Cultural Institutions in Greece from the First Museums and the Care for Antiquities to Artistic Festivals and Contemporary Art Biennials
Panagiota M. Papanikolaou

The history of cultural institutions in Greece has its origins in the time the country started his struggle to become independent (1821 onwards) and to form a contemporary Western state. The first concern of the then Governments of Greece was to preserve the cultural heritage and to establish institutions to support the corresponding efforts. Thus, in addition to initiatives to create a university, a science academy and a technical university, a National Museum was founded to house the plethora of antiquities scattered throughout the land of Attica, and the archaeological service was established, which was to carry out the great task, among others, of restoring the monuments of the Acropolis. In the 20th century, the Greek State also became interested in contemporary art, establishing the National Gallery (1900) and promoting processes to set up art collections, to organise exhibitions in special venues (art galleries), and to promote Modern Greek art abroad (Venice Biennale and others). Following World War II, private initiative played a dominant role in the art trade and the promotion of art through specialised publications and artistic associations. At the same time, new contemporary art museums were established, both public and private, by purchasing important and very expensive modern art collections, such as the Costakis Collection in 2000, and international exhibitions, also known as Biennials, were organised in Athens and in Thessaloniki, aiming at gaining international experience in all fields. From time to time, the largest cities in Greece have hosted important artistic festivals on the occasion of events such as the European Capital of Culture and the Cultural Olympiad.

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