The Goulandris Collection Destined for New Athens Museum

Art lovers hope to view true masterpieces of contemporary art at the Goulandris museum

“Even if someone had this kind of money, they would never come across these works. They are no longer on the market,” Greek artist Pavlos (born Pavlos Dionysopoulos in 1930) once said of the stunning art collection amassed by Greek shipowner Basil Goulandris (who died in 1994). Pavlos, a friend of Goulandris and his wife, Elise, was absolutely right. Among the works that Goulandris started collecting in the 1950s are true masterpieces of contemporary art.

From the end of 2017 or the beginning of 2018, it is hoped that art lovers will finally be able to view a number of the works at the Goulandris Museum in Athens. Located on Eratosthenous Street in Pangrati, the museum is nearing completion and the aim is for it to host a rare corpus of artworks signed by Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, Henri Matisse, Alberto Giacometti, Auguste Renoir, Joan Miro, Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky, among others.


For the first time Kathimerini reveals some of the glorious paintings and sculptures that will go on display at the museum’s first floor. The full list of exhibits has not yet been disclosed due to an ongoing legal battle, justice has appeared to lean towards the foundation, though the procedure is far from over.

Years ago, a negotiation between the foundation and the Greek state regarding the creation of a museum was based on the never-revealed catalog of works. While the state ceded two plots of land, located on Rigillis and Rizari streets, the project did not come to fruition.

Goulandris, the collector

Focusing solely on Goulandris’s wealth while disregarding his personality would be largely unfair to the man. Born in 1913, Goulandris was a member of the 1930s generation, an avid art lover who mixed with the period’s cultured folk. One of the few to recognize the talent of Giorgos Bouzianis at the beginning of the artist’s career, the two men became friends when the latter returned from abroad.

Goulandris subsequently bought a number of his works. He believed in what Greece had to offer. His beautiful wife, who had become acquainted with the art world during her first marriage, had an innate sense of style and shared with him his vision of a museum to host the collection. Guests at the couple’s dinner parties in Paris included artists Chagall and Balthus, members of the Rothschild family and directors of leading museums.

The collection was built through hard work and money, via auctions as well as the couple’s personal relationships with art dealers and artists. Many of the masterpieces decorated the couple’s homes in Paris, Lausanne and Gstaad.

Following Elise’s death in 2000, her niece Aspasia Zaimis claimed a portion of the collection’s works. She based her claim on one of the interpretations of the will, according to which the invaluable works should not end up being part of the foundation’s assets, but go to Elise’s descendants. The case has yet to go to trial. Zaimis believes the works have disappeared and that some may have been sold. 

Originally published in

Among the masterpieces detected on the lists of legal documents are works that have gone on display at the Basil & Elise Goulandris Foundation’s Museum of Contemporary Art in Andros, including the museum’s “The Classics of Modern Art” exhibition in 1999:

  1. Edgar Degas, Petite danseuse de quatorze ans (1880-1881), sculpture
  2. Paul Cezanne, La Campagne d’ Auvers sur Oise (1881-1882), painting
  3. Claude Monet, Cathedrale de Rouen le matin (1894), painting.
  4. Auguste Rodin, L’eternel printemps (1884), sculpture.
  5. Paul Gauguin, Nature Morte aux pamplemousses (1901 -1902), painting.
  6. Vincent Van Gogh, Nature Morte Cafetiere (1888), painting.
  7. Pierre Bonnard, La Sortie de la Baignoire (1926 -1930), painting.
  8. Pablo Picasso, Femme Nue aux bras leves (1907), painting.
  9. Georges Braque, La Patience (1942), painting.
  10. Fernand Leger, Elements Mecaniques (1919), painting.
  11. Joan Miro, Paysage (1942), paintings.
  12. Wassily Kandinsky, Beide gersteift (1932), painting.
  13. Paul Klee, Dynamik eines Kopfes (1934), painting.
  14. Max Ernst, Pendant que la terre dort (1956), painting.
  15. Alberto Giacometti, Femme de Venise (1956), sculpture.
  16. Francis Bacon, Three studies of a self portrait (1972), painting.
  17. Jackson Pollock, Number 13 (1950)
  18. Balthus, Paysage de Montecavello (1979), painting.
  19. El Greco, La Santa Faz (1580), painting.
  20. Fernando Botero, Still Life with green curtain (1982), painting.

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