“Cosmonaut on Earth” is the title of the exhibition presented at the Goulandris Natural History Museum, featuring works by its founder, Angelos Goulandris. The retrospective show runs through to February 29, 2024.
Hailing from an old seafaring family of Andros, Angelos Goulandris was born in Constantinople in 1920. A genuine visionary & ecology pioneer he is famous for his immense contribution to the cultural landscape of Greece through the eponymous Natural History Museum, which he founded in 1964 together with his wife Niki. Twenty-seven years after his death, a little known but paramount aspect of the man is being presented for the first time: that of the artist.
Parallel to his unwavering devotion to promoting the museum and its scope, and alongside his internationally renowned botanical painter wife Niki, he systematically created his own works. He began painting in the 1960s, in search of a new code of values to restore natural balance and harmony. He perceived his art as both a form of philosophical reflection and an alternative code of communication.
Deeply cosmopolitan, A. Goulandris engaged with some of the most prominent creative minds of his time. These interactions inevitably influenced his work, which seems to narrate a double story: that of the (then) present and another of a future that he saw first and foremost through the lens of his imagination. His compositions did not pursue conventional beauty, but rather aimed to decode the geometry of the universe. He himself considered art to be the only source of creation alongside nature. “Art is the domain of freedom, governed by its own laws that remain unknown to us. This is the space I am trying to navigate,” he characteristically said of his artistic approach.
The collective curatorial belongs to Lampis Theodoropoulos, artistic director of GNHM, art historian Giorgos Mylonas and Maria Xanthakou. “Art is the oblique look at life and Angelos Goulandris felt that he kept within it the innocent gaze of a child, unaffected by the turning of time” notes curator G. Mylonas. The artist had a wide expressive range, in terms of disciplines, materials, and means. He created sketches on small pieces of paper with the same ease as he produced large-scale bronze sculptures. The 117 works presented in the exhibition – paintings, drawings, sculptures and stained glass – have been carefully selected from a collection of around 2200 that Goulandris created in his lifetime.
“Creative expression was a way of life for Angelos Goulandris” says Fali Voyatzaki, current president of the Goulandris Natural History Museum and a close associate of the pioneering man for 30 years. “He believed that imagination is the antenna that connects us to the other side and the ultimate weapon we possess. Through his works, much like a new cosmonaut, he leads us to a different perspective of the world.”
The exhibition is accompanied by a parallel program of activities for people of all age groups, while a collector’s catalog and a series of art objects, inspired by A. Goulandris works, compliments the show. It is worth mentioning that all exhibited art is for sale, with proceeds going towards the support of the Museum’s oeuvre.
The Goulandris Natural History Museum is dedicated to the study, conservation, and protection of Greece’s natural resources and the promotion of environmental awareness. Since its foundation it has carved out a pioneering path in approaching man’s relationship with the natural environment and has developed scientific and educational activity to address and contain environmental threats with an emphasis on climate change.