The National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens (EMST) began its operation in 2000. Its permanent home is the former Fix brewery on Syngrou Ave., the reconstruction of which was completed in 2014. The building occupies 18.142 sqm. on a 3.123 sqm surface.
The Museum’s constantly growing collection is formed around a very important nucleus of works by Greek and international artists, such as Jannis Kounellis, Stephen Antonakos, Gary Hill, Vlassis Caniaris, Chryssa, Mona Hatoun, Emily Jacir, Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, Kim Sooja, Nikos Kessanlis, Shirin Neshat, Lucas Samaras, Costas Tsoclis, Bill Viola, Joseph Kosuth, Pedro Cabrita Reiss, Costas Varotsos, George Lappas, Oliver Ressler, Gulsun Karamustafa a.o.
From 2003 until 2008 it presented exhibitions and events at the Athens Concert Hall, the Athens School of Fine Arts and in the public space. From September 30th, 2008, it was hosted in sections of the building of the Athens Conservatoire.
In May 2015 EMST moved to its permanent premises. From October 2016 to January 2019 it made use of the building’s temporary exhibition spaces, educational facilities, screening room, the museum shop and other facilities, producing or supporting a large number of exhibitions and other activities including conferences, talks, book presentations, film screenings, and dance and musical performances.
The first exhibition in the new premises, entitled Urgent Conversations: Athens – Antwerp, was a synergy with the Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp M HKA in 2016 and constituted the inaugural exhibition of the series EMST in the World. The second exhibition of the same series was realized through the collaboration of EMST with documenta 14 and lasted from April to September 2017. The two organizations collaborated in the framework of “learning from Athens” – documenta’s chosen working title – and materialized the intention of EMST to become extrovert and to exhibit its collection to the public. As a result a double relocation occurred: the former Fix brewery became the main exhibition space of documenta 14 in Athens and Fridericianum became the temporary home of part of the Museum’s collection in Kassel. The exhibition, titled ANTIDORON. The EMST Collection, presented over 220 works, part of the exhibition of the permanent collection of EMST in Athens. Continuing the EMST in the World series, the next step was the collaboration with Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea in Rome, the presentation of the unique project La verità è sempre un’altra (Truth Is Always Something Else), an exhibition including more than 20 works from the EMST Collection was hosted from September 21 to November 11, 2018 within Time is Out of Joint, the current set up of the Gallery’s permanent collection. Following this exhibition EMST hosted at its space from December 2108 to January 2019 a selection of videos from the Collection of the Galleria Nazionale.
Moreover, in the framework of the Year of Cultural Exchanges between Greece and China and following the exhibition CHINESE XIEYI: Masterpieces from the National Art Museum of China (NAMOC) presented at EMST in 2017, an exhibition enititled At the Beginning Was the Word. Concepts – Images – Script with works of EMST permanent collection took place at NAMOC in Beijing, from November 2018 to January 2019.
The pivotal moment for EMST in continuing its dynamic development was the approval of a €3,000,000 grant by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation in July of 2018, which allows the Museum to undertake the work needed to realize its core strategic goal of full operations. The donation includes the equipment and implementation of the approved plans for the installation of the Museum’s permanent collection on the three top floors and the completion of the open and closed screening rooms, the conference room, the library, the conservation laboratory, the media lounge and other areas.
Infographic: Panos Konstantopoulos
In 1850, the 18-year-old Johann Fix (a Hellenised version of the German surname Fuchs) travels from Bavaria to Athens to visit his father, Georg Fix. A mining engineer, Georg Fix has moved to Athens as a member of the team of Bavarian specialists that King Otto had invited to help restructure Greece.
His father’s death leads Johann to the decision to settle permanently in Greece. Initially employed by the contractors of the royal palace’s maintenance, after Otto’s deposition in 1862 he works for the brewer Melcher.
Melcher dies in 1864, and Johann buys the brewery from the heirs and establishes FIX, the first large-scale brewery in the country. Escalating demand and the monopoly that FIX enjoys at the time —it is also the official purveyor of beer to the Court— leads to the need for larger facilities. Soon the brewery moves from Herakleion to Kolonaki.
The industrial resurrection of Greece in the mid-1950s finds FIX in a new boom after the hard years of World War II. The Fix family decides on a ground-up redesign of the plant to meet the needs of an ever-increasing production.
The project is entrusted in 1957 to the architect Takis Zenetos (1926-1977), one of the major exponents of post-war modernism in Greece, in collaboration with his colleague Margaritis Apostolidis (1922-2005).
Zenetos’s industrial building on Syngrou Avenue is completed in 1961. The architect’s design is a sharp and lucid summary of the principles of modernism: dynamic forms, clear and austere lines, large openings and an emphasis on the horizontal axis.
In the late 1970s production is transferred away from Athens and the building is left idle, while in 1982 the FIX brewery ceases to operate.
In December, 1994 a compulsory expropriation on public benefit grounds brings the building under the ownership of Attiko Metro S.A. The northern part of the building is demolished to make room for the subway construction works, and the adjacent metro station is built and opened in early 2000.
In February, 2000, following conversion work in the building’s ground floor, the Ministry of Culture and the Yannis Tsarouchis Foundation organise the exhibition Yannis Tsarouchis, Between East and West. The same year this facility is turned over to the newly-established National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens (EMST) as a temporary venue. Anna Kafetsi, Ph.D in Aesthetics- Art History, is appointed Director of EMST. The development of the permanent collection begins. The Museum realizes its first exhibition in the former Fix factory, entitled “Synopsis 1 – Communications”. Two more exhibitions of the “Synopsis” series were realized in the following next years.
The building becomes the permanent base for the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens (EMST) A 50-year old lease is signed between Attiko Metro S.A. and the National Museum of Contemporary Art. Invitation to Architectural Competition for the Design of EMST. The museum realizes the second exhibition of the series “Synopsis”, entitled “Synopsis 2 – Theologies”.
The first prize for the Design Development is awarded to the bidding partnership: IOANNIS MOUZAKIS AND ASSOCIATES-ARCHITECTS LTD, STUDIES OF TECHNICAL PROJECTS, PAN. BABILIS AND ASSOCIATES LLC, INSTA.
The Design Development Contract is signed between EMST and the winning partnership of the Competition.
The Contract for the Project “Construction of the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens” with the lowest bidder of the Tender, the construction company BIOTER S.A.
The Project Manager declares the Contractor defaulted from the Project Contract.
The Contract for the Project: “Construction of the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens” between EMST and the construction company AKTOR S.A. is signed.
“Certificate of Completion of Work of the First (1st) Stage of Project Implementation” is issued by the Project Manager. On December 30, 2014, the “Certificate of Completion of the Limit Test Conditions, Tests and Measurements of the Second (2nd) Stage of Project Execution” is issued In December 2014 Katerina Koskina, Ph.D in Art History- Museologist is appointed Director of EMST.
On April 21, 2015, the Protocol for the Consignment of the Acceptance of the Project “Construction of the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens” is signed between EMST, the Contractor and the Project Manager. On May, 7 and 8, 2015, EMST moved its administrative offices and its equipment on the first floor of its new building.
In May 2016, the new Museological and Museographical Studies are approved by the Council of Museums. In July 2016, the Final Acceptance of the building is realized and in September 2016, the “Design, Construction and Equipment of the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens (EMST)” at the NSRF is completed. EMST utilizing the period for the completion of the procedures for its inauguration, realized, from the summer until the end of 2016, a series of periodical artistic events entieled “PROLOGUES (PROLEGOMENA)” which aimed firstly to the development of synergies with Greek and international institutions of related purpose and secondly to the acquaintance of the public with its new building. In October, the first exhibition, entitled “Urgent Conversations: Athens – Antwerp” inaugurated the temporary exhibition spaces at the new EMST building simultaneously with the Program “EMST in the World”. It was a co-production of EMST and the Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp (MHKA).
EMST was the main venue of documenta 14 in Athens from April 8 to July 16 2017. documenta 14 in turn hosted the exhibition “ANTIDORON. THE EMST Collection” at the Fridericianum in Kassel, presenting a curated selection of the museum’s valuable permanent collection of Greek and international contemporary art, from June 10 to September 17 2017. The exhibition of the National Art Museum of China (NAMOC) «CHINESE XIEYI: Masterpieces from the National Art Museum of China» was presented at EMST, in the framework of the Year of Cultural Exchanges between Greece and China.
The Museum moves with the procedures for its full opening.
Takis Zenetos was born in Athens in 1926. He was one of the most important representative of the post-war architecture in Greece designing some of the most beautiful buildings in Greece during the late 50’s, 60’s and early 70’s.. He studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris (1945 -1952). He returned to Greece in 1955 and started an architectural practice Margaritis Apostolidis. Their early works include the factories FIX and APCO, houses in Kavouri and the block of flats in Amalias Avenue. Subsequently the houses in Glyfada, Psichiko the open air theater in Lycabetus, the round school in Ag. Dimitrios followed. Zenetos completed 120 works totally including the Regional development plan of Greater Athens area, many industrial buildings as well as important houses and block of flats. His work was published in many European magazines. He died in 1977.