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Greece/ 4. Current issues in cultural policy development and debate  

4.1 Main cultural policy issues and priorities

Cultural policy priorities, as derived from policy documents and budget allocation priorities during the last five years, are:

  • the shift towards maximisation of the economic benefit from culture and the arts, necessary in order to support current levels of funding for cultural activities in the fields of cultural heritage and the arts. This is manifested organisationally through the twinning of culture and tourism in a joint Ministry of Culture and Tourism since 2009, as well as in mainstreaming and integrationist activities and initiatives aimed at maximizing, especially, numbers of visitors to sites of Greek cultural heritage, and also the international export of Greek cultural productions, mainly in film and the performing arts;
  • rationalisation in the funding and monitoring of cultural activities through the introduction of formal criteria and performance measuring procedures. Also, more effective financial planning and exploitation of cultural heritage assets through traditional channels (such as museum shops, reproductions of archaeological artefacts, and publications intended for the general public) and digital technologies. To some extent, adoption of private market methodologies and approaches to identify, package and promote elements of the Greek arts and heritage deemed to be capable of generating revenue;
  • the protection, preservation and valorisation of the tangible and intangible cultural heritage of all periods of Greek history – including the recent past and contemporary culture - and of cultural groups and traditions that flourished in the territory of Greece, with an emphasis on Classical Greek and high Byzantine antiquities. The traditionally higher budget allocation for cultural heritage (rather than contemporary culture) is combined with an integrated approach in what constitutes heritage, and with the inception of comprehensive programmes geared towards more effective interpretation and access to heritage, such as the unification of archaeological sites of Athens; the call for the restitution of the Parthenon marbles now in the custody of the British Museum to be integrated with sculptures that remained in Athens in the context of the new Acropolis museum, a major visitor success since its opening in 2009; and the return of illegally exported antiquities in general, through a strengthening of international cooperation with countries and custodian institutions abroad;
  • promotion of international cultural co-operation and exchange, initially as a tool for strengthening the relations of Greece with other countries (such as other EU member-states, neighbouring countries, major international actors and countries with a strong Greek Diaspora), and increasingly in pursuit of maximising the financial benefits from the international exposure of Greek culture and heritage through a policy of "extroversion". In this context, initiatives such as blockbuster events and archaeological exhibitions in major international museums are given priority over isolated small-scale activities. Instruments including encouragement of co-productions for film and showcase events to promote awareness of Greek artistic productions to international markets, have been launched recently;
  • recent modernisation and expansion of infrastructures for culture and the arts, manifested through the launch of the new Acropolis museum with a Parthenon gallery as its centrepiece in 2009, the operation of a new national museum for contemporary art in Athens (to open to the public, hopefully, in 2013) and Thessaloniki, and of the Museum of Byzantine Culture in Thessaloniki; the creation of a Concert Hall in Thessaloniki matching the existing one in Athens; the new permanent exhibitions of the Byzantine Museum and the National Archaeological Museum in Athens; and the expansion or re-opening of major private museums, such as the Benaki Museum and its Peiraios street exhibition centre, the digital theatre of the Foundation of the Hellenic World in Athens, as well as the Gaia exhibition of the Goulandris Museum of Natural History in Kifissia; and
  • support for creativity in the arts and letters and the promotion of best practice in these domains are addressed through funding and subsidy schemes (such as those for independent theatre companies and productions), commissions of works, awards, and social benefit provisions for artists and writers. The whole system of funding the contemporary arts is currently under reform, with a registry of organisations eligible for funding established in 2010, and further changes proposed in the 2012 Cultural Policy White Paper.

Chapter published: 14-08-2015

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