‘Poor But Sexy’? Art & Survival in Greece Today

May 31, 2015 - garden totes

Photo: Myriam Ben Salah

Athens is a enigmatic megalopolis that brings together, amid a petrify and a clay, some kind of European finished sophistication, a amiable Mediterranean softness, and a many anarchic third-world chaos. Resting on a unequivocally ethereal and unsafe balance, it has been, for some-more than 5 years now, low into what we understand as a “Crisis.” That word itself is now so bandied about that it is many lifeless of any estimable meaning: Treated like a JPEG picture or a hashtag, it is during best a godsend for headlines and some-more generally a cathartic opening for a rest of Europe, branch into a prosaic monotonous judgment some-more than a conductor of a formidable internal reality.

From retrogression to purgation measures and riots, Greece is being swept by a financial tumult that drags along a continual amicable and charitable washout. Usually a art universe is viewed as a arrange of fallback spot, where a breeze is softer and a waves are smooth. As a matter of fact, it is not anymore, a “poor yet sexy” parable is solemnly and certainly crumbling, withdrawal Greek people with not many some-more than their offbeat, smart dim amusement — substantially a final life buoy and an act of dignified insurgency to a stream and long-lasting situation. The benefaction emporium of a new Benaki Museum apparatus in a Gazi area of Athens is offering “Fuck crisis, Let’s dance” receptacle bags. Silver printed on a sailor-striped blue-and-white fabric, a pointer is both a self-deprecating illusion and a matter of a romanticized bias someone competence have from outward a country.

Angelo Plessas’s Mirage Machines.

Photo: Courtesy of The Breeder

The Blow Job Index …
Our initial revisit to Athens this year started on Feb 14, following an invitation and revisit spontaneous conversations with gourmet Dakis Joannou, an unequaled cornerstone of a Greek and general contemporary art stage and longtime partner in crime of one of a writers of this diary. The cab float from a city’s Elefthérios Venizélos International Airport was frequently interrupted by a motorist explaining in fact how to equivocate anti-government protesters streamer to Syntagma Square.

Immediately on a arrival, curator Nadja Argyropoulou took us true to a Dionysiac jubilee of Valentine’s Day and a low scrutiny of a rites of Greek Saturday nightlife. We started with a splash in a trailblazing Metaxourgeio neighborhood, that maintains a clever fashionable credit overdue to a pithy activities of drug dealers and prostitutes. Among a dinky brothels stands the Breeder, that is one of a many smart Greek galleries and an general art actor representing mostly immature Greek artists.

“We competence be branch into a Kunsthalle soon,” pronounced play Nadja Gerazouni, half in aspiring and half in jest, while she gave us a debate of a three-floor space (with a restaurant) where they were installing artist Angelo Plessas’s solo show. “No one is shopping in Athens anyway, so since bother?”

It wouldn’t be a usually time that we’d face this hectic pretentious insouciance as a pointer of despondency, kaleidoscopic with a frank will to keep things moving.

And a circuitously brothels didn’t seem to be doing many better. On a approach out of a Breeder, play and gallery owner Stathis Panagoulis took us for a brief scrutiny of these adjacent establishments (to that we dared to try for pristine monitoring and conscientiousness purposes). We were struck by a rival rates. Like a Big Mac Index used by economists to review standards of living, a blow-job rate can be utterly an fit spontaneous approach to magnitude purchasing energy parity: After all, like a Big Mac, it is accessible to a common selection in many countries with a unchanging fanciful price.

While watching, a organisation of organisation carrying red roses kept entering a small, lined-up pleasure houses; we motionless to skip a special Valentine’s transsexual musical that was a speak of a town. Instead, we went true to a ancestral blurb triangle area where a Callas Studio (an artistic bureau instituted by a brothers Lakis and Aris Ionas) was hosting a concert. The nervous throng was au rendez-vous in that tiny fourth-floor apartment, that incited into a smoke-filled artistic prohibited mark for a night. Some were awaiting a special coming by former Sonic Youth member Lee Ranaldo, who is essay a song for a new film of a Ionas brothers. Soon, all eyes were gazing upward: The Callas had orderly a rousing yet acquire organisation uncover where all a pieces were hung from a ceiling. “Hang’em High” featured works by Panagiotis Loukas, Nikos Kanarelis, Natasha Papadopoulou, and Tassos Vrettos, among other artists. The throng was an beguiling trifle of artists, curators, gallerinas, musicians, film directors, and art students (including members of a Documenta group scheming a 2017 book in Athens; Vassilis Zidianakis of Atopos; and Poka Yio of a Athens Biennale).

Fueled by a few two-euro beers and eager by a passionate vibe, we dragged artist Vassilis Karouk with us and a tiny fortuitous set off for a night of wiggling within a bustling streets and a packaged bars of a city, among masses of immature people inhabited by what we viewed to be a compulsive need to seize a day.

We eventually finished a night during Six D.O.G.S., a partnership of 4 bars that’s turn a smart hangout for Athens song aficionados.

Paola Palavidi’s “Common Knowledge,” during Qbox.

Photo: Myriam Ben Salah

The New Berlin?
In 2011, a New York
Times ran a story titled “Greece’s Big Debt Drama is a Muse for a Artists.” The thought was that there was a detonate of artistic activity in response to a inhabitant temperament crisis. Inexpensive vital and a laid-back lifestyle done Athens “artist friendly” and in stick position to bluster to take a “cool” esteem from an increasingly gentrified Berlin.

“The Greek art universe has turn many some-more active in a past few years,” says Elli Kanata from Elika Gallery. “Due to a predicament there is an titillate to create, to express, to collaborate, and to residence amicable issues,” as if a disturbance non-stop a whole new spectrum of opportunities and an titillate to invent artistic alternatives to a state of bankruptcy. (This under-girds a fable of a New York art stage in a 1970s as well, of course.)

And visiting galleries and art spaces, we couldn’t assistance yet notice a clever suggestion of partnership as good as a unequivocally fit bent to sustain bottom-up projects with no funding.

We forsaken by a up-and-coming Q Box gallery, located in a “Art Tower” of a Central Food Market, among a uninformed olive booths and a fish counters. It was hosting a solo uncover by immature artist Paola Palavidi. We wondered how such a young, energetic gallery ancillary especially rising artists could indeed survive. “I never counted on open money,” explained gallery owner Myrtia Nikolakopoulou. “My network abroad is unequivocally supportive.”

The fall of all a mechanisms support from a Greek supervision and a European Union has led to an conflict of non-hierarchical and self-organized art collectives, popping adult in mostly fleeting locations. “Nowadays, to see an art show, we don’t required have to revisit a gallery,” commented Panayiota Theofilatou and Tassos Papaioannou, founders of a winding Athens Zine Bibliothèque. “There are art shows everywhere, from artists’ houses or studios to coffee shops and open spaces. Greek art liberated itself.”

“An engaging double bulimia can be observed,” Argyropoulou noted. “Lots of art and lots of food-related new spaces everywhere. Few will substantially survive.”

Actually, several spaces we’d been formulation to revisit had already sealed their doors.

“Some energetic art galleries like Gazon Rouge, a Appartment, AMP, Els Hannape Underground, Xippas Athens — to name a few — sealed down, altered form, or altered elsewhere,” pronounced Christina Androulidaki, who owns CAN gallery, where we visited a Konstanstinos Ladianos solo show.

Helena Papadopoulos over a gallery-turned-Kunsthalle anticipation as she sealed her Melas Papadopoulos Gallery and founded Radio Athènes, a nonprofit classification charity exhibitions, talks, and lectures in several pop-up locations she manages to find. We saw Kostas Sahpazis’s pleasing solo show, that she orderly in a former bureau space of a neo-classical building on Apollonos Street in Plaka. Papadopoulos seems to be carrying fun: She has some-more leisure and a many clearer will to examination yet a blurb vigour of a correct gallery.

Painting by Panayiotis Loukas, featuring artist Jannis Varelas.

Photo: Myriam Ben Salah

Family Matters
These nonprofit initiatives aren’t usually a fallback resolution to a blurb meltdown. Some were combined from blemish by collectives of artists, curators, and several committed art players, and arose like an stretched chronicle of a Greek family. They’re a kind of primary dungeon of solidarity, origination adult for a government’s deficiencies, that in any box is a unequivocally ancient separate (didn’t Sophocles lift that family contra state enmity with
Antigone already?).

Families are fundamentally about eating food, too. We attended a eye-opening and copious advantage cooking co-organized by dual nonprofit organizations: State of Concept, a nonprofit gallery founded by Iliana Fokianaki, and 3 137, an artist-run space combined by a younger-than-Jesus contingent of artists Paki Vlassopoulou, Chrysanthi Koumianaki, and Kosmas Nikolaou. The dinner, described in a invitation as a “paradoxical rite celebrating carnal lust and a subdivision from death,” enclosed among a sponsors was a internal wake services company.

Artist Maro Michalakakos recognised a celebration as her possess wake and displayed a smear chronicle of herself full of tasty and blasphemous Koliva (a protocol food done of boiled wheat, almonds, belligerent walnuts, cinnamon, sugar, pomegranate, and other sweetnesses), used exclusively during funerals and commemorative services. The 20-euros menu enclosed bread baked by one of a curators, sautéed cuttlefish prepared by one artist’s mother, homemade lemonade, and a dessert as categorically passionate as mouthwatering offering by fritter cook Stelios Parliaros. Suffice it to say, a conditions had zero to do with a common one-month-rent dear and somewhat lifeless institutional advantage dinners. Despite a wake theme, a celebration felt some-more like a friendly marriage with tighten friends, family, and tasty homemade celebration favors.

As one competence imagine, these grassroots fund-raising extravaganzas are not sufficient to keep a business afloat. The Greek art universe also depends on a Godfathers, as all families do. They mostly discreetly seem underneath brief elliptical names like “NEON,” “ONASSIS,” or “NIARCHOS” yet are indeed led by absolute and committed outsize collectors or families who sojourn somehow defence to a flailing economy. Notwithstanding a many differences between these several benefactors, as good as their general standing, a internal art stage is their godchild. They take a consummate seductiveness in a upbringing and development, station during a prepared should anything occur to a parental figure of a State.

Dakis Joannou’s Deste Foundation is distinguished among them. Someone once wrote that “Joannou’s distinctiveness stands in a fact that he doesn’t collect art to agree his ego or since it’s a good investment. He does it for fun, and takes it seriously.” He does take it seriously: Not usually does he support artists by his possess private collecting, yet he also takes partial in gripping Athens’s institutions invigorated during this time of “crisis.” Deste is initiating a multifaceted module with a Cycladic Art Museum and a Benaki Museum this summer. Kim Gordon’s muster will open during a Benaki’s categorical building, while Roberto Cuoghi will seat down during a new Pireos Street apparatus (with Ametria), showcasing works and objects from a abounding Benaki collection.

The apparatus will also horde a Family Business gallery (now closed, yet before in West Chelsea), that will underline a array of rotating exhibitions generated by an open-call system. Meanwhile, Nikos Navridis will benefaction “Breath” during a Art Athina Fair, an designation desirous by Samuel Beckett’s 1969 play of a same name.

The Deste esteem nominees will also vaunt during a Cycladic, stability a foundation’s process of ancillary and compelling contemporary art in Greece. The esteem aims to brand and showcase a work of an rising era of contemporary Greek artists who are actively redefining a parameters of informative prolongation and contributing to new issues in a artistic discourse.

Paola Palavidi in her studio.

Photo: Courtesy of Q Box Gallery

The Art of a Crisis
One of a prize’s nominees, Socratis Socratou, was display while we were in town:
“Six Open Gates and a Closed One” consisted of new cast-bronze sculptures referring to a National Garden in Athens — inlet ordered, transplanted, and delimited. The garden has, for Socratous, domestic parallels: It is an allegorical microcosm of stream Athenian multitude — internal Greeks vital alongside new unfamiliar migrants. Depending on one’s indicate of view, this new (bio)diversity can be seen as an enriching component of multiculturalism, modernity, and swell or as an mercantile and informative threat.

Socratou wasn’t a usually one attempting to tackle, with a well-spoken subtlety, a Greek situation. Kostas Sahpazis during Radio Athènes presented visually clever sculptures done of leather, resin, plastic, rubber, and wires among other hoary industrial materials, and worked on a origination of forms done adult of totally unstable, changing parts, hold together by a frail balance. On a opposite and nonetheless together note, Pantelis Chandris displayed ethereal Mylar-foil installations during Elika Gallery, emphasizing a impulse of fluctuation of a tellurian condition.

Without descending into some cliché of a arrange of “compelled arte povera,” one can’t assistance yet consternation about a existence of an “art of crisis.”

“I cruise art should always be ‘of crisis,’” argued Nadja Argyropoulou, “when a tag such as this pops up, afterwards we know we are in genuine trouble.”

But others are discerning to explain it: “I could cruise any artist who is active in Athens during this duration as a deputy of a art of crisis,” says Sahpazis. “This is a fight conditions yet bombing! It would be unthinkable for artists not to respond to a situation,” says Roupen Kalfayan, executive of a Athens- and Thessaloniki-based Kalfayan Galleries.

Consciously or not, artists are indeed appropriating a manifest signs of a outbreak. “It would be engaging to brand a characteristics of this,” continued Sahpazis, “beyond any goal of any to demonstrate it or daydream it consciously.”

Some works done BC (before crisis) also demeanour opposite within a stream context. We visited Eftihis Patsourakis’s studio and, yet we knew already his Headless family mural series, some nostalgia secretly and suddenly overran a perceptions of it now. Patsourakis paintings are a time game: They reintroduce temporality into lost family snapshots taken in a ’70s and ’80s. Besides a works themselves, a mercantile downturns altered a conditions of production, and they no longer feel like they’re associated to any arrange of marketplace bubble.

“The predicament supposing a good event to concentration on a reduction blurb and some-more initial program” combined Elli Kanata. The diminution of blurb vigour seems to have brought some concentration in artistic practices for a reduction commodified and some-more socially intent physique of work kaleidoscopic with a clarity of urgency.

Artist Maro Michalakakos during a State of Concept and 3 137 advantage dinner, performing Kiss Me Like You ‘ll Never Kiss Me Again.

Photo: Myriam Ben Salah

No Country for Young Men
Argyropoulou, who had curated “Hell As Pavilion” during a Palais de Tokyo in Paris behind in 2013, touches indeed on a underside of a romanticized expectancy of an artistic shelter as partial of an increasingly dangerous “folklore of disaster.” “Having done a choice to be formed in Athens, we am many incompetent to transport and investigate by now. Unfortunately, this has turn a blunt normal of less. Exhibitions are unequivocally tough to make, many artists onslaught to survive, and, misfortune of all, life is apropos unfit for many of a people around. Anything regretful we will hear about it will come from people who are not unequivocally formed in Greece.”

In 2014, Greek curator Katerina Gregos orderly a uncover patrician “No Country for Young Men” during a Bozar Museum of Brussels. The title, that plays on Joel and Ethan Cohen’s film No Country for Old Men (2007) and a book by Cormac McCarthy of a same name, evokes a adverse conditions for immature people in Greece currently and grasps both a catastrophic repercussions of a hardship and a artistic insurgency it produced. The clarity of investigation a predicament brought doesn’t concede artists to make a living. “The internal marketplace has collapsed and a infancy of mid-level collectors has disappeared,” remarkable Roupen Kalfayan, fasten a ranks of a crisis-weary.

A few weeks after a outing to Athens, we met artist Maria Papadimitriou in front of a Greek Pavilion during a Venice Biennale, where she re-created a tiny taxidermy emporium from a executive Greek city of Volos. “The Greeks are idiots — this is my opinion,” she started in a pretentious provocation. “We are vital a dignified play … When we have no thought about a future, we also forget about a past.”

Papadimitriou wasn’t unequivocally in a mood for dancing a predicament away. “There is a pleasing and roughly untranslatable Greek word that is distant improved to report a mood,” settled Argyropoulou. “Harmolypi, roughly definition ‘mournful joy.’”

In 2004, all eyes were on Greece for a Olympic Games. The whole universe had hopes and wished for damaged annals and inhabitant performances. Today’s financial and domestic conditions dragged another gaze, full of a will to rethink a destiny of a nation and retreat a cataclysmic financial performances. As an introduction for his uncover “Hippias Minor” during Deste Project Space this summer in Hydra, Paul Chan uses a pleasing incantation: “A exhale that unites contraries is what one is always looking for.” It is really what Greece is looking for. Might art perform a wish.  

Dakis Joannou, with a record by cocktail thespian Dakis.

Photo: Myriam Ben Salah

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