It all started in 2009 when Greek-American philanthropist George Behrakis and his wife Margo made a $10 million donation to the Museum of Fine Arts, the fourth-largest museum in the United States.
With freshly imagined spaces that include natural light, innovative displays, interactive experiences, and immersive evocations of an ancient Greek temple and a Byzantine church, visitors of all ages can learn about the legacies of these ancient cultures and understand their relevance today.
There are five galleries at the heart of the George D. and Margo Behrakis Wing for Art of the Ancient World, which display nearly 500 objects ranging from the beginnings of Greek art (about 1100 B.C.) through the fall of Constantinople in the 15th century and into the present day.
This project creates a grand entry for visitors to the MFA’s renowned collection of Classical art—one of the finest and most comprehensive in the world. The galleries showcase iconic highlights of the collection, including many objects that have not been on view, adding to a renovated suite of 11 Classical galleries completed since 2009—most recently “Daily Life in Ancient Greece.”
The renovations are made possible by a broad coalition of 24 donors, led by George D. and Margo Behrakis, The Krupp Family Foundation, Richard and Nancy Lubin and an anonymous donor.
Five Galleries at the Behrakis Wing of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts
Early Greek Art
This large gallery is devoted to early Greek art from its beginnings at the end of the 10th century BCE through to the Persian Wars (479 BCE). It introduces two key developments in Geometric and Archaic art—new ways of depicting the human body and the birth of storytelling—exploring them chronologically and demonstrating how the achievements of the Classical period were rooted in these innovative earlier periods. Object groupings focus on specific city-states and regions, as well as a map with embedded artworks.
Gods and Goddesses
“Gods and Goddesses” introduces visitors to Greek and Roman art through one of its most important and popular subjects: mythology. Designed as a contemporary update on an ancient Greek temple and bathed in natural light, it showcases depictions of gods and goddesses, like the MFA’s monumental Juno, and more intimate objects, such as implements used for religious rituals, all dating from the 6th century BCE to the 3rd century CE.
Here visitors can explore the beginnings of portraiture in Western art history and the role it has played in constructing and maintaining identity—from the past to today. More than mere records of appearance, Roman portraits are visual constructions, combining likeness, character, and social status in images that are compellingly human.
Byzantine Art at the Behrakis wing of the Museum of Fine Arts
This gallery is the first of its kind in New England, presenting Byzantine art from the reign of Emperor Constantine in the 4th century CE through the fall of Constantinople in 1453. Located in between the MFA’s classical and medieval European art galleries, the space and the artworks it houses reflect the transition from paganism to Christianity, the point where East met West, and the shift from polytheism to monotheism.
20th- and 21st-Century Art
This gallery hosts a series of rotating installations that explore how 20th-century and 21st-century artists interacted with ancient art. The inaugural installation features a group of five sculptures and a painting by American abstractionist Cy Twombly (1928–2011), who was inspired by classical culture.
George Behrakis: A philanthropist who loves Greek culture
A legend in the pharmaceutical business, Greek-American philanthropist and entrepreneur George D. Behrakis has given away tens of millions of dollars of his hard-earned money.
“Greeks always go for the gold, not the silver or the bronze,” Behrakis stated with pride when he was honored by The Hellenic Initiative in 2014. A Greek-American, born in the former industrial city of Lowell, Massachusetts in 1934, Behrakis never compromised on anything other than the gold—and he did it in his own way.
Behrakis is a brilliant entrepreneur who invented groundbreaking new drugs such as Tylenol, Volmex for asthma, and many others.
Initially, he worked for Johnson and Johnson, but after creating Tylenol, he started his own company, Dooner Laboratories, with just the startup funding he received from his relatives and friends.
Dooner grew rapidly, however, and after selling it nine years later, Behrakis opened Muro Pharmaceuticals, which first worked on eye products and later moved on to asthma products. With Behrakis as its head, Muro was highly successful, and he sold the company in 1996.
After retiring from the pharmaceutical business, Behrakis and his wife Margo, who have nine grandchildren, started their quest to give back to society in the US and Greece, and true to his hard-working attitude, they are doing it in a very big and bold way.
Through The Behrakis Foundation, they are positively changing people’s lives.
“Greek Americans need a legacy in the United States…I strongly believe that,” says Behrakis, who points out that for him, the best reward is when young Greeks feel a sense of pride through his philanthropy.
Having created billion-dollar pharmaceutical giants, he says that for him, giving comes naturally.
“I think I had the best parents in the world. They had nothing, but they would always give dollars to our church when they couldn’t afford a dollar,” says Behrakis about his parents, who both descend from Mani, Greece.
“Whatever I receive, I give. I have been lucky. For me, it’s easy to make money through hard work,” Behraki adds.
Behrakis keeps proving his words since his family’s foundation has supported countless Hellenic causes, including in the arts, medicine, and the Orthodox Church with grants of tens of millions of dollars.