© GANP/ Dimitrios Panagos

published 3.10.2017

Onassis Foundation USA Director Speaks at Exhibition Opening Dinner March 8, 2017

by Amalia Cosmetatou

Your Eminence, Minister Koniordou, Excellencies, distinguished guests and dear friends, I would like to express my deepest thanks to all of you for being here tonight and for participating in this very special occasion for the Onassis Foundation USA. 

Our new exhibition, A World of Emotions, has been a labor of love over the past four years, for the guest curators, for all of us here at the Onassis Foundation, for the Ministry of Culture in Greece and its devoted staff, as well as our colleagues and collaborators at museums in Greece and around the world.

It has taken a team of exceptional people to get us here today and I hope that you are all enchanted and—since the evening belongs to emotions—moved by the result.

I would like to congratulate the three curators:  Angelos Chaniotis, Nikos Kaltsas, and Ioannis Mylonopoulos for the tremendous accomplishment of putting such a complex exhibition together, while preserving friendly emotions for each other all the while. Not an easy task on both counts!

The exhibition they have conceived urges us to consider human emotions collectively, to consider the ways in which our ancient Greek civilization understood them, expressed them, respected them, even feared them. There is beauty in their art but also, wisdom.   

We do live in a World of Emotions and we should not — must not —underestimate their power. They dictate our actions, our decisions, and the paths we choose to take in life. They can define the course of our history.

Here at the Onassis Foundation, we are committed to promoting the significance and continuing relevance of Greek thought — because we believe therein lie solutions that can define and improve the way we live today. Our work is scholarly, and also socially important.

Which is why our curators’ approach to this exhibition was ingenious. They have selected masterpieces that can be appreciated for their uniqueness alone. But there is also an important overarching narrative to their selection—one that is intelligent, urgent, and contemporary.

Today, thanks to science, we are in a position to explain our emotions more than ever before. But does this mean we understand and manage our emotions better than people did 25 centuries ago?

I will let you contemplate this question while you enjoy your entrée. But I would like to take one moment to echo one of the theme's of our exhibition, the expression of gratitude.

The guiding force behind all our activities here at the Onassis Foundation, is our President Anthony Papadimitriou. In his leadership he has always stressed the importance of relevance in a cultural entity’s strategy. He has said, and I quote, “Whatever we do, we must keep close to real life’s issues, to people, bring an element of quality in everyday life, to make it more worth living. That creates change. That creates hope.”

There are a few people I would like to thank publicly for all of their hard work. I am grateful to Roberta Casagrande-Kim for superbly managing this exhibition, the loans and installation, and for producing such a gorgeous catalogue.

I am grateful to all the heroes behind-the-scenes, the incredible team of Onassis USA. All of you inspire me, and I only want to do better because of you. Thank you for celebrating our small and big successes together. Thank you for making every day and moment meaningful. I would have never dreamed of a more supportive and talented team:

Mandy Boikou; Elmer Castro; Zoe Dolan; Sophia Efthimiatou; Jessica Ellwood; Fausto Fernandez; Maria Galanou; Eleanor Goldhar; Elizabeth Harmon; Bharat Mandava

And a very special thank you, on behalf of everyone at Onassis, to Clare Nelson, who has been in the Onassis family for 50 years. Clare single-handedly keeps our office—to borrow a shipping term—afloat. There are no words to accurately describe what Clare does for us. In one word, she takes care of everything and of us, and we don’t know how we could ever manage without her. Clare, on behalf of all of us, thank you.

I would also like to thank Mimika Giannopoulou, for helping with the exhibition management in Greece. Anastasia Balaska, from the Greek Ministry of Culture, who handled the herculean task of coordinating so many different lenders in Greece.

Our team of conservators, art installers, mount-makers. Many of you here know what it takes to organize such complex exhibitions; you know how incredibly important each and every one of these contributions are.  

Dan Kershaw and Sophia Geronimus, our duo of success. We have worked together for the past 17 years, and I continue to admire your talent, commitment and above all, ethos.

The lesson I am learning on this job, both on the administrative and curatorial side, is that the more trust and creative freedom you allow your collaborators, the better the results.

Our two interns, Erika Unali and Tasos Kanopoulos, thank you for your hard work, and infectious energy, even when shipments arrived at 3 o'clock in the morning! We were lucky to have you and we are certain you have a bright future ahead.

When one looks back at the hard work that went into a project, what stays with you is the generosity of spirit of the people you worked with; there is much to learn from the grace, professionalism, and humility of this team. Thank you to all.

For the idea of A World of Emotions, I would also like to give credit to the Greek press! It was from a Greek news article that, four years ago, I learned about Angelos Chaniotis’ research project on Emotions. I reached out to him because it sounded so fascinating and original. I asked him if we can make an exhibition out of this material. Happily for us, he accepted the challenge, and also brought Nikos Kaltsas and Ioannis Mylonopoulos on board. It was a privilege to work with Angelos. He poured love and passion into this work, and the results speak to his brilliance.

His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios has been an esteemed supporter of our work here in the United States. We re-VE-re and greatly admire his wise counsel, which he imparts so generously and considerately. His Eminence is a dedicated proponent of culture, education, and social welfare. The emotions that come to mind when I think of Archbishop Demetrios’ speeches are love, charity, and compassion.

It is an honor to have the Archbishop here with us tonight, and a privilege to hear his inspiring words. Please welcome his Eminence Archbishop Demetrios.