Ex­hi­bi­tion ex­pands on Hansen’s legacy

Kathimerini English - - Focus - BY NIKOS VATOPOU­LOS

An ex­hi­bi­tion on the work of Theophil Hansen (1831-91) cur­rently on dis­play at the B&M Theocharakis Foun­da­tion makes for a twofold read­ing: On the one hand it serves as a re­minder of Vic­to­rian uni­ver­sal­ism (or the glob­al­iza­tion of 19th-cen­tury style), while on the other high­light­ing to­day’s state-of-the-art syn­er­gies, given that it brings to­gether three Euro­pean states – Den­mark, Aus­tria and Greece – coun­tries where the ar­chi­tect de­vel­oped his projects and vi­sion.

Act­ing as a cor­ri­dor of ideas and noble clas­si­cism, sprin­kled with all the shades and forms of 19th-cen­tury thought, the ex­hi­bi­tion traces Hansen’s life and work from Copen­hagen, where he was born, to Vi­enna and Athens, ci­ties for which he de­signed land­mark build­ings.

Ti­tled “Hel­lenic Re­nais­sance: The Ar­chi­tec­ture of Theophil Hansen,” the ex­hi­bi­tion is tak­ing place in as­so­ci­a­tion with the Academy of Fine Arts in Vi­enna and the Dan­ish Na­tional Art Li­brary and un­der the aus­pices of the Aus­trian and Dan­ish em­bassies in Athens. The show’s grand donor is the Stavros Niar­chos Foun­da­tion.

The ex­hi­bi­tion’s cu­ra­tors are ded­i­cated to the study of the de­vel­op­ment of the bour­geoisie in the new Greek state’s cap­i­tal through the in­ter­na­tional prism of Euro­pean di­a­logue: George A. Panet­sos, pro­fes­sor of ar­chi­tec­ture and ur­ban plan­ning at the Univer­sity of Pa­tra, and art his­to­rian and Greek Na­tional Gallery cu­ra­tor Mar­ilena Kasi­mati worked to­gether to pro­duce an ex­hi­bi­tion that went beyond what is largely known about Hansen’s oeu­vre in Greece. This was car­ried out through re­search fo­cus­ing to a large ex­tent on pre­vi­ously un­pub­lished archival ma­te­rial.

At the Theocharakis Foun­da­tion the dis­play showcases over 180 orig­i­nal sketches (in­clud­ing wa­ter­col­ors and crayons), the majority of which are on loan from mu­se­ums in Aus­tria and Den­mark, as well as archival ma­te­rial. Also on dis­play are fur­ni­ture items, gilt bronze ob­jects as well as orig­i­nal 19th-cen­tury photographs.

Hansen left an in­deli­ble mark on Athens, not only thanks to his cre­ativ­ity and pow­er­ful legacy through the con­struc­tion of mon­u­men­tal works such as the Academy of Athens, the Na­tional Li­brary, Zappeio Hall and the Na­tional Ob­ser­va­tory, among oth­ers, but also his stu­dents and the in­flu­ence of his style on an en­tire era. Hansen re­ferred to his sig­na­ture ar­chi­tec­tural id­iom as “Hel­lenis­che Re­nais­sance” (Hel­lenic Re­nais­sance). Es­sen­tially this was a branch of Euro­pean clas­si­cism en­riched with Re­nais­sance el­e­ments. The ar­chi­tect also left his mark on Vi­enna in the form of build­ings which are clearly akin to those in the Greek cap­i­tal.

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