Historic tobacco factory in Athens to be renovated into cultural centre by 2021

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An old tobacco factory in Athens is about to become a cultural centre to mark the 200th anniversary of Greece’s liberation from the Ottoman Empire.

The Lenorman Street Tobacco Factory, designed by civic architects Pavlos Athanasakis and Antonis Ligdopoulos between 1927 and 1930, was declared a historic monument by the Greek Ministry of Culture in 1989.

Half of the building, which comprises a city block, is currently home to the library of the Hellenic Parliament. 

Inside the tobacco factory. From left: Dimitris Daskalopoulos, the founder Neon; Constantine A. Tassoulas, the resident of the Hellenic Parliament; Elina Kountouri, the director of NEON; and Fanis Kafantaris from Neon’s Exhibition Design Department Photo: © Efi Syrigou; courtesy of the Hellenic Parliament and Neon.

But converting the rest of the premises into a cultural centre will cost €1 million ($1.2 million) in renovations, which are being funded by Neon, a Greek art foundation established in 2013 by collector Dimitris Daskalopoulos.

With renovations set to be complete in 2021, the centre will open next year with an exhibition, Portals­, featuring international artists including Michael Rakowitz, Glenn Ligon and Danh Vo.

“I was thinking, how do you make this historical event relevant 200 years after it happened, without making it a nationalist celebration because this is always a danger when a nation celebrates their past,” Director of Neon, Elina Kountouri, tells The Art Newspaper.

Constantine A. Tassoulas, the President of the Hellenic Parliament, added that the renovation is also “inspired by the Greece of today.”

“This artistic event… is organised by a partnership between the private and public sector, and it is addressed to a public that will freely shape its own interpretation,” Tassoulas said in a statement.

At the exhibition’s conclusion, Neon will return the venue back to the state for use as a permanent cultural center.

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