Given that this is my first August spent in Athens (instead of the ordinary summer drifting on a picturesque beach on a Greek island), I'm trying to make the most of it. One of my first expeditions in the city was the long awaited visit at the Acropolis Museum, something that I’ve been postponing for long enough. Ever since I was an undergraduate student of archaeology, my favorite place of antiquities was the National Archaeological Museum of Athens, which still remains the 'Met' of the town. It's absolutely classical and scientifically valuable. But the fairly new Acropolis Museum brings a novel modernism that supports rather than contradicts this conventional style of bygone centuries. Such a blend is suitable and necessary in the urban landscape, because it discloses a well balanced continuity.
Overlooking the Acropolis hill, the museum is a living embodiment of the past and the present. Almost all of the ancient citadel’s masterpieces are housed in a slender shell; a building that manages to be doric and at the same time imposing, austere, although hefty (well done, Bernard Tschumi!). As an archaeologist, of course I was thrilled by the visible excavation site under the glass floorings, but who wouldn’t be? For the first time I felt like a welcome tourist in my birth city under the umbrella of an intimate hospitality and consistent infrastructure. I consider this to be a major success on behalf of the museum’s professionals. The Acropolis Museum, together with the expected new building that will host the National Museum of Contemporary Art, the renovated halls, inaugurated collections, and future expansions of the National Archaeological Museum of Athens, as well as the recent Benaki Museum building at 138 Pireos Street, manifest the cultural democratization of modern Greece and the highly-developed awareness of a glorious background. It is invigorating and promising to finally see this multi-tormented city, and by extension country, is tangibly heading to a new age through the investment in cultural recovery.
My visit happily coincided with the ongoing program ‘Archaic Colours.’ The female votive statues, formally known as Korai, epitomize the beauty ideal of the young girls during the archaic period (700 BC – 480 BC). Unlike the statues of young men (aka Kouroi), who are normally presented nude, the korai are always dressed up with the doric peplos or, later on, with a chiton and a mantle. Other distinct features include elaborate hairstyles, accented ornaments or jewelry and of course the identifiable archaic smile. The use of colours on the marbles was very common and in many cases is still visible. This one-year project will seek to explore the effects and interpretations of the colour usage on the viewers of then and now. It’s an open know-how to a more thorough observation of these artworks. For instance, did you know that the white face skin of the korai is indicative of their elegance and freshness? This exact symbolic value of the colours proves that they were more than just decorative. There is also an interactive game available, which kids can use to practice the knowledge acquired from their museum experience.
If you are nearby, you wouldn’t want to miss a walk through all these amazing sculptures and artifacts. All in all, it’s a worthy tribute to the Acropolis marvel!