The National Museum of Contemporary Art – an almost eternal wanderer - has finally found its way home! On October 31st 2016, the EMST put an end to its nomadic life with a soft opening that was more of a promise of its full operation than a revelation. In keeping with the lines of communication previously opened with “Prologues” (PROLEGOMENA) - a preliminary program granting access to certain areas of the EMST - “Urgent Conversations: Athens-Antwerp” invited art-lovers into its shared vision spanning the Museum’s temporary exhibition halls, inaugurating the Program “EMST in the World”.The rest is now scheduled to be revealed during the highly anticipated “documenta 14: Learning from Athens” on April 8th. But again, with a catch, as visitors won’t get to see any of the works making up the permanent collection it has managed to amass over the years, including works by Lucas Samaras, Bill Viola, Nan Goldin and Shirin Neshat.
The EMST will instead play host to documenta’s main exhibition, while a curated selection of the Museum’s masterpieces will be revealed at documenta’s HQ, Fridericianum in Kassel, before travelling back to Athens to be installed in their permanent home once and for all. This ingenious plan was hatched by Katerina Koskina (Director of the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens) and Adam Szymczyk (Artistic Director of documenta 14) as the ultimate expression of displacement, a condition both institutions have explored extensively through the last year.
Despite the endless political and financial turmoil that has kept the Museum of Contemporary Art from rising to the surface, this €37 million project has certainly been worth waiting for. Housed in a 1961 brewery designed by modernist architect Takis Zenetos, the EMST has been long enough in the making for locals to have gotten used to its gigantic proportions by now. Newcomers however will be impressed by its imposing dimensions which, coupled with the unassuming location, create an interesting contradiction: a highly sophisticated institution perfectly embedded in a thoroughly pedestrian neighbourhood. How the Museum (and the art that comes with it) will become part of the common good – the main theme at the core of the EMST/documenta14 collaboration – remains to be seen and depends primarily on the Greek State.