The Benaki Museum is launching its first crowdfunding campaign to support the U.S. tour of its next exhibition, the presentation of the album of German photographer Albert Mayer from the first modern Olympic Games of Athens in 1896.
The exhibition kicks off in New York City in December 2016 with events at both the United Nations and the Consulate General of Greece. The campaign’s goal is to raise 100,000 dollars, which will allow the album to continue its 2017 tour in at least four additional U.S. cities, to allow Greeks of the diaspora, photo enthusiasts, Olympic memorabilia collectors and friends of the Benaki Museum to enjoy this unique album.
Mayer was one of the most famous photographers of that period and he traveled to Athens for the Games, becoming the official photographer of the German team. The press announced the making of the album before it had even commenced. The Greek newspaper from Trieste, Imera (Day) as well as the Athenian Akropolis both wrote that the album would turn out to be the keepsake of the Games for the royal courts all over the world, as well as for the members of the Olympic Games Committee.
The 25 “spartan” photographs of the album capture the chronicle of the Games, beginning with the photograph of the International Committee and that of the Greek national benefactor, Georgios Averof.
The photographs capture both the athletic rituals and efforts including Marathon runner, (water carrier by profession) Spyros Louis, who posed for Albert Meyer wearing a national costume after winning the First Marathon.
The photographic archive of Meyer, including his photos from the Olympic Games, was destroyed in 1945, when bombardments flattened Dresden, Germany, hence turning the original photographs into rare and priceless artifacts.
The few copies of the leather album were distributed to the members of the Olympic Games Organizational Committee, including one to George Streit who was a banker and minister of the Greek government during that period. Marinos Yeroulanos, president of the Board of Trustees of the Benaki Museum for many years and grandson of George Streit, donated the album to the Historical Archives of the museum. Since then, the unique album has been safeguarded with care as it is a rare and unique token to both history and art.