Museum Type Art & Design
Address 1, Koumbari str & Vas. Sofias av.
Postal Code 106 74
The Benaki Museum was founded in 1930 by Antonis Benakis (1873-1954), member of a pre-eminent Greek family in Alexandria, which made an invaluable contribution to the political, social and cultural life of Greece. Benakis began forming his collections whilst still in Egypt and donated them to the Greek State in 1926, when he settled permanently in Athens. These collections are housed in his paternal home, one of the handsomest Neoclassical buildings in the capital, which was converted into the first private museum in Greece.
The public responded immediately to Antonis Benakis’s initiative and as a result of its exceptional impact the Museum’s treasures quickly proliferated. Thanks to the constantly increasing number of benefactors and donors, the Museum continues to be endowed daily with valuable properties and independent ensembles of artworks which fill in the gaps in individual collections. Concurrently, the acquisition of new exhibits reinforces the research role of the Museum, namely the study of Hellenic as well as other cultures, important pieces from which are kept on its premises.
The rapid growth of the Museum’s holdings and activities necessitated the enlargement of its facilities, the hiving off of certain sections and their re-housing in new annexes; this entailed the overall review of the museological thinking behind the foundation.
The central building re-opened to the public in the summer of 2000 and in it is presented the historical and cultural development of Hellenism. Exhibits span the Neolithic Age to the twentieth century. Many of them are masterpieces of Greek art or are of seminal significance for Greek history: from Antiquity and the Roman era to the Byzantine Age, from the Fall of Constantinople (1453), the period of Frankish rule and the Ottoman Occupation, to the outbreak of the Greek War of Independence (1821), and from the time of the formation of the Modern Greek State until the Asia Minor Catastrophe (1922).
The temporary exhibition gallery hosts exhibitions and diverse other events each year, thus enriching the visitor’s image of Hellenic civilization. The Museum’s educational role is enhanced by the educational programmes for schoolchildren, the first to be organized in a Greek museum. The Museum shop offers high quality replicas of exhibits, while the cafeteria on the Museum terrace has become a very popular venue.
The Cultural Centre at 138 Pireos Street is housed in an industrial building of the 1960s, which has been transformed into a modern museum space designed to accommodate multiple events. The building includes a central atrium, also suitable for holding events, and a 400-seat amphitheatre.
Part of the Benaki Museum’s decentralization programme is the establishment of specialist annexes to house its major archival units, such as the Photographic Archives (15 Filikis Eterias Square), the Historical Archives (S. Delta and 38 E. Benaki Streets, Kifisia, in the house of Penelope Delta) and the Archives of Neohellenic Architecture (138 Peiraios St). Among the Museum’s future plans for expansion are the remodelling of the Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghika Art Gallery (3 Kriezotou St) and the organizing of a Museum of Toys and Childhood in the Koulouras Mansion (1 Tritonos St, Paleo Faliro).
TICKET FOR THE MAIN BUILDING EXHIBITION
Main Building & N. Hadjikyriakos-Ghikas Gallery
MAIN EXHIBITION BUILDING