A sculpture exhibition and some of the plants from the garden at the centre
I’m still very much in marathon recovery and completely knackered. So, I wanted a nice recreational, short, easy, recovery run on Saturday and decided to finally take myself off for a gander of the new Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre down by the sea in Palio Faliro.
The centre was built on the site of the disreputable old horse racing track and is meant to provide Athens with an all purpose cultural centre that includes a new home for the ballet and opera, because the current location for Lyriki Skini in Akadamias street is not fit for purpose. It will also house the national library collection and be a space for outdoor and indoor concerts and exhibitions. There’s a big park full of traditional plants of the Attica region, a small boating lake for teaching sailing skills, especially to children, a large grass area suitable for picnics and outdoor events, a running track and a small musical park for children (I loved this), where you can play musical notes by jumping on or hitting various objects.
The whole place bears no resemblance at all to the piece Oliver Wainwright wrote on it at the beginning of the summer where he criticised it as a white elephant in crisis torn Greece because, obviously, the last thing poor Greek peasants (and we all are) need is any culture provided by private funding. The other criticism is that the gates were locked and the library had no books in it. Not a valid criticism for a place that still remains to be fully opened as yet. And what’s interesting to me, is the sneering disdain for Greece and its cultural centre compared with the joyous celebration of Hamburg’s new building. It’s absolutely typical of the superior, patronising attitude northern Europe has for Greece. Suffice to say, that Wainwright has joined Jonathan Jones, the art critic and Simon Jenkins, professional old duffer, on my shit list of anti-Greek bigots working at the graun. Simon will forever be top of that list for the utterly disgraceful piece of propaganda he wrote on the new Acropolis museum, which far from being a Banana Republic police HQ, is a world class museum so filled with the light of Attica that it makes the BM look like a dingy hole.
To be completely honest and fair, though, there are some problems with the SNFC centre. It still hasn’t opened entirely. This is down to government incompetence more than anything else and the centre has been holding events all summer long and there is lots going on. In the summer, it was extremely popular with Athenians, as there were all sorts of events going on and people enjoyed taking their own food and drink to hear free concerts. It’s a great way to make arts and culture accessible to a very economically battered people.
I can’t wait until the ballet moves there. And in the meantime, like the rest of the Athenians, I’ll be going along to the concerts in the park and the exhibitions too. If you’re in Athens, get the tram from Syntagma sq for S.E.F or you can get a bus on Syngrou ave outside Syngrou/Fix metro station.