Greek Heritage: The Benaki Collection at the Canadian Museum of Civilization
Leroux, Georges, Queen's Quarterly
You don't need to have been to Greece often to know that the land's memory, the love of the language sung from Homer to Elytis, the devotion to Orthodoxy and the popular folklore still feed off nostalgia for Constantinople: the Benaki collection's Hellenism gives us access to this love in its most serene form, in which art serves as identity's caretaker. An admirable and resilient people, the Greeks are present in each of the exhibit's objects.
THE Benaki Museum in Athens is not like other museums. Built on the collections assembled by its founder, Antonis Benakis (1873-1954), and with its Greek departments housed in what was once the ancestral family home, it opened its doors in 1931. Even confining attention to the main site, the visitor cannot help being struck by the founder's guiding principle: these collections, open to the whole of Greek history and culture, demonstrate above all a deep love of the national heritage. From monumental classical sculpture to humble embroidered cloth produced in Byzantine and Ottoman workshops, the pieces assembled by the Benakis family embody a memory attentive to the continuity and richness of Greek identity: with its roots in the Bronze Age and climbing through to the turbulent years of independence, extending over the whole of Greece's territory, it is a memory that extols the strength of a culture which often could have been annihilated, and yet has endured.
The museum was not conceived under the sole aesthetic outlook of art history: on the contrary, each piece is inscribed in Greek spiritual and political history and deeply linked to what we now call Hellenism. The exhibit recently on display at the Canadian Museum of Civilization …
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Publication information: Article title: Greek Heritage: The Benaki Collection at the Canadian Museum of Civilization. Contributors: Leroux, Georges - Author. Magazine title: Queen's Quarterly. Volume: 115. Issue: 3 Publication date: Fall 2008. Page number: 356+. © 1998 Queen's Quarterly. COPYRIGHT 2008 Gale Group.
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