With such a wealth of antiquities as Athens offers, many visitors are surprised to find that Athens is also an important center for contemporary art. But as you will discover at these six exciting art galleries in Athens, this cosmopolitan capital is also a fascinating destination for those interested in modern art.
In this selection of the most interesting art galleries in Athens, you’ll find both public and private galleries. Two of the public galleries have opened in the last few years and have had a dramatic impact on Athens’ cultural landscape- these are on the list of every serious art lover visiting the Greek capital. These important public institutions are valuable not just for their excellent collections and exhibitions in themselves, but also for their role in contextualizing modern Greek art.
The independent, visionary art galleries in Athens shine light on emerging trends in both international art and contemporary Greek art. Two are international in its outlook, one nearly entirely Greek. Athens is an ideal place for an art-lovers’ city break: in the capital, surrounded by the glories of antiquity, you can immerse yourself in historic modernism, and even become a connaisseur and collector yourself.
The Bernier-Eliades Gallery
A significant presence in the Athenian art scene since 1977, the Bernier/Eliades gallery – the project of visionary galleriests Jean Bernier and Marina Eliades – has championed significant movements in contemporary art. The gallery has introduced Arte Povera, Minimalism, Land and Contemporary art to an excited Greek public over the decades. Works of Greek and International artists such as Jannis Kounellis, Annette Messager and Zhang Yexing can be seen at the Bernier/Eliades gallery
One of the most dynamic art galleries in Athens, the Bernier/Eliades gallery spent its first two decades in a space in the chic Kolonaki district before moving to a magnificent Neoclassical mansion in Thisseo in 1999. The Bernier/Eliades Gallery maintains an international presence, opening a space in Brussels in 2016, and participating in prestigious art fairs.
The National Gallery
The National Gallery – Alexandros Soutzos Museum is an excellent place to come to get an understanding of Modernism in Greece. Since its founding in 1900, the collection has grown to over 20,000 works encompassing painting, sculpture, engravings and other art forms. The collection spans post-Byzantine times until the present, providing a way to trace the development of currents and movements. Providing a meaningful context for contemporary works makes this one of the most informative and exciting art galleries in Athens. Here, you can learn about distinctly Greek responses to modernism and trace the many factors that contributed to their emergence.
Highlights of the collection include works of the Eptanisian School (the painters of the Ionian Islands), Greek responses to Impressionism, fascinating modernist works of the inter-war period, and modern Greek art post 1945. This is a great place to experience the works of seminal modern Greek painters such as Giannis Tsarouchis, Nikos Kadjikyriakos-Ghikas, Konstantinos Parthenis, and Giannis Gaitis.
EMST – National Museum of Contemporary Art
After having organized exhibitions in locations throughout Athens such as the School of Fine Arts and the Athens Concert Hall, this fantastic museum finally moved into its own quarters in 2015. A handsome industrial building on Syngrou Avenue has been refitted into over 18,000 square meters of museum space, including exhibition spaces, educational spaces, and a screening room. The museum also hosts lectures, performances of dance and music, and other dynamic cultural events.
The EMST thrives on exciting synergies with museums abroad, including the Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp M HKA, Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea in Rome, and National Art Museum of China (NAMOC).
The museum’s building, the former Fix Brewery, is itself a modernist monument, designed by Takis Zenetos in 1957.
The Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation
One of the most important cultural milestones in Greece in recent years and the source of much excitement in the arts scene has been the opening of the Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation in Athens. The building was completed in 2018, uniting an existing inter-war building with a contemporary extension. It represents the fulfillment of the vision of Basil and Elise Goulandris, whose foundation on the island of Andros opened in 1979.
The Goulandris Foundation in Athens offers five floors of exhibition space, plus a library, an amphitheater for lectures, conferences, and performances, and also a children’s workshop.
The magnificent Goulandris collection includes masterpieces of painting and sculpture of European avant-garde and modernist artists. Visitors will enjoy works by significant artists of the late 19th and 20th centuries such as Cezanne, Miro, Giacometti, Picasso, Touloue-Laurec, Bonnard, Monet, Degas, van Gogh, Klee, Pollock, Kandinsky, Bacon, and many others. At the same time, they will be able to enjoy the vibrant works of the most important Greek Modernists, including Tetsis, Moralis, Tsarouchis, and Hadjikyriakos-Ghika. In addition to the permanent collection, the Goulandris foundation hosts thematic periodic exhibitions.
Guided tours in English are offered on Thursday evenings – consult the foundation’s website for further information. There is an excellent cafe-restaurant on site, featuring contemporary Greek cuisine.
One of the most prestigious art galleries in Athens is the Athenian branch of the international Gagosian Gallery. Representing some of the most influential and dynamic artists of the contemporary art world as well as the most significant 20th-century artists, Gagosian is one of the most dynamic presences in the world contemporary arts scene, with 17 spaces world-wide. The Athens Gagosian gallery brings the best. most interesting, and most provocative in contemporary art to the Greek capital. Past events at the Athens Gagosian gallery have included exhibitions of Georg Baselitz, Frank Gehry, Richard Avedon, Damian Hirst, and Marina Abramovic, among many. This is a crucial stop for art lovers visiting Athens.
Chili Art Gallery
One of the most youthful and vibrant presences on the Athenian art scene, the Chili Art Gallery focuses on both Greek and International artists working in a great variety of mediums, making it one of the most interesting art galleries in Athens.
The Chili gallery is particularly strong in championing the works of young Greek artists, representing nearly 30 Greek artists, and among them many women artists. This is a great destination for art lovers who want to become acquainted with what is ging on in Greek contemporary art at the moment.
In addition to painting, sculpture, and photography, at the Chii Art Gallery you can see installations, collage, and constructions. They also show decorative and functional works such as jewelry, furnishings, ceramics, and textiles. An art shop operates on the premises with small sculpture, drawings, engravings, and so forth.
The Art Galleries of Athens
There is a great span of experiences of modern art to enjoy in Athens. Whether you are an enthusiast of the early modern works of impressionism of the late 19th and early 20th centuries from both Europe and Greece, a connaisseur of international contemporary art, or even a potential collector, the art galleries of Athens make an invaluable addition to a cultured visit to the city.