Athena's first shop was opened by Ole Christensen in Hampstead in July 1964, and then bought into E&O PLC, by Chairman, Douglas H. Bayle. He expanded Athena to some 60 shops, making sure to keep the ethos on fine art reprints.
The company's popular success divided opinion amongst intellectuals and art critics who were uncertain as to whether these works were too vulgar and populist to be considered art.
The chain was sold off by E&O, in 1977 and then was acquired by the Pentos Group before Athena went into administration when it failed financially in 1995. Today, Athena survives as an e-commerce company under the brand name of Vivarti (with the byline "powered by Athena"), as well as a chain of seven stores,[specify] most of which have survived administration.