Dedicated to the study and promotion of ancient cultures of the Aegean and Cyprus, with special emphasis on Cycladic Art of the 3rd millennium BCE, the Goulandris Museum of Cycladic Art was founded in 1986 thanks to a heavy collection built up by Nicholas and Dolly Goulandris. While the collection was impressive to begin with - enough to justify an entire museum, in fact - it has grown in size with both direct purchases and donations over the past couple of decades.
The Goulandris couple began collecting archeological artifacts in the 1960s after they were granted permission by the Greek state. Quickly recognized by scholars of the region, the Goulandris collection focused on marble figurines and vessels.
First presented to the Benaki Museum in 1978, the Goulandris collection was asking for a museum all its own only a decade and a half or so after it first started to accumulate. For four or five years after visiting the Benaki, the collection traveled to major galleries and museums all over the world, including the National Gallery of Washington in 1979, the Houston Museum of Fine Arts in 1981, the Musees Royaux d’Art er d’Historie and the Palais des Beaux Arts at Brussels in 1982, and the British Museum at London in 1983.
After the collection was done traveling, the Museum of Cycladic Art was inaugurated in January of 1986. Nicholas had died in 1983 when the collection was being moved from museum to museum and, unable to coordinate all of the logistic by herself, Dolly Goulandris donated the entire collection to the museum. Only a few months earlier, a Goulandris Foundation was organized to focus on “the study of Aegean civilization, research on prehistoric, Classical and modern Greek art, as well as its dissemination and promotion,” according to the museum’s official website.
Now known as one of the great museums of Athens, the Goulandris Museum of Cycladic Art holds more than 200 objects. A museum shop on site holds books on ancient art and reproductions of items from the collection.