An interesting collaboration between the Benaki Museum and the British Embassy in Athens has made possible the creation of the historical exhibition “Grand Tour,” which was inaugurated in two venues, the Benaki Museum of Greek Culture, and the Ghika Gallery.
The museum’s exhibition in Koumbari includes 17 works of art from the British ambassador’s residence in Athens, which have been granted by the Government Art Collection of the United Kingdom for long-term loan for exhibition at the Benaki Museum. These significant works from the 19th and 20th centuries are incorporated into the spaces of the permanent collections of the Museum of Greek Culture and the Ghika Gallery, and follow the theme of the existing museum narrative. In this way, they achieve new and unexpected encounters and highlight both the common stories and the strong cultural and diplomatic ties between the United Kingdom and Greece.
One of the most prominent works of this emerging exhibition is a portrait of Lord Byron by Thomas Phillips, which anyone who has visited the British ambassador’s residence cannot forget, and which visitors will be able to admire throughout 2024, honoring the 200th anniversary of the death of the philhellene poet.
Works by Joseph and Anton Schranz offer a picture of the Greek islands in the 19th century, while the oil paintings and watercolors of Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghika and John Craxton, exhibited in the modernist Athenian residence of the former, where the Ghika Gallery is now housed, bring to life the long-standing friendship and artistic interactions of the two distinguished artists of the 20th century.
The Government Art Collection of the United Kingdom is a unique cultural institution that promotes British art by placing works in British government buildings around the world. Two-thirds of the Collection is displayed in ministerial offices and diplomatic residences in almost every capital in the world.
For over 120 years and with nearly 15,000 works of art spanning six centuries, the Government Art Collection is constantly enriched by the acquisition of new works, which reflect the diversity of British society. The Collection aims to expand access and public participation in its stock through digital platforms and partnerships worldwide.
The UK Ambassador to Greece, Matthew Lodge, stated that the ambassador’s residence will close for the next two years for renovation work, thus giving the opportunity for the general public to see the works in the collection.”We are extremely excited about our collaboration with the team of the Benaki Museum for this exhibition. We are truly grateful because they demonstrated their deep knowledge and passion from day one. Except for the famous portrait of Lord Byron, which was included in the exhibition organized again by the Benaki Museum for the 200 years since the Greek Revolution, the works we are talking about today are coming out of the British Ambassador’s residence for the first time,” he noted.
On his part, the Scientific Director of the Benaki Museum, Mr. Georgis Manginis, noted that a living museum builds bridges between institutions, places, and peoples, and he reminded of the bonds between Britain and Greece with the donation from Patrick and Joan Lee Fermor to the museum of their home in Kardamyli. “We hope this initiative will allow the Greek and international public who will visit the Museum in the coming years to get to know and appreciate the work of this significant cultural institution of our friendly country,” he noted.
This article was previously published in Greek at kathimerini.gr.