The fairytale life of Angelos and Leto began in the 1930s and ended in 1997. Active members of the Athenian society and yet deeply cultured and creative, the important neurologist and his wife experienced a life of literary and artistic merits. The totality of poets, authors, artists and scholars that placed their mark on modern Greece belonged to their company of friends alongside many European and American intellectuals.
1988-2018: A journey through the protection and
promotion of the Katakouzenos House Museum
Nothing inspired me more, in Athens of the 1990s, than the stories that I was listening to at the Katakouzenos' house. This place soon became for me a kind of sanctuary as well as a source of inspiration. A team, made-up by students, was soon created and we organised literary evenings that were attended, other than by Leto herself, by Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghikas, Nikos Athanassiades, George Himonas and others. The dominant subject in all those events was the personality and ethos of Angelos Katakouzenos.
Angelos graduated with top grades from the Evangelical School of Smyrna, continued his studies in France, and became a doctor. He then chose to live in Greece and -besides exercising his profession- he was always finding the time to support the cultural scene of his country. He founded the Greek-French Cultural Union and in 1956, in his capacity of its Chairman, he invited Albert Camus to talk about the future of the European civilisation. In the late 50s, he was also one of the founding members of the Hellenic American Union, and its President for twelve years. For thirty years, he offered pro-bono his services to the Greek chapter of the Pasteur Institute and during the latter part of that period he served as its Chairman. He was decorated by the French government and was highly appreciated by President General de Gaulle. He also kept a friendly relationship with Hubert Humphrey, the Vice President of the United States during the late 60s.
Katakouzenos was always very close to the art scene. He hosted at his home the first exhibition of works by Theophilos, a naïve painter, and was instrumental in the effort to recognise the broader cultural value of his works as well as the founding, in 1965, of a museum in Lesvos, that hosted his works. On a different occasion, he used his home to host the first 'unofficial' exhibition of modern art with works of Greek painters, in honour of his visitor, Marc Chagall.
Artists and writers like Tériade, Eugène Ionesco, William Faulkner, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Albert Camus, George Seferis, Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghikas, Elias Venezis, Angelos Terzakis, George Katsimbalis, George Theotokas, Carolos Kuhn, Manos Hadjidakis, Costas Tahtsis, Nicos Kavvadias, Titos Patrikios and many others, were friends of the couple and frequented their home.
The story of Angelos and Leto Katakouzenos and their home, the tokens left behind by the people who spent time there, and the description of all related stories by Leto are part of our modern cultural heritage. Protecting and promoting this heritage, was the motivation behind my decade-long personal -and exclusively pro-bono- effort. Besides, as Laurence Vail Coleman pointed out since 1933 "Houses appeal partly to the emotions, and this -their power for museum purposes- deserves to be strengthened by developing atmosphere. One of the commonest remarks of visitors in any well-appointed house is that they enjoy being there because the place is like a home and not like an institution".
The Katakouzenos House Museum (KHM), since its opening in September 2008, refused to focus exclusively on its past: it hosts art exhibitions and performances by contemporary artists and its success lies on the delicate balance between exhibiting something new, while at the same time respecting the history of the place that hosts it. At the end of September of 2018, ten years of continuous operation will have been achieved, and we believe that we have created a place of memory, full of messages and charm, a 'travelling ocean liner' (in the words of Nobel-laureate and very good friend of the couple, George Seferis) in the centre of Athens. What the visitor sees in this place is possibly less important than what he feels by being there and this is what we are trying to achieve.
A series of events is and will continue to be held to commemorate this year's tenth birthday of the KHM and "The song of Leto", performed by soprano Katia Paschou and pianist Thalia Papadopoulou, is the pinnacle of them.
The members of the Board of Directors of the Katakouzenos Foundation and I, who have personally been dealing with the story of Angelos Katakouzenos since 1989 and the setting-up and operation of the KHM since 2008, will do our best to honour all the people who have visited and trusted us during our first decade of our existence.
Museologist, KHM Curator and Archive Responsible
Secretary of the Angelos and Leto Katakouzenos Foundation