Issue 17, February 2011
homepage > The inauguration of the Onassis Cultural Centre
The inauguration of the Onassis Cultural Centre
By Leda Bouzali

With the belief that culture, especially in times of crisis is a necessity, not a luxury, the Onassis Cultural Centre dynamically launches on its course into the cultural life of Athens.

The impressive building on Syngrou Avenue 107-109 opened its doors with a four-day inauguration on the 7th, 8th, 11th and 12th December.  The first day of the inauguration was honoured with the presence of the President of the Hellenic Republic Karolos Papoulias.

Welcoming the new Centre were representatives from political, business and cultural spheres, among which were included the former Chairman of Parliament, Dimitris Sioufas, the president of SYRIZA, Alexis Tsipras, the Minister of National Defence, Evangelos Venizelos, the Minister of Education, Lifelong Learning and Religion, Anna Diamantopoulou, the Minister of Culture and Tourism, Pavlos Geroulanos, the Minister of Citizen Protection, Christos Papoutsis, Deputy Minister of Environment, Energy and Climate Change, Nikos Sifounakis, the Deputy Minister of Infrastructure, Transport and Networks, Spyros Vougias, the Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Security, Anna Dalara, as well as foreign ambassadors, managers and executives from museums and cultural organizations, and multitude of representatives from the Letters and Arts.

According to the President of the Onassis Foundation, Anthony Papadimitriou, “The Centre is not in competition with other cultural institutions, but in cooperation”, such as for example with the concert hall Megaro Mousikis, the Greek Film Festival, the Museum of Cycladic Art and other such bodies and museums.

The protagonists of the inauguration evenings were the individuals who worked on the establishment of the Centre and also the public, whose arrival was recorded and projected onto the giant screen of the stage.  The central event was described as an experience of theatrical reality, with the signature of the Director Michael Marmarinos.   The acclaimed Greek artist conceived the idea of this "different" inauguration aiming to enhance the space through the live residence of those who inspired and contributed to its creation.

The President of the Onassis Foundation characteristically emphasized: “With the thought that content is more important than appearance, that behind the smallest and greatest vision is always an individual, so we asked Michael Marmarinos to design and direct the introduction of the Centre to its public as an introduction to Art and Culture. The inaugurations were something far beyond that expected, a combination of letters, theatre, music, photography and film. The proceedings were dedicated to the clear vision and strong hands of those who worked towards the construction of this building. […] In order for it to be ready today, many (engineers, architects, project managers, labourers, construction managers, office staff) toiled and strived.”   

Moments from the glorious inauguration ceremony of the Onassis Cultural Centre.
Moments from the glorious inauguration ceremony of the Onassis Cultural Centre.

“In full realization of the crisis in which we are currently in, we choose to highlight the important contribution of people who worked towards the creation of this Centre and emphasize that this Centre is open to all indiscriminately.

The inauguration highlights the human factor which is at the core of every society and every art form. The Onassis Cultural Centre is a work of the people. It is a work of the people of the Onassis Foundation both in the business offices of the Foundation and on the ships. More than this, it is the result of a concept which began many years ago…”

Its first ‘residents’ are those who for the duration of this period have tried to convert the idea of the Centre from a mere jewel into a technologically sophisticated building and architectural decoration of a modern capital.  The workers were photographed by Stratos Kalafatis and Lia Nalbantidou, with particular sensitivity, during their labours. These portraits are on display in the exhibition space of the Centre. Visitors to the exhibition can simultaneously hear sounds recorded from the site and transport mentally to the efforts of these workers.

Projected onto the great screen of the Grand Stage were lines from the poem by Bertolt Brecht "Questions from a Worker Who Reads" (1935).

The workers mounted the stage, without their muddy overalls, as honoured personages, in order to receive the applause of the inauguration guests, those who literally struggled in order to realize the dream of the Onassis Foundation.  The event was accompanied by music from La Camerata - Orchestra of the Friends of Music, under the direction of the fellow Giorgos Petrou, with pieces from the Preclassic Era. The mezzo soprano was Mary-Ellen Nezi and the  soloists were: Antigone Tsalla on the traverse flute, Sergiou Nastasa, Juliet Avetian and Otilia Alitsei on the violin, Ali Bazegmezler on the viola, Christopher Humphreys on the cello and Marcellos Chrysikopoulos on the harpsichord.

The inauguration festivities continued on the 11th and 12th December with the Centre welcoming the Athenian public by presenting cultural events by participants from the artistic programme for 2010-2011. The aim of those participating was that the Centre become a familiar place to one and all.

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