Lydia Koniordou, Greek Minister of Culture, Speaks at Exhibition Opening March 8, 2017
Sing, Goddess, Achilles’ rage, black and murderous, that cost the Greeks incalculable pain, pitched countless souls of heroes into Hades’ dark.”
These are the opening lines of the Homeric epic of the Iliad, «Μήνις», rage is the theme that connects and runs through all rhapsodies. However it goes on immediately to point out the destruction, pain, and death that results, to fine men and heroes.
The rage of Medea by Euripides, the «ολετήρας θυμός», the “destructive rage” that wipes out the prosperous city of Corinth…
I will speak not as a scholar but as a servant of the Arts for many years, especially of Greek drama.
Ancient Greek tragic poets, bearing the spirit of their times, philosophic, aesthetic, go to great lengths to illustrate the real causes of extreme emotions, and their effects on people’s lives, both private and public.
A major contribution of the Greeks to our western civilization was the introduction of dialogue as the foundation of the newly-born democracy and its institutions, theater being one of them.
For example, emotions in Greek tragedy are indications, resulting from inner and external dialogue, dilemma or conflict, opposing ideas, goals, ambitions, as opposed to fear of punishment from loss of «Μέτρον» (Balance).
They are depicted vividly, not as an aim per se, but to uncover a whole dialectic process of balancing Intellect, heart, and necessity, through an endless game between Light and Shadow, Life and Death.
The realization , through emotions, of this process and the price of each choice brings light of consciousness and promotes the maturity of the citizen.
I have been for decades inspired by the ideas and masterpieces of the ancient Greeks. When I look at these treasures, that capture emotions through gestures, through dialogue in their body and structure, I cannot but feel a different kind of emotion as a contemporary visitor.
I cannot but feel the hands that gave form to this piece of marble, to that handful of clay, I sense the emotions emanating from the artists’ feverish attempts to transform and transcend matter.
I cannot but sense all the eyes that had admired or worshiped these masterpieces in their own ancient times. All the hands that touched the objects of everyday life and were, often unconsciously, inspired by their beauty.
And yet again, I cannot but feel the deep emotions of all those generations of simple workers, farmers, divers, archaeologists, conservationists, who helped discover and restore all these treasures for us to admire today, to study and learn from.
These are precious emotions from real people that are also projected on these treasures and give them life (see ΕΥΠΑΛΙΝΕΙΟ). Parallel lives that offer deep emotions to us contemporary visitors.
All this process of transcending matter through spirit, is to the glory of human civilization, it offers moments of immortality and wisdom all human beings can share.
Greek cultural heritage is a great gift that contemporary Greek citizens have the privilege and obligation to discover, restore, maintain and share with the world, as it is a fundamental part of our common world heritage.
Despite the austerity measures and the major difficulties in our lives, our country handles with great responsibility this unique heritage. It is for us an endless source of inspiration for our present and future, against odds, to create, to contribute, to a bright artistic present we wish to share.
The Greek State, through the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports, serves as the guardian of our cultural heritage. It wishes to assist every effort that seeks to illuminate the flame and beauty of this heritage to citizens around the world.
In this endeavor we are not alone. The Onassis Foundation is one of the most significant contributors to this objective. Through a series of exhibitions and activities, the Onassis Foundation successfully brings together museums, academics, and artists. This Greek institution, firmly and generously supports both the ancient as well as the contemporary Greek culture in Greece and abroad.
The Ministry of Culture could be no less than a fervent ally in this important initiative.
In this exhibition the Ministry of Culture participates with masterpieces from 20 National museums, both central and major, as well as regional, but equally important.
In the exhibition we can admire statues and reliefs of outstanding beauty that capture emotions on bodies and faces, stele, figurines.
- from the breathtaking enigmatic Kore from the Acropolis museum, to the head of a smiling child from Vravrona museum
- from the statue of one of the Ptoon Kouroi, from the Athens Archeological Museum, to the head of the youth and the figure of the embracing couple from the Delos museum
- from the tablet of Clytemnestra killing Agamemnon, from the Heraklion Crete Museum, to the funerary stele of an actor holding a mask from the Piraeus museum
I would like to congratulate the Onassis Foundation and all those who worked together for the realization of this exceptional exhibition.
I wish every success in presenting and illuminating the element of emotions from the ancient times to the contemporary visitors, here in New York City.