His office in the library of the Benaki Museum has been empty since Holy Thursday, when he was admitted to a private hospital with symptoms of pneumonia.
Yet, nobody until yesterday wanted to believe that his strong voice and loud laughter, and his intense gestures when he was annoyed, would not return to the basement of the museum on Koumbari Street.
There, in the bowels of the building where he lived for almost four decades, he was building one of the largest and most active museums in Greece, the Benaki Museum.
Despite a 19-day battle for his life, Angelos Delivorias did not emerge victorious this time. He was 81 years old, and he died the day his friends, students and those close to him were to gather to honour him, as his official reception in the Academy of Athens was scheduled for yesterday afternoon.
Bold, with a breadth of learning, involved in many things, cosmopolitan, direct, relentless and impassioned with whatever he did, he could with the same ease be at a dig in the earth, directing the excavation at the Amyklaion Apollon sanctuary (Laconia), and a bit later be immersed in the library to write one of his many original studies: from the hermeneutical approach to the frieze of the Parthenon, to the woodwork of the Peloponnese.
He is the archaeologist who managed to hold the ship of the Benaki Museum afloat for over four decades, with no one doubting the depth of his knowledge and experience, especially in sculpture.
It was these characteristics which two years ago led to his induction into the Academy of Athens, which many would say was belated for this academic with a charismatic personality.
He was one of the longest-lasting museum directors internationally, and the only one who simultaneously could administer, gather grants, engage in academic work, and maintain political balances.
He managed to present Greece as a totality in a museum space that he tripled in size and in an institution that he managed to vastly enlarge, but with consequences.
During the economic crisis, he had to take difficult decisions that led to lay-offs, wage cuts, and the closure of halls for over one day a week.
Benaki Museum and the Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghika Gallery
Angelos Delivorias’ life’s work for most was transforming the Benaki Museum into an exhibition space with contemporary specifications, which could serve his vision: the diachronic, narrative presentation of Greek history. Yet, he did not hide his anxiety about the Ghika home-museum.
It was the only time that he abandoned his basement office on Koumbari and moved to the last floor on Kriezotou Street, to monitor the construction.
He considered it his duty to present to coming generations a museum dedicated to the spiritual and artistic production of the 1930’s generation, and he was proud of that project.
All of that is part of the legacy which he has bequeathed us, along with a huge vacuum that cannot be filled.
In the hearts of those who knew him, he will remain not only the brilliant academic who generously shared his knowledge, and the charismatic speaker with whom even a brief conversation could turn into an important lesson in archaeology, art, and life.
He remains the host who received, with a smile and a warm handshake, the visitors at the museum’s events, and with a big hug those whom he knew and loved.
Honest, spontaneous, and approachable, he could spend even holidays in his office to get his work done. But he would find time for those who needed his advice, or to take his granddaughters to the theatre.
Born in 1937, he studied archaeology and history at the University of Thessaloniki, and continued his studies in Germany and France. In 1973, he became director of the Benaki Museum, retiring in 2014.
From 1992 to 2005 he served as elected professor of art history at Athens University’s Faculty of Theatre Studies. In 2016, he was elected a regular member of the Academy of Athens, holding the seat in Archaeology-Museology.
Chrysa Maltezou – Academy of Athens member.
“He was a great capital for the country. I am most deeply moved. Yesterday the Academy of Athens was to formally receive him among its members. He was a sensitive man who offered much, and still had much to offer. The spiritual world weeps for this great loss.”
Lila Maragou – University of Ioannina Professor Emerita
“He made friends everywhere. What can I first say about Angelos? Shall I speak about his charismatic character, his deep academic abilities, the breadth of his knowledge, his contribution to the country, or his desire to give? His virtues are beyond description. The vacuum he leaves behind will reveal our nakedness.”