The Dialogue Between the Classical Greek Heritage and the Modern European Visual Culture: Exhibitions from the Hellenic Parliament Art Collection as Cultural Diplomacy

  • Abstract:

    The Art Collection belonging to the Hellenic Parliament consists primarily of works of Modern Greek art (19th century on), but also includes works of art by European artists on Greek themes, i.e. representations of Greek mythology and history, as well as depictions of historic Greek sites and monuments. The works in this latter category provided the material for the two recent exhibitions, different but related, presented by the Hellenic Parliament Art Collection and curated by the undersigned. During the first six months of 2014, when Greece held the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, the exhibition “Hellas: genius loci” was presented in two neoclassical palaces, the Hellenic Parliament Building and the Zappeion Hall. Through paintings and other works of visual art, including illustrated books, the exhibition showed how Hellenic antiquity was visualized in modern times (from 17th century to the present) by European artists, as well as by contemporary Greek artists. As a continuation of this exhibition, another is currently being held (September 2015 – October 2016) entitled “Strolling through the Athens of Travelers (17th–19th c.)”, at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens. Here, the city of Athens is depicted by European travelers in various versions; the resulting image of the city was diffused through modern European civilization as a cultural model. Sculptures are also exhibited here, from the collections of the National Archaeological Museum, which came to light during excavations on the sites depicted in the works of art and illustrated books in the exhibition. Both these exhibitions feature works belonging to the Hellenic Parliament Art Collection in the context of a dialogue between the ancient and the modern, Greece and Europe, East and West. This dialogue helps raise public awareness of the common cultural (and therefore political) foundation on which the structure of Europe has been built.