A 72 year-old Greek designer, collector and educator is buried under the weight of his lost dream: the Thessaloniki Design Museum, which made an international splash and then died a slow and peculiar death in the 1990s. He is also buried under the weight of his enormous design collection, once the core of his museum and now defunct and too costly to maintain amidst the financial crisis. The film follows Stergios Delialis as he realizes he has become a ghost in his own life and contemplates parting with his collection. Meanwhile, he undertakes to produce a retrospective of his own design work in the building of his lost museum.
Stergios Delialis (1944-2019) was a Greek designer, collector and educator, best known as the founder of the Thessaloniki Design Museum. In the 1990s, there were only a handful of museums in the world dedicated exclusively to design. One of them was the Thessaloniki Design Museum, operating out of a storefront and housing Delialis’ collection of more than 3,000 industrial design objects.
Delialis was born in Thessaloniki, Greece, in 1944 and developed a passion for sketching and drawing almost as soon as he could pick up a pencil. His apprenticeships with an architect, a movie-poster maker, a printer, and with renowned Greek graphic artist Yiannis Svoronos, are the closest he got to formal training. He gained prestige as a graphic designer through his early, psychedelia-influenced work, which became associated with some of Greece’s cultural landmarks of the 1970s (such as the cover of Dionysis Savvopoulos’ album To Perivoli Tou Trelou and the logo of Help, Greece’s first discotheque). His later work as the iconoclastic designer of interior commercial spaces has been taught in Greek architecture schools and can still be found all over the country. Along the way, Delialis developed a keen interest in industrial design, amassing an entire library of reference books and publications, as well as a vast collection of furniture, lighting and everyday objects.
He attained international acclaim as the indefatigable director of the Thessaloniki Design Museum, which he opened in 1993 and, in a short five years, put Greece on the design map. Under Delialis’ direction, the Museum put on scores of personal exhibitions, including Glaser/Palladino, Mario Botta, Michael Graves, Ron Arad, as well as numerous thematic shows drawing from the permanent collection. The Museum also featured seminars, talks and screenings, and quickly developed into an educational institution supporting the local Polytechnic School and nurturing a generation of graphic designers and communicators who are now the leaders of Thessaloniki’s vibrant design scene (Beetroot Design Group, Red Creative, Semiotik Design Agency).
In 1997, a deal with the Ministry of Culture, promising the Museum a permanent home and funding, went bad, leading instead to the Museum’s eventual closure. With the collection in storage, Delialis dug his heels in and vowed to carry on in the name of the now “homeless” Thessaloniki Design Museum. From 1998-2010, he doggedly sought ways to revive the Museum and staged a number of exhibitions featuring guests like Alan Fletcher, David Tartakover, and MoMa’s Paola Antonelli.
Stergios talked about design until the end. He passed away on March 22, 2019.