New York.- By Vicki James Yiannias
“The renovation of the Onassis Cultural Center is a project of approximately 5-6 million dollars and that will be an important development for us,” said Ambassador Loucas Tsilas, Executive Director of the Center. Meanwhile, the wait-time is being used to great advantage. The OCC is expanding its presence in New York City by continuing its cultural presentations in other high profile, quality venues. like the New York Public Library, the Morgan Library and Museum, and Lincoln Center.
“The purpose of all our activities, always, has been to fulfill certain objectives, for example, our exhibition are always thematic,” said Ambassador Tsilas, “They say something. They’re not just ‘feel-good’ exhibitions of lovely pieces of art. In the Athens-Sparta exhibition  we showed that Sparta was able to produce art but chose war… a military way of life instead. The Worshipping Women exhibition  made the major point that the role of women was perhaps even more important than the role of men in religious observations and rites in antiquity. And in the case of the recent “After Thermopylae” discussion at the Morgan Library and Museum, the objective was to show all aspects of war, this event that is omnipresent throughout human history.”
Ambassador Tsilas outlined the Onassis Cultural Center’s plans for the future, beginning with the next major exhibition in a line of 17 excellent prior exhibitions since its first, “Classical Memories in Modern Greek Art” opened on October 24, 2000. “Hopefully, in a year’s time our space will be available again for our next major exhibition, normally to take place in late Fall 2014. A cooperation with the Cycladic Museum, it will be about the afterlife; how the Ancient Greeks thought of the end of life… their philosophical view of death. I use the words ‘normally’ and ‘hopefully’ because we are in the process of obtaining permits and so on to expand and renovate our space, but we do have reliable hopes that the exhibition will take place at that time.”
“As well as these large-scale plans, we are also going to have an exhibition in the Olympic Atrium, “The Greek Monsters”. A little bit awe-inspiring, this is a humorous philosophical exhibition that was presented for the first time at the Benaki Museum in Athens. It is by BEETROOT, an award winning design group of young people based in Thessaloniki. The exhibition was intended to open now, in June, but due to the construction in the Atrium, it has been postponed until this coming September or October. This will be its first appearance in the United States. The exhibition won’t contain ancient artifacts, rather creations around the antiheroes of Greek mythology, such as Polyphemos, Medusa, and others.”
“We will also continue to have important concerts,” Ambassador Tsilas continued, “On July 26, an evening of contemporary explorations of age-old sounds and instruments by the famous Kronos Quartet in collaboration with Magda Giannikou will take place at the Lincoln Center Damrosch Park Bandshell.”
“We will also organize two other concerts, one with pianist with George-Emmanuel Lazaridis, and the other with Giorgos Koumentakis, one of Greece’s well-known new composers, at Carnegie Hall and at Princeton, presented by the Hellenic Studies Program. And then we will continue our cooperation with the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) presenting the “Conversation Series” with philosopher Simon Critchley.
The details are not yet planned, but we will also have some events with Live from the New York Public Library with Paul Holdengräber, its very well-known reviewer and presenter.”
“Don’t forget that we also have a very important educational program which sends professional scholars to many American universities in North and South America,” said Tsilas, introducing a new, exciting event to take place in the fall, “We are planning a conference of Hellenic Studies in South America, in Mexico City to take place in October, in which scholars from all over Latin America will participate. Even Professor Babiniotis will come from Greece. At this conference we are also going to present the poetry of Cavafy set to music by many known composers Greek and not Greek. The poetry will be presented by Professor Vassilis Lambropoulos, holder of the Constantine P. Cavafy Chair, in the Modern Greek Program at the University of Michigan, and the music performed by a Greek soprano and Greek pianist, both from Germany. This will also take place in Chile at the University of Chile’s Fotios Malleros Center for Greek, Byzantine, and Neohellenic Studies headed by the famous Miguel Castillo Didier, who is the sole translator of Cavafy’s poetry in Latin America.”
“The common denominator of all these plans is the following: since we do not have our space for a year, we are trying to build alliances, to reach out, to get to know and be known in different venues in New York City. To increase our presence in the city.”
Stay tuned for Ambassador Tsilas’s discussion and detailed description, coming up in the next few weeks, of the exciting renovations at the Onassis Cultural Center.