The National Museum of Contemporary Art Athens (EMST)

The National Museum of Contemporary Art Athens (EMST) opened its doors to its permanent establishment in the building of the former Fix Factory, in February 2020. The Museum was founded in 2000 and housed parts of its collection and exhibitions in various spaces as well as on the ground floor of the current building.

The purpose of the Museum is to collect, preserve, document, research and exhibit works of contemporary Greek and international art production. Its continuous pursuit is the promotion of arts education and public awareness of contemporary culture while at the same time seeking to highlight innovative and experimental artistic trends and the production of audiovisual works with new media.

The building itself is a unique exhibit and an excellent example of the transformation of a factory space into a bright art space, extroverted and in harmony with the surrounding city through large openings and windows. The building that is housed is no other than the FIX Brewery on Syggrou Avenue. It is one of the most important buildings of Modern Greek architecture and a typical example of an industrial building. It was built by Karolos Fix in 1893 and in the mid-1950s; its radical renovation was designed and executed by the architect Takis Zenetos (1926-1977).

The Museum hosts periodic exhibitions very often and the permanent collection extends to floors 2, 3 and 4. Access to the floors is via a series of impressive escalators. In the rooms of the permanent collection are presented 172 works of 78 Greek and foreign artists, with three directions: Memories Reports – Claims – Political Narratives, Boundaries and Transits and Heterotopias – Mythologies of the Familiar – New perspectives.

Among the most important acquisitions are works by Ilya Kabakov, Stephen Antonakos, Gary Hill, Nan Goldin, Vadim Zakharov, Gillian Wearing, Ann Sofi Siden, Vlassis Caniaris, Nikos Kessanlis, Eleni Mylonas, Dimitris Alithinos, Nikos Navridis, Joel Sanders, Allan Sekula, Costas Tsoclis, George Hadjimichalis, Chryssa, Yiannis Psychopedis and Andreas Angelidakis. At the same time, there are excellent video artworks by important contemporary artists.

The exhibits of the Museum have a strong political and social character and touch on issues that concern modern man. Racism, immigration, borders, alienation, violence, war, and women’s emancipation are the main themes in the museum collection. Among the exhibits that I singled out during my tour of the museum, I could mention: BOLDUC a triptych with wrapping ribbons by Pavlos (1980), the installation Mappemonde by George Lappas (1987), the installation Acropolis Redux (The Director’s Cut) by Kendel Geers (2004), the Cycladic Books by Chryssa (1957) and of course the most majestic exhibit of the Museum the installation Untitled by Jannis Kounellis (2004). The exhibition ends with the work The Ship of My Life by Ilya Kabakov (1993), which occupies the entire last room of the Museum. It is a life-size wooden boat loaded with 25 cardboard boxes, objects, photographs, and paper texts and surrounded by a large wooden fence.

Of course, the tour of the Museum is not complete without a visit to the roof of the Museum where the view of the rock of the Acropolis takes your breath away. And it is at that moment that you realize that you have before your eyes the top achievement of ancient Greek culture, which if it did not exist as a model, all these great contemporary artists could not have advanced art and expression so far.

The permanent collection of the Museum, however, is not static but is constantly enriched with new works, in a continuous effort to follow the international scene. In a world in constant motion, EMST represents the exchange of ideas and opinions through contemporary art, enriching the daily life of the public and the experience of visitors.

The Museum also organizes pedagogical programs for all levels of education and all ages. The programs aim through participatory and experiential pedagogical methods to both an active approach and aesthetic enjoyment of works of art. At the same time, they encourage self-expression, the cultivation of critical and creative thinking and the promotion of meaningful communication. Finally, on the ground floor of the Museum, there is a bright beautiful cafe and an excellent and updated shop.

The Museum is an essential stop for every lover of contemporary art, being one of the most up-to-date and innovative museums in Europe. From the impressive entrance to the terrace, a visit to the museum is a walk-in modern culture that will impress you and at the same time challenge you to think and leave your everyday comfort zone.

For more information you could visit the official website of the museum:

National Museum of Contemporary Art Αthens (EMST) / Εθνικό Μουσείο Σύγχρονης Τέχνης (ΕΜΣΤ) – Kallirrois Avenue & Amvrosiou Frantzi, 117 43, Athens

The article has been published in the 14th issue of the digital travel magazine Voyagers Voice: