The Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghika Gallery was gifted to the Benaki Museum by the artist and functioned as an annexe to the museum from 1991-2000, whereupon it closed temporarily for maintenance and building refurbishment. Work commenced in 2005 under architect Pavlos Kalligas and in May 2012 the Gallery re-opened its doors to the public.
The ground floor contains an urban drawing room, a gift by Litsa Papaspyrou, in memory of her father Gustave Boissière. It came from her paternal family’s house in Paris, containing works by French painters from the first decades of the twentieth century and furniture dating back to the 16th to the 18th centuries.
From the ground floor to the third floor the galleries highlight the intellectual and artistic output of Greece during the Interwar Years, a particularly crucial era, from the end of World War I and the disastrous Asia Minor campaign until the eve of the 1967 dictatorship, which is also the time during which Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghika lived and formed his artistic conscience. This is the first ever attempt in Greece to create an imprint of the overall intellectual output, underscoring the internal dialectic relationships between different forms of expression of the human spirit. Artistic creations (painting, sculpture, engravings, music, theatre, cinema, photography) encounter architecture, the art of the word (literature, poetry, philology, criticism), but also historical and philosophical thought. Through works of art, manuscripts, publications, photographs and personal artefacts belonging to two-hundred-and-one artists and intellectuals, visitors can partake of an exciting journey through the world of ideas in Greece in the twentieth century. The materials on display are an eloquent record of the concerns, the anxieties, and the achievements of creative Greeks, highlighting the relationships that existed between them, and especially their ongoing debate with corresponding concerns that existed in the rest of Europe. This final aspect is crucial, given that during this period in particular, the focal presence of the Thirties Generation, established a need for a constant flow of intellectual ideas between Greece and the rest of Europe.
The third floor contains paintings, drawings, sculptures, set designs, manuscripts, illustrated books, photographs, as well as furnishings from the Hadjikyriakos-Ghika houses on the island of Hydra and on Kriezotou Street. The next two floors, which were preserved in their initial form, allow visitors to become familiar with the artist’s personal world: the impressive drawing room with its avant-garde architectural design, the living room, his father’s office with the family portraits and heirlooms, the dining room with the large-scale oil-painting Kifissia, and, naturally, the artist’s studio, an imposing space, where easels and painting supplies coexist with old furniture and artifacts from his journeys.
Visitors can also tour an original multimedia application, entitled Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghika and the Thirties Generation, designed by the Information Technology Department of the Benaki Museum, which contains all his works and provides information about the artist’s life and work both in Greece and in Europe.
The Library forms a significant part of the Gallery, and contains rare illustrated editions and more than 7,000 volumes mainly on Art History, as well as the artist’s Photography archive, with a wealth of material that has undergone classification.
The collection of Prehistoric, Ancient Greek and Roman antiquities which is formed through the contributions of several Greek and foreign donors, as well as from the reserves of other museums, covers a vast chronological period stretching from the dawn of prehistory to the end of the Roman era.
The Byzantine collection links the ancient Greek world to that of modern Greece. The collection is exceptionally rich, although it is not representative of all the different artistic tendencies and currents which flourished during the thousand-year Byzantine Empire, and is divided into two groups.
The Benaki Museum collection of Islamic art, which includes examples of all its local variations from as far as India, Persia, Mesopotamia, Asia Minor, the Middle East, Arabia, Egypt, North Africa, Sicily and Spain, ranks among the most important in the world.
The collections of ecclesiastical and secular art cover the historical period from the 15th to the 19th century and provide evidence of the high level of culture in the Greek world during the Frankish and Ottoman occupations.
Whilst the nucleus of this collection is made up of works from Antonis Benakis' personal collection, the bulk of it is derived from the donation made by Damianos Kyriazis in 1953, as well as from subsequent gifts and bequests made by many other friends of the Museum. It includes a total of almost 6000 paintings and drawings by mainly European artists of the 17th to 19th centuries, as well as works by Greek artists of the 19th and 20th centuries.
The Maria Argyriadi donation is the core of the Department of Childhood, Toys and Games, which was founded in 1991.