The Collection of Paul and Alexandra Canellopoulos includes more than 6,500 works of art from different eras, cultures, and styles. Paul Canellopoulos’ passion, which was shared by his wife Alexandra Canellopoulos, was the driving force behind the creation of an exceptional Collection.
At the beginning of his collecting activity, during the 1920s, Paul Canellopoulos focused his interest almost exclusively on Byzantine icons. The first ten icons, which he acquired over a period of two years, were the impetus for the development of his rich collection. Fully aware of the Collection’s potential, beyond “the narrow limits of man”, he devoted himself to its synthesis. Possessing knowledge and understanding of the evolution of Greek Art over the centuries, he enriched the Collection with antiquities from the Prehistoric, Archaic, Classical and Hellenistic periods, as well as more recent works of Art.
“When a collector reaches the point of having the greatest private collection of Greek antiquities, inevitably it ceases to belong to him, it belongs to everyone,” Paul Canellopoulos had written. His statement fully reflects his rationale and the motivation for donating the Collection to the Greek State in 1972. The Collection found a permanent home in the neoclassical house of the architect Ioannis Michaleas and his family, built at the end of the 19th century on the northern slope of the Acropolis. The conversion of the Michaleas house into a museum was completed in 1976 and in July of the same year, the museum opened its doors to the public. In 2004, the need to expand the Museum was deemed imperative as the available space was insufficient, resulting in several valuable objects remaining in storage. Alexandra Canellopoulos offered the solution by acquiring the land adjacent to the Michalea mansion and donating it to the Greek State. The architect Paul Kalligas designed the New Wing of the Museum which doubled the available exhibition space.
In the heart of Athens, the Paul and Alexandra Canellopoulos Museum stands as an integral part of a larger, open-air museum. Heading up from Dionysiou Areopagitou Street to Theorias Street, the visitor arrives at the entrance of the Museum. Paul Canellopoulos called the route “a walk of contemplation”. In this privileged spot, the Museum is in direct dialogue with the sacred rock, as well as with a multitude of significant archaeological sites. The visit to the Museum is a unique experience of a journey through 6,000 years of History, Art and Culture. Its hospitable space invites the visitor to witness the history of Greek art over thousands of years. Along with its engagement in exhibitions and research projects around the world, the Museum offers a wide spectrum of events and educational programs that encourage a deeper understanding and appreciation of its permanent Collection.