“The time we have all been afraid of has come”, joked Andreas Dracopoulos, during the ceremony in which he handed over the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre to the Greek State, last Thursday. The Foundation’s co-president was reading tweets from concerned citizens and friends of the $827 million Cultural Centre, which has already deemed as one of the most important projects taken on in Athens in recent years (some even claim it is the single most important since the Parthenon). Designed by the acclaimed Italian architect Renzo Piano, the Centre, which hosts the National Library of Greece, the National Opera of Greece and a park that hosts a vast array of cultural events, was built on public property and was conceived as a donation from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation to the country. Yet, some fear that, in the hands of the Ministry of Culture, it will soon lose its status as one of the most visionary cultural organizations in Greece, presenting cutting-edge programs and will become an instrument of political favouritism and suffer from all the maladies associated with the public sector. From his part, Alexis Tsipras acknowledged the great obligation and challenge of the State to continue the significant work done during the brief period that the Centre is open to the public. The Greek PM said that the Centre proved that ‘culture is not reserved for the elites’ (the Cultural Centre has attracted over 760,000 visitors so far), and praised the Foundation for this ‘selfless donation’ in times of Crisis, when the State had to cut back on spending, leaving the culture sector deprived of essential funds. The SNF has donated €50m. as funding for the next five years, while another €20m. has been raised through the paid membership program.
Hailed as the most important project of recent years, it will now be part of the public sector, which some fear will signal its decline