The National Gallery was founded on April 10, 1900. Its initial collections came from the National Technical University and the University of Athens. Substantial donations came to be added to these. Today, the National Gallery collections comprise more than 20,000 works of painting, sculpture, engraving and other forms of art; this is the treasury of Modern Greek art, encompassing the period from the post-Byzantine times until today. Moreover, the National Gallery owns a remarkable collection of Western European paintings. In 1954, the National Gallery merged with the Alexandros Soutsos Estate, hence its name.
The institutional role of the National Gallery is to collect, safekeep, preserve, study and exhibit works of art aiming at the aesthetic education of the public, the on-going instruction through art and the recreation that it is able to provide, as well as the self-awareness of the Greek people through the history of art, which expresses the national history on a symbolic level.
The National Gallery-Alexandros Soutsos Museum houses an extensive library with invaluable archival material and specialized conservation studios, equipped with up-to-date scanning, examination and restoration systems. The highly specialized scientific, administrative and security personnel efficiently and selflessly responds to the demanding and diverse operations of such an important museum.
Aiming to expand its educational role and activity throughout Greece, the National Gallery-Alexandros Soutsos Museum has added two annexes to the pre-existing Coumantaros Art Gallery in Sparta: one in Corfu (Kato Korakiana), in 1993, and one in Nafplion, in 2004.
Housing the history of Modern Greek sculpture, as well as temporary exhibitions, since 2004 at Hellenic Army Park in Goudi, Athens, the National Glyptotheque, has also been founded. The Stavros S. Niarchos Foundation funded both the projects for the renovation of the two historical buildings of the former royal cavalry stables and the display of the sculpture collections in one of the two buildings as well as in a 1.5-acre outdoor display. The renovation was implemented under the 3rd CSF.
Over the years, the need for modernization and expansion of the complex of the National Gallery building became imperative. The new building was inaugurated in 2021.
The project adds to the existing 9,720 m2 building another 11,040 m2, more than doubling its operational area (20,760 m2 in total). The museum acquires an additional 2,230 m2 of exhibition space, 1645 m2 more of warehouses, an auditorium seating 450, an educational venue, a reception and a 910 m2 museum shop, as well as a third-floor restaurant with panoramic views of the Acropolis and all of Athens. Another cafe operates on the ground floor and garden.
The inspired design of the new National Gallery changes, not only its function, but also its face, adapting it to the museological and aesthetic perception of the 21st century.
The project is included in the OP "Attica 2007-2013" under decree ΕΥΠΟΤ/A1 ATT 24/1411/11-04-12 by the General Secretary, Ministry of Culture Mrs. Lina Mendoni. The budget is supplemented by the generous support of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation. The contracted construction company, TOMI S.A., selected by an international tender, has already been installed, and work is in progress.
The project is carried out under the supervision of the Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports (Directorate for the Restoration of Modern and Contemporary Monuments).