From Cycladic sculptures to acclaimed contemporary Greek artists ad natural history, the Goulandris institutions make a valuable addition to Greece’s arts & museums scene. Visit the 4 Goulandris Museums: 3 in Athens and 1 on the island of Andros
Greeks love art, theatre, and music, and, as a result, in Greece you can find a vast collection of private museums and galleries. Most of the archaeological findings are housed in Greek public museums, but the private museums often host very fine collections of important Greek and international art. Thankfully, most of these private museums open their doors to the public, allowing everyone access to their prized collections. A private museum usually houses the collection of a single collector or their entire family. They tend to be impeccably organised and beautifully designed, and specialise on a specific theme or period of art. The museums are located mainly on upper class or prestigious areas, in historical renovated buildings (often of neoclassical architecture style) or in modern buildings designed by famous local architects specifically for the purpose of exhibiting the personal collection. This is also the case of the four Goulandris museums in Athens and on the island of Andros, which are home to some of the most exciting private collections in Greece. Admission to these private collections is rarely free, as is also the case with public museums in Greece, but ticket prices in Greece are fairly sensible and considerably lower than in other major European cities.
Who are the Goulandris family?
Both Basil, Angelos and Nicholas were born on Andros and are descendants of the renowned Goulandris shipping family. The island of Andros, which is close to Tinos, Mykonos and Syros, is known as home to some of the biggest and most prominent ship-owner Greek families and is thus characterised by greater wealth than its neighbouring Cycladic islands.
During the 19th century the island experienced great agricultural wealth, allowing its inhabitants to export their produce, travel to ports all the way from Constantinople to Marseilles and set the foundation of the Greek shipping industry. Once this period ended, the local families, including the Goulandris family, turned their attention to maritime trade, transport, seafaring and banking. In addition to this, the Andriots were the first ones to start using steam engine ships, which was a novelty at that time. This allowed them to stand out from the competition, prosper and get wealthy.
Let’s take a look at the 4 museums owned by this family
The Goulandris Museum of Contemporary Art – Pangrati, Athens
The Goulandris Museum of Contemporary Art is a modern art museum in Pangrati (central Athens). It opened in October 2019 to house the collection of the Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation. This collection, which is considered one of the world’s best private art collections and is valued at as much as $3 billion, focuses on modern and contemporary art by legendary international artists such as Cézanne, van Gogh, Gauguin, Monet, Degas, Rodin, Toulouse-Lautrec, Picasso, Kandinsky, Miró and Giacometti, as well as acclaimed Greek artists including Parthenis, Bouzianis, Vassiliou, Hadjikyriakos-Ghika, Tsarouchis, Moralis, Tetsis, Takis, Chryssa, Stamos and others. The couple was passionate about art; they were connected to the artistic circles of post-war Paris. At the same time, they sought to promote young Greek artists and help them evolve by buying their art.
The Goulandris Museum of Modern Art, on Andros island
The Museum of Contemporary art has a “sibling”, the Museum of Modern Art, which precedes the one in Athens and is located on the island of Andros, Cyclades. This museum was established in 1979 to showcase the work of renowned Greek artists. The artist that features in this collection more prominently is M. Tombros, who also comes from Andros.
The museum is a modern building that blends in perfectly with its surroundings in the beautiful chora, the capital of Andros island. In 1986, the museum launched a new wing, which has hosted exhibitions of international art, including works of legendary artists such as Picasso, Matisse, Kadinsky, Paul Klee and Henri Cartier-Bresson. There are often exchanges of works of art between the Athens and the Andros museums, depending on the features and special exhibitions organised from time to time.
The Goulandris Museum of Cycladic Art – centre Athens
The Goulandris Museum of Cycladic Art was founded much earlier, in 1986, and focuses on the promotion and study of the ancient civilizations of the Aegean and Cyprus. Many people call it the “Cycladic Art Museum”, forgetting it is actually a private collection. It houses the collection of antiquities that belonged to Nicholas and Aikaterini (Dolly) Goulandris. It focuses on Cycladic Art of the 3rd millennium BC and includes several of the well-known, beautiful Cycladic statues.
The museum consists of two exhibition spaces – the main building, at 4 Noephytou Douka Str, which was designed by the architect Ioannis Vikelas to house the permanent collection, and the Stathatos Mansion on Vassilissis Sofias Avenue.
Goulandris Museum of Natural History – Kifissa – North Athens
The Goulandris Museum of Natural History in Kiffisia, Athens, is Greece’s largest museum of natural history. It was founded by Angelos Goulandris and Niki Goulandris in 1965 to promote the study of natural sciences and raise awareness about the need to protect Greece’s wildlife and ecosystems.
The museum’s extensive collection of rocks, minerals, fossils, insects, birds, reptiles, and mammals, as well as the replica of a dinosaur make it a very popular destination for families with younger children. The museum gets regular visits from local schools as well, and it hosts workshops and activities for children during the weekends.
How many of private museums have you visited in Athens?
Athens is home to many private museums and galleries. Sometimes they are not as well-known as the public ones but looking them up is worth the effort! The most popular ones include the Onassis Cultural Centre, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre and .
And the list goes on…