Speech: Leventis knew where the truth lies
European Commission - SPEECH/14/239 21/03/2014
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Member of the European Commission for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth
Leventis knew where the truth lies
Opening of A.G Leventis Gallery
Nicosia, 21 March 2014
“Art is the lie that enables us to realize the truth”, Pablo Picasso once said.
There is indeed a lot of truth surrounding us today in this room. Τhe truth of a great man and philanthropist with a passion for the arts – Anastasios Leventis - who wished to establish a public gallery in his homeland. Τhe truth instilled in great works of arts by European, Greek and Cypriot artists that offer an impressive journey through time from the 17th century until today. And, the truth in which we can find ourselves, our lives and our history as Cypriots and as Europeans. Because art may indeed be a lie, an illusion, but it is a reflection of life and a mirror to human existence.
This is why cultural spaces and museums are special – because they are hubs to the service of the people and local communities. And this is why the A.G. Leventis Gallery – with all the great art it houses in its three distinct sections – is set out to make an invaluable contribution to the cultural life of Cyprus.
I imagine these rooms full of school children and young people discovering pleasure and knowledge in art. I see families and elderly people side by side with tourists. I hope that all this great art will come into life through education programmes and activities open to the local community. 'Creativity is contagious', as Einstein said, 'we must pass it on'.
The A.G. Leventis Foundation has a longstanding experience, which will be a great asset for the management of the gallery for the benefit of Cypriot society and the delight of international visitors. This is not the first museum space in Cyprus created by the Foundation. The city's Municipal Museum – not too far from here – came first and it is already well embedded in the cultural life of the city.
The Foundation enjoys international partnerships with established institutions, and I'm sure it will build on its ongoing cooperation at European level to further develop its activities. Our European programmes are there to provide support and enable transnational cooperation.
It is encouraging to see the private sector believing and investing in art, especially in times of economic uncertainty. We need private initiatives of this kind and I hope that the example of the Leventis Foundation is followed by others.
We often forget that, beyond its intrinsic value as a fundamental part of life, culture contributes to social cohesion, economic growth, job creation, innovation and competitiveness. For a small country like Cyprus, our culture and cultural heritage are, and should be, a great resource for our society and for our economy. We must exploit this resource to the full and turn it into an asset.
The three collections housed here take us from the local to the European and display the vast array of interactions among artists and creative minds through time. Openness to the world is indeed a sine qua non condition for a creative nation and I hope Cyprus will follow this path.
I look forward to the continuing success of initiatives like the A.G. Leventis Gallery and invite you to discover the beauty of art exhibited in this building.