click here for opening hours and directions: