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The Ch. and S. Moschandreou Aitoloakarnanian Gallery of Modern Art, Messolonghi

The Christos and Sophia Moschandreou Aitoloakarnanian Gallery of Modern Art in the Holy City of Messolonghi is a very active and vibrant cultural institution in regional Greece. For the past twenty years, it has constantly and consistently endeavored to showcase and present Modern Greek artistic creations to the general public, thus contributing greatly to the country’s cultural reality. The undiminished educational activity and its exhibitions, the continued collaboration with other cultural institutions of the region, the significant and distinguished publishing contributions, its diverse cultural events, and even its own unique exhibition space are all elements that have contributed to the Gallery’s image as a role model of outward-looking cultural management and a shining example of exhibiting contemporary Greek art.

The Gallery is based in the Holy City of Mesolongi, not only to honour the Aitolokarnanian descent of its founders, but, above all, to reinforce its mission to promote contemporary Greek culture in regional Greece. In Messolonghi, the city’s undeniable historical uniqueness as well as its decisive role in the course of the Modern Greek state are interwoven with contemporary Greek culture through the Gallery's activities, in this way highlighting a refreshing and innovative perspective of the nation’s cultural profile.

It should be noted that the building itself reflects the consistent position of the Gallery to be in constant rapport with the region’s history, the needs of the local community as well as visual, creative and artistic developments. The renovation of an 1829 neoclassical building in the historic center of Messolonghi, while respecting its external architectural foundations and in full accordance with modern exhibition practices, has created a cultural attraction for contemporary art within the center of one of the most historic cities in the country. This in of itself has rendered the gallery’s mission successful.

Having its headquarters in Messolonghi does not in any way isolate the Gallery, nor does it restrict the remarkable and multifaceted work it has undertaken that radiates to the outskirts of the province of Aitoloakarnania. On the contrary, its uninterrupted activity and exhibitions over the past twenty years, which includes the organization of over 10 exhibitions annually, has built a framework of artistic creation and communication between the surrounding region and the major urban centers. In line with this mode of thinking, the Gallery has been undertaking an innovative and pioneering project since 2005. This involves the organization of thematic art and exhibition circles, held each year in collaboration with historical and artistic sites of Athens. These are "The Messolonghi of today through Art" (2005 - 2013) and " Messolonghi and Lord Byron" (2013 - to date). The final and particularly successful endeavor undertaken by the Gallery, is the exhibition titled "Three Generations of Greek Painting - Etchings", which has proved tremendously popular in many Greek cities, such as Athens, Ioannina, Agrinio and Patras, and has witnessed unprecedented numbers of people visiting it.

As a matter of note, the Moschandreou Gallery ensures that a well-documented and complete catalogue always accompanies every exhibition that is organized under its auspices. As a consequence, this has resulted in a sequence of publications that help to advise and inform art lovers about the modern art scene. Furthermore, the publishing activity of the Gallery also extends to a significant, and unique by Greek standards, series of special collector editions. Periodically, the Gallery publishes a leading literary or poetic work whose main theme is the Holy City of Messolonghi, showcasing the history of the city. The works of the most important Greek poets and writers are published under a limited number of copies which are adorned by original etchings by renowned Greek artists such as A. Fasianos, C. Varlamos, D. Tsirogiannis, M. Charos, C. Yourzis, C. Kyriakides among others. The limited number of copies (up to 120), as well as the illustrations made by the above artists, renders each issue a collector’s item and a truly unique work of art.

Regarding the remarkable collections of the Gallery, these are constantly being enriched and expanded. The collections have already succeeded in achieving recognition as being significant works of artistic and historical importance. The artworks in the collection consist of the finest paintings, engravings and sculptures of the most renowned artists of the country, and span a diverse range of artistic creation in Greece that took place in the 19th century and in the 20thcentury in particular. The historical collection is comprised of distinct groups of items that have attracted significant interest and admiration and that provide historical evidence, highlighting various facets of the journey of the new Greek state through time. The high quality and importance of the Gallery's collections of works attract the interest of museums, institutions and galleries when organizing large artistic, historical and retrospective exhibitions. Participation in exhibitions has always been one of the Gallery's priorities, as it is consistent with the Gallery’s extroverted and outward-looking stance.

The Gallery’s multifaceted activities were supplemented by educational initiatives via the implementation of educational art programs between 1999 and 2007.  This gave students and young people alike in the region the opportunity to not only come into contact with art through their visit to the Gallery, but also to experience art first hand by creating their own artistic compositions. Prominent artists and art theorists guided the children in a way that fostered contact with the arts and helped them develop a sense of aesthetics, increased their awareness and developed their creativity.

One of the methodologies adhered to during these educational programs leveraged thorough literature research on issues of history and art history. This was made possible thanks to the Gallery’s extensive Library, which is housed on the first floor of the building and includes more than 3000 titles. The Library is an important cultural institution in the city of Messolongi, which enables research to be carried out and provides multiple sources of information for residents and visitors of the city. In this way, it facilitates the public’s access to knowledge, something that is naturally in line with the educational orientation that the Gallery has adopted.

Certain pivotal moments in the Gallery’s twenty-year course uncover its unwavering and successful efforts to meet the demands of the times via a contribution that is multifaceted and remarkable in its achievements. Its policy of extroversion and outward communication is exemplified by the various events, lectures, and presentations which the Gallery routinely undertakes. Its widespread impact is evidenced by numerous visits of important personalities from not only the art world, but also from the political scene, as well as through the multitude of press releases in the local and national press.

Furthermore, the Gallery, in addition to its cultural and educational initiatives, has also manifested a wide-ranging social contribution within the province of ​​Aitoloakarnania. During its years of operation, it has developed the following activities helping to improve the quality of life of local residents. These are, specifically:

  • It established financial awards for the most capable pupils attending Palamaikis School. The Aitoloakarnanian Gallery of Modern Art, wanting to honor the memory of Andreas P. Moschandreou, a native of Messolonghi who was both honorary vice president of the Supreme Court and brother to the Gallery’s founder, gave commemorative diplomas and financial scholarships to the top three students attending Palamaikis School in the academic periods of 2006-2007 and 2007-2008.
  • The Gallery donated the entire archives of the great benefactor of Lepanto, D. Papacharalambous, to the Papacharalabios Library of Lepanto from its own collection.
  • Apart from the organization of educational programs, the Gallery also sponsored the free transport of students attending schools within the province of Aitoloakarnania to and from the Gallery.
  • Substantial too, was the contribution of the Gallery's founders to the Mela Foundation for the purposes of constructing and operating two kindergartens in Messolonghi and in Katohi
  • In the memory of P. Moschandreou, the Gallery founder’s father, the Gallery donated the playground.

The Christos and Sophia Moschandreou Aitoloakarnanian Gallery of Modern Artcompletes a twenty year journey with a rich and enviable series of accomplishments under its belt. Holding fast to its founding principles, respecting its past while at the same time adapting to new circumstances called for by the times, the Gallery directs its gaze into the future, looking forward with hope, planning and confidence to a second twenty year period that beckons.

Eleni Emilia Konsta
Art Historian
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