Design & Decoration S02 ep13 : Nickos Stampolitis, Goulandris Cycladic Art Museum, [Athens]
Interview with Nickos Stampolitis
Nicholas and Dolly Goulandris started collecting archaeological objects at the beginning of the ‘60s, after being granted official permission by the Greek state. The collection soon became renowned among scholars because of its exquisite and rare Cycladic objects (marble figurines and vessels), which were published by Prof. Christos Doumas in 1968. The collection was first presented at the Benaki Museum in 1978. Between 1979 and 1983 it traveled to major museums and galleries around the globe: the National Gallery of Washington in 1979, the Museum of Western Art at Tokyo and Kyoto in 1980, the Houston Museum of Fine Arts in 1981, the Musees Royaux d’Art et d’Histoire and the Palais des Beaux Arts at at Brussels in 1982, the British Museum at London in 1983 and the Grand Palais at Paris in 1983. In recent years, Cycladic objects from the N.P. Goulandris Collection have been presented at the Museo Nacional – Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid (1999), A few years ago, an exhibition of the collection was inaugurated by the President of the Hellenic Republic Karolos Papoulias in the Musei Capitolini in Rome (2006). In 2008 the Museum of Cycladic Art was invited for the Olympics in Beijing to present the Cycladic Collection in the Beijing Art Museum, Imperial City in the Chinese capital. Recently, an archaeological exhibition entitled: Across-The Cyclades and Western Anatolia during the 3rd millennium B.C. was organised in collaboration with the National Archaeological Museum and the Sakip Sabanci Museum at the latter in Istanbul.
Cycladic: … of Cycladic art and I’m seeing Greek art of course is to me my second house,
providing that the first house is not my house itself but the University of Crete where I am teaching
and of course also where I am digging at Alutherna a very ancient city on the ridges of Mt Ida.
Cycladic: I am digging the funeral pyres of an aristocratic society of the 10th, 9th, 8th Century BC
which is exactly the time when the Homeric Iliad and odyssey were composed with their weapons
their jewellery, everything and in one of them I even found a ritual execution of an enemy of these
warriors decapitated the way Achilles has decapitated the 12 captive Trojans as Homer explains.
Cycladic: I really wanted to become an archaeologist because this is a combination of myth,
history and presence, it’s a globality in it, you can see human beings the way they ate, the way they
slept the way they made love, the way they created architecture, sculpture, or whatever and you
can extract your own paradigms, your own examples for present life and future.
Cycladic: Classical Greeks, people that created Parthenon. I think they were more cultured than we
are. Because their level and their way of thinking was more increasing. Now, we are more civilised
technically, but not so much cultured as they were.
Cycladic: Cycladic art is actually what we are archaeologists call the protocycladic period that is
mostly the third millennium BC and it’s own art, let’s say between 3,200 BC and 2,000 BC and art
that developed on the Cycladic Islands, that means in the centre of the Greek Aegean and it is
actually an art that was not valued until the 60’s when the late Dolly Gulandres started to collect
wonderful “dolls” small or bigger idols of white crystalline Cycladic marble which mostly
represent women pregnant or not, and sometimes men as well, and of course other items of silver,
of bronze and of clay, which are probably representing Goddesses of Fertility, or they have to do
something with tombs, they might also have nuances of life that is through women coming and
Cycladic: Cycladic art and especially the idols are a part of a society which until now didn’t leave
any re… sources so archaeologists have to guess about the anarchy and about the social conditions
of this period. This is why we call these idols the silent witnesses that means the witnesses of a
society of which we have to guess how it was.
Cycladic: On the Cycladis that means on islands they had contacts between themselves from one
island to another, from Nexus to Paros to Delos, to Sirius to Reymeya and so on and so on,
Mikonos as well Theora, Santorini and not only between them but also with the coasts of Upia and
Attica in metropolitan Greece and of course the coasts of Asia Minor which is classical Ionia,
Cycladic: When we are looking at them now, or let’s say 30, 40 years earlier as the late Dolly
Gulandres did you have to understand that we are looking with the eyes of a modern man and with
all the connotations, our way of thinking is looking at them. But some of them have preserved
pieces of colours and some of the colours show tattoos, they show sometimes pieces of drapery,
sometimes jewellery and bands on their heads. I do believe that the way they looked at them is not
our way, our way is to look them blank, to look them white.
Cycladic: Being white today and being so … so simple with these contours of let’s say
minimalism, this is actually what made the late Dolly Gulandres to collect them and keep them
here and not to live abroad.
Cycladic: We had actually very important temporary exhibition three years ago called The Past &
The Present, modern art and Cycladic and ancient Greek and Egyptian art together, how the
inspiration came to this modern artists Picasso and C… and Moore, we understand that some of
these idols have been known to these artists even in the 30’s and 40’s.
Cycladic: What we call style is the soul of the creator, through his fingers to the stone and it is
captured there. This is its own style, you cannot miss it, you cannot mix it with anything else. The
marbles of the Parthenon are the marbles of the Parthenon, there is … and the others, it was a
bunch of people powerful, spiritual and so on that gave their own soul on the marble and there it is
left, it cannot change and let’s say the Hellenistic period gives its own spirit as the Renaissance or
the modern artists.
Cycladic: Think of as belong first of all to the museums and most of all if you want to the places
where they were created. I will give you an example, you can go and see the Aphrodite of Milos in
the Louvre, it’s not the same, it’s not the same as if you had a chance to look at it under the light of
Milos Island in the middle of the Aegean, the smelling of the surroundings, so if you look at this
Aphrodite in the Louvre or on Milos, it’s completely different.
Cycladic: It was in 1982 when I was on the Island of Cos and I found a piece of marble with an
Amazon leg on it and I realised that this pieces of frieze didn’t belong to any monument on Cos it
was coming off a building of one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, that is the Mausoleum
of Halicarnassus which is opposite to Cos and I found out that this piece has been transported from
there by the knights of St John in the medieval period and as a ballast of a ship and was thrown
away and that this special piece thrown away as a ballast in the medieval period belonged to a slab
numbered 1,022 to be found now in the British Museum which slab was not transported by the
excavations of Newton on the mid 19th Century, but it was transported by the knights of St John in
Genoa first and then Montague Brown who was the counsel of Great Britain in Genoa transported
it to London, this is forensic and it’s actually a story of a completely different periods and all these
stories are matching in one.
Cycladic: Dolly, we were together for 12 years now her niece Sandra Marinopoulos has taken over
Presidency of the Nepe & Gulandres Foundation. Dolly, I would say she was a living myth because
his kind of people do not exist or if they exist they are very rare.
Cycladic: This is the most visited museum of any other of personalities that means Kings, Queens,
Presidents, people of art, nobleists and so on, not only because it is very close to the Pallium and so
one can move very easily into it, but also because it has a human scale, you can visit it and see
what is actually Cycladic and ancient Greek art in a glimpse.
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: Nickos Stampolitis, Goulandris Cycladic Art Museum, Athens