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The creation in 2007 of the non-profit organisation Hambis Printmaking School and Museum was part of Hambis’ vision of life: to get the Cypriots to know the art of printmaking, to learn how to make a print and to appreciate the prints of Cypriot and foreign artists both contemporary and from previous centuries. A unique project, a unique – the one and only – museum in Cyprus.
The museum opened its doors in the summer of 2008, with a humble collection of a few hundreds of works all coming from donations. Hambis generously donated his small personal collection and some of his prints, along with printmakers from Cyprus and Greece who came to the museum to give the first modern works to the collection, as well as friends collectors – who donated enthusiastically one or more works from their collection. Over the years, the donations have continued from loyal friends of the museum who come and visit us regularly, as well as from Cypriot and foreign printmakers, enriching the collection of the museum. The temporary exhibitions held by the museum are also a good opportunity for donations by the exhibiting artists.
With very little financial resources available, the museum started also to buy prints of important artists. Even though the dream of a Picasso linocut, of an original Rembrandt etching, of a Gauguin’s woodcut or wood engraving remains a dream, sometimes the golden opportunity to buy a “treasure” appears. The actual catalogue presents these valuables for the museum – i.e. for the public of our little Cyprus. Works that of course – together with many other rare pieces – exist in the drawers of private Cypriot collections, but are never available to the public. A visit to Hambis Printmaking Museum is also an opportunity for tourists to get acquainted with the Cypriot and European printmaking which usually comes in second place in the big museums abroad. The exhibits change on an annual basis, temporary exhibitions open, giving the opportunity to present various thematic aspects of the collection. Sometimes we also open up drawers to respond to a visitor’s intense desire to see a work that is not exhibited. Hambis Printmaking Museum seems to be original because of the conviction that the collection must be protected but above all that it must be offered to the public’s direct gaze.
From the beginning, the aim of the Museum is to give emphasis to the Cypriot printmaking, so the public can be in direct contact with the works of the main modern Cypriot (Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot) printmakers. It also strives to build a balanced collection of foreign works – mainly European, from the 16th century to the modern era, as well as of printmakers from other countries with an age-old tradition in printmaking. The museum also buys illustrated books of bygone centuries, matrices and works that are typical of various printmaking techniques and methods. This multifaceted objective can be seen as excessive and elusive, but we hope that over the years we will be able to offer the visitors to the museum and to the exhibitions it organizes, the opportunity to see in Cyprus a more and more remarkable collection of good prints.
If you leaf the actual catalogue, you will be able to see how we started implementing our objectives, read the evolution of printmaking, get to know some of nearly 1,600 prints of recognised artists of our country and of the world and the 150 illustrated books composing the collection of the Museum. The collection also comprises the as many prints created by the students of Hambis Printmaking School. Matrices, tools and pieces of equipment are not in the catalogue. The selection of works was difficult. Undoubtedly, we left behind some great artists, particularly young printmakers, who will certainly find their place in another publication of the Museum.
First of all, you will make a nice and rich journey to printmaking, time and space, and you will get a taste of an inadequately known aspect of art and human sensibility.
Hélène Reeb Tsangaris
Hambis Printmaking Museum, Curator