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New Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre to open in 2015 to include an arts, education and recreation complex.

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Greece/ 7. Public institutions in cultural infrastructure  

7.3 Status and partnerships of public cultural institutions

While the current cultural model trends favour re-centralisation, there is still an important role for some organisations operating, formally and to some extent also in practice, under the arms-length principle in specific fields, especially publishing and film. Sectoral organisations, such as the National Book Centre and the Greek Film Centre are controlled by the state through the direct appointment of their Board of Directors by the Minister of Culture, but receive a separate budget which they can manage according to their established goals and action plan. Local arts organisations are typically established by municipalities, and receive funding by both the local government and the Ministry of Culture, under a matching funds principle, which they spend according to the terms of tripartite programmatic agreements; their Boards are appointed by the local government authority, with the exception of one non-executive Director appointed by the Ministry of Culture. Most of these organisations have the status of companies or foundations in private law, which affords them relative flexibility in staffing, financial management and operations.

Several archaeological museums and art galleries of special status have increased autonomy from the central service of the Ministry of Culture, although they are still staffed by Ministry officials and receive their budget from the state. This status allows them to have their own budget and specialised staff, to engage in their own planning and programming and, in exceptional cases (such as the new Acropolis Museum) to manage funds derived from own sales and ticketing revenues.

Private patronage in the arts has had a significant impact on Greek cultural development during the last quarter century, consisting both in the establishment of new institutions and in the provision of essential support for large scale cultural events. The Benaki Museum, a private foundation with its own endowment receiving also a statutory state subsidy, has grown from a single site "cabinet of curiosities" to a multi-site museum complex including a general "diachronic" museum of Greek art (the only one of its kind), a major exhibition and congress facility in its new Peiraios site, the N. Hadjicyriacos Gikas gallery, an Islamic art museum and a museum for children’s toys, as well as an important historical archive. Other notable examples of institutions established with private patronage include the Goulandris Museum of Natural History, the Cycladic Art Museum, the DESTE Foundation of Contemporary Art, the Goulandris Museum of Modern Art on the island of Andros, and the Foundation of the Hellenic World. The State Museum of Contemporary Art was established in Thessaloniki following the state acquisition of the private Kostakis collection, a very important early art collection of Russian futurism.

The most notable example of private-public co-operation so far concerns the Athens Concert Hall. The initiative and initial funds of the Society of the Friends of Music, an association of affluent supporters of classical music, led, after two decades of effort, to the establishment of the Athens Concert Hall. It has been the first facility providing state-of-the-art conditions for the performance and recording of concert music in Greece, and its recently built congress centre is a focus for a host of literary and cultural events. The Athens Concert Hall has been established as an independent foundation, with members of the Board of Directors appointed both by the state and by the Society of the Friends of Music. Its yearly programme is supported by state subsidy. A Concert Hall was established in Thessaloniki in 2000 and operates along similar lines.

The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre, currently under construction, is expected to emerge in 2015 as the fruit of a major new public-private partnership of this kind. It will consist of a new sustainable arts, education and recreation complex to be hosted in a new building designed by notable Italian architect Renzo Piano, and including, notably, the new building of the National Library of Greece, as well as a world-class opera house to host the Greek National Opera.

Nevertheless, these initiatives and partnerships have been established as the result of the commitment by individuals - people working for the Ministry of Culture who saw an opportunity to support a good cause, or patrons who had a collection or asset and wished to make it available to the public - and not as the outcome of an established policy. Recent legislation on private art collections and museums makes an effort to regulate more consistently the terms under which these collections and museums are established, run and supported by the state; it is still unclear what impact it will have on patronage and co-operation between donors and the state. The recent Cultural Sponsorship Law (Law 3525/2007) established a centralised sponsorship bureau in the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, to which all plans should be submitted for approval; predictably, while some tax exemptions were reinstated through this law and related administrative acts, the impact on new alliances between cultural organisations and companies willing to support the arts as part of their sponsorship or corporate social responsibility policies has been so far disappointing, as witnessed by approved sponsorship barely exceeding a yearly contribution of 1 million EUR.

Chapter published: 14-08-2015

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