July 24, 2008

An interview with Dimitrios Pandermalis

Posted at 12:58 pm in Elgin Marbles, New Acropolis Museum

Dimitrios Pantermalis is the president of the Organisation for the Construction of the New Acropolis Museum. He talks here about various aspects of the New Acropolis Museum.

Make sure to also watch the videos of his interview available in two parts here & here.

Global Atlanta

New Acropolis Museum to Open in Fall After Monumental Move
Phil Bolton – Publisher
Atlanta – 07.23.08

The new Acropolis museum in Athens, Greece, is scheduled to open in September, marking the end of the monumental tasks of building a 270,000-square-foot structure on an earthquake prone site and then transferring 2,500-year-old antiquities into their new home.

Dimitrios Pandermalis, president of the new museum and an archaeologist who has been overseeing the project for years, told GlobalAtlanta in a filmed interview that when the museum is finally opened its anticipated 3 million annual visitors will have “a realistic idea” of what classicism is all about.

“Many have a confused idea of classical art and classical culture,” he said, adding that a close look at the artwork will reveal the original classical view of humanity.

Dr. Pandermalis was in Atlanta for a lecture about the new museum that he gave at the High Museum of Art during which he provided an overview of the $238 million project that has been funded by the Greek government and the European Union.

Besides being able to see the antiquities in natural light, Dr. Pandermalis said the visitors would be able to look at them from all sides and come up very close to them.

He also said that they reveal a humanity not often associated with classicism and often thought to be symmetrical and the epitome of a “balance of form and presentation.”

Closer examination will show the artwork, he said, to be somewhat asymmetrical and “a little off balance.” “They are alive pieces; the changes are soft, kind, beautiful, not stiff and abstract.” He quickly added that it was difficult for him to describe this feeling. “You have to see and feel it,” he said.

The new museum is located some 300 yards to the south of the Acropolis hill, where the 134-year-old original museum stands.

The new, mostly glass structure faces the Acropolis and provides an excellent view of the Parthenon Temple and other structures atop the hill.

It was to have been completed for the 2004 Olympic Games that were held in Greece, but the deadline was missed, according to Dr. Pandermalis, because of the many legal and development obstacles it faced.

Over the years, the site of the new museum has experienced earthquakes, and to counteract their impact, Bernard Tschumi, the architect, designed it to be mounted on roller bearings so the structure and its contents would be protected.

Dr. Pandermalis described the entire project as a multicultural enterprise with glass crews coming in from Germany and the United Kingdom and concrete workers from Albania, India, Russia and Greece itself.

While the project entailed a decade of planning, it took three years to actually build the museum and a year of preparation before the 4,500 antiquities were moved.

The first pieces were lowered some 450 yards by large cranes in October 2007, an event that was considered historic in Athens and many of the onlookers gazed on in amazement as they saw the centuries old pieces moved in large containers.

The old, much smaller museum is to be used to display educational items and materials including illustrations by 16th- and 17th-century travelers that show the Parthenon and other buildings on the Acropolis before they experienced extensive damage from a siege by Ottoman forces in 1688.

The new museum is to be opened in stages with visitors able to visit the top floor where parts of the east and west friezes of the Parthenon are on display. Copies of the parts of the friezes currently at the British Museum also will be displayed to fill in the gaps.

The gaps are where the original artworks were located before they were taken to London in 1801 by Thomas Bruce, seventh Earl of Elgin.

The Greek Academy Award-nominated actress, singer and political activist Melina Mercouri launched in the early 1980s a campaign for the return of the Elgin marbles, but the British Museum has given no indication that it will do so.

Ms. Mercouri was a member of the Hellenic Parliament and in 1981 became the first minister of culture in Greece. The current Greek minister of culture, Mihalis Liapis, has vowed to continue to press for the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Athens.

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