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Athens’ Former Public Tobacco Factory Hosts International Art Exhibition

Athens’ former Public Tobacco Factory has been transformed into a modern cultural space and is currently hosting a critically acclaimed international art exhibition featuring 59 artists from 27 countries.

For the first time in the history of the building, this lofty and stunning space has been made accessible to the public as part of Portals, an exhibition of contemporary art that opened in early June.

Portals brings together work from 18 Greek and over 40 international artists—among them Steve McQueen and Ed Ruscha — in a show curated by Madeleine Grynsztejn of the MCA Chicago and Elina Kontouri, director of the Athens-based arts and culture organisation NEON.

The exhibition aims to develop messages, ideas, and concerns regarding modern artistic creativity by approaching the new reality being shaped by change; including 15 new site-specific installations commissioned especially by NEON, whose diverse cultural backgrounds offer a plurality of ideas underpinned by a shared aspiration to create a portal into a new, more humane and inclusive reality.

Founded in 2013 by Dimitris Daskalopoulos, a Greek entrepreneur, NEON stages exhibitions and installations in spaces across Greece, from abandoned office spaces to the slopes of the Acropolis. In the case of the tobacco factory, NEON co-funded the latest phase of renovation alongside the Hellenic Parliament, a move Daskalopoulos calls a gift “to the city and its people,” which coincides with Greece’s celebration of 200 years of independence this year.

The exhibition takes place in all renovated areas of the building: the atrium, corridors, halls and mezzanines, bathrooms, the former Customs Office, the surrounding area, on the roof / façade of the building and on Kolonos Hill and represents a pluralism of ideas and touches upon issues related to collectiveness, cultural understanding of history and politics, public space, and our common past, present and future.

Alongside the physical exhibition, the organisation has also created an online ‘portal.’ The free mobile NEON app enables visitors to virtually browse the exhibition, see and learn about the works and artists, as well as receive notifications on the exhibition’s parallel events.

Athens Former Public Tobacco Factory

Once a symbol of Greece’s industrialization and progress, the Tobacco Factory’s construction started in 1927 using government funds to serve the country’s booming cigarette manufacturing industry. However, the Factory began operating in 1930, at a time when the international crisis had already reduced Greek tobacco exports. In its 65 years of operation, the Public Tobacco Factory housed 25 cigarette companies, with Sante being the last to leave.

The transformation of Athens’ former Public Tobacco Factory into a Cultural Centre has received international attention. Located in the heart of the city, the factory reopened its doors to the public as a  vast contemporary art space on the 11th of June 2021 for “Portals,” which will run through to the end of the year.

Dates: Until 31/12/2021 

Address: Former Public Tobacco Factory – Hellenic Parliament Library and Printing House | 218 Lenorman Street, Athens

Times: Monday, Tuesday: Closed
Wednesday, Friday, Sunday: 11:00 – 19:00
Thursday, Saturday: 12:00 – 20:00

Reservation required via:


The Athens Guide

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