One hundred years of painting

A significant number of works of art – mainly paintings- have been collected by the municipal authorities in the course of the last five decades and are today the property of the Municipality of Chania. In their great majority these paintings are kept at the Municipal Gallery of Chania, while a limited number of them decorates the City Hall and other municipal institutions. These paintings have been either donated to the Municipality of Chania, or bought by the municipal authorities in the past years. This collection - of more than 700 paintings and engravings of the three last centuries – includes works by well-known and established Greek artists, as well as a significant number of works by artists from the city of Chania. The 77 oil paintings of the 18th and 19th century that constitute a special part of the collection have been donated to the Municipality of Chania by Lykourgos Manoussakis.

The complete collection – as it is very often the case in many museums and galleries – cannot be exhibited today. Some of the works are presently under restoration, while others are not included in this exhibition, as they do not belong to the period to which it refers. The exhibition includes one hundred selected works of art, which have been created during the last one hundred years (1904 – 2004) and belong to the collection of the Municipality of Chania. Obviously, the year of their creation was the sole criterion for selecting the paintings presented in this exhibition, since it includes works by well-known Greek artists, like Spyridon Vikatos, Alexandros Alexandrakis and Spyros Vassiliou, as well as works by local amateur artists.

The works are not presented in the conventional way of a linear succession, or an evolutionary line according to schools, movements or –isms. There are of course some reasons for this. The meanings or the feelings we experience while visiting an exhibition have been forged by our own personal identity. What we experience is neither about art nor about the subject of the exhibition, but primarily about ourselves. In the words of Russel J. Ohta of Arizona State University: “In essence, an exhibition becomes a looking glass for visitors. They experience what they are capable of experiencing. They experience who they are.” According to anthropologist David Pilbaum’s dictum: “In looking at things, we tend not to see them as they are but as we are”. At the Glenbow Museum in Calgary, there was what its Director Robert Janes called a “philosophic shift”. Where the collection and its management had previously been at the core of its operations, the focus was shifted instead to public service and communication. “Museums,” he wrote, “exist to communicate and in the process provide answers to the question: what does it mean to be a human being? Although collections are the indispensable means to that end, they are not the end in themselves.” Unlike traditional mission statements, the Glenbow ’s is oriented around the response of its visiting public. “To be a place where people find meaning and value, and delight in exploring the diversity of the human experience.”

In the present exhibition, one might trace the course of things, concerning the possibilities of former municipal authorities to collect works of art. Today, with the existence of the Municipal Gallery, these possibilities are significantly stronger. The Gallery’s Board of Directors, its different committees and all its collaborators, together with the dynamic course of action taken by the Municipality of Chania in the field of Culture, contribute to a high degree to the promotion of visual arts and the enrichment of art education for the inhabitants of our city.

The character of a museum or a gallery, as a contemporary “space for Culture”, cannot be determined on a basis that could have been considered fifty, thirty or even ten years ago. Therefore, one needs to employ a creative spirit which, together with the required knowledge, will enable him to apply an element of contemporariness to the character of a gallery or a museum. Without this kind of spirit or knowledge, one will not be able to reach the proper answers or solutions.

In the case of a museum or a gallery, differentiation is probably the most important factor for acquiring an original identity. Obviously, this is something quite essential for their new role in determining the position of a city in the field of Culture and the shaping of the city’s “physiognomy”. With a strategy expressed through its activities and actions, the Municipal Gallery of Chania aims principally to function as a contemporary “space for Culture”. A place where Art, Science and Literature can co-exist, seeking one another’s support, so that each of these manifestations of the human intellect can assist the community to achieve its goals and realize its visions. It is a well-known fact that to the community itself belong those of us engaged in all forms of Art, Science or Literature. Exactly through these individuals are traced and expressed the experiences and the visions of the community. This is the reason why it is the community that is entitled to be their ultimate receiver.

Theodore Kaloumenos

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