Art 07-18-2004 16:44

The artistic roadmap of Athens is constantly being updated with new art venues, while a series of important exhibitions have placed Athens on the agenda of art travellers worldwide, and the artistic production of Greece is being dynamically represented at international events. The city's artistic scene is rapidly overcoming the introverted nature of an artistic suburb and narrowing the gap that divides it from the art metropolis of the world.

Grand exhibitions which in themselves justify an art trip to our city, an increasingly dynamic presence of Greek artists at international Biennale festivals and fairs, new exhibition halls, galleries and art shops. The art world of Athens is slowly but steadily abandoning its introverted past and becoming more and more welcoming to artistic trends that reach the halls of Athens more rapidly and effectively than ever before. It is shaping a new, well-informed public which, after the cinema and theatre, is now also discovering art galleries.

"Outlook", the largest modern art exhibition ever presented in Greece, which dynamically started off the artistic season in pre-Olympic Athens, along with the great exhibitions being prepared by the National Gallery and the National Museum of Contemporary Art for the summer of 2004, aspire to attract art lovers from around the globe to visit Athens. The very important Greek participations at international Biennale festivals (recent examples: the Greek stand in Venice and the participations of Maria Papadimitriou in Sao Paolo, Dimitra Vamiali in the Arab Emirates, Lina Theodorou and Diana Mangania in Constantinople), as well as the awaited presence of Greek modern art within the framework of the international ARCO fair in Madrid in February 2004 (where Greece is the guest country this year) underline the active role that the art of Athens is now playing on an international level. Meanwhile, the artistic roadmap of the city is being redesigned and many new art halls, galleries and art shops are being added to its pages.

The National Gallery, the flagship of the city's visual arts scene, dedicated to the so-called Grand Masters (from Renaissance times to the early 20th century), is expected to arouse our interest once again with its exhibition entitled "Six European sculptors converse with man" (June-September 2004), that will include works by Rodin, Bourdelle, Maillor, Brancusi, Giacometti and Moore. And in its new premises in Goudi, the National Sculpture Gallery will host a retrospective exhibition of works by the famous modernist sculptor Henry Moore, that will also be opening in the summer of 2004. As we move towards contemporary artistic production, we hand over the reins to the National Museum of Contemporary Art, which has been working hard since its establishment (in 2000) to ensure that contemporary art will enjoy the recognition it deserves in our country and will be made accessible to the wider public. This year, the museum has temporarily moved from the old Fix factory, whose renovation will be completed in 2006 transforming it into a modern museum with a shop, cafe and multiple exhibition halls. The new halls at the Megaron Mousikis, will house the exhibitions of the National Museum of Contemporary Art while the Fix factory remains closed. Along with the new multipurpose venue at the Benaki Museum on Pireos street which hosted the "Outlook" exhibition, these two art venues are now being added to the already existing large exhibition halls of Athens, such as The Factory ASFA (Athens School of Fine Arts) in Renti and Technopolis owned by the Municipality of Athens in Gazi.

The Psyrri area and the historical centre at large reconfirm their reputation as the most dynamic art district in the city. New galleries pop up like mushrooms each year (Lab Art Projects, Gazon Rouge and Xippas are the latest arrivals), Venetian Bellini cocktails are replacing cheap wine and the opening nights are one big party. Pakistani video clubs, squares with Byzantine churches, flower shops, colourful stalls, abandoned lofts, new trendy restaurants and bars create the ideal setting for an arty outing. The galleries are becoming more efficient with every passing year, by organizing various festive events (e.g. joint openings or gallery-hopping till midnight), while two brand new art maps have just been published to make your 鈥 "gallery-hopping" easier. At the same time, non-profit making art spaces like Stathmos Alfa and Oxymoro in Psyrri are working hard to cover a major void in the city, which is the absence of public institutions that provide funding and house art projects, like for example the ICA (Institute of Contemporary Art) in London. And while the galleries in Psyrri invite DJs to their opening night and hand out flyers instead of invitations, the more traditional artistic community of Kolonaki continues to speak about "vernissage", meets Panagiotis Tetsis at the open market on Xenokratous street each Friday on its way to the galleries in Dexameni, and waits anxiously for Moralis to exhibit his new artwork at Gallery Zoumpoulaki. Young "art-lovers" do not settle with "gallery-hopping" only, but also add to their wardrobe clothes and accessories made by new artists bought from the brand new art shops in Psyrri and Kolonaki, nibble finger food while gazing at artwork on the walls of Mommy and 365 Art Project and buy their presents from Cheap Art. The Cosmos restaurant in DESTE and, of course, the new ultra modern "48" restaurant in the Ileana Tounta gallery express a recent trend for quality dining in art venues - a dominant trend for many years abroad which sets the example for creating new restaurants in the city's museums.

The need for modern art to escape the limited confines of a "white cube" in the form of a modern gallery and meet the public, is often expressed in public areas of the city, which still has much road to cover however, since it remains influenced by an air of conservatism as regards contemporary art, despite the fact that it could be characterized as a living open-air museum of antiquities. Thus, the famous "Dromeas" by Varotsos continues to pant alone amongst statues of army generals. Opposite "Dromeas", the engravings by Giannis Moralis on the Hilton facade are a point of reference for the city's modern artistic persona. A similar scene awaits us a little further up, on Kifisias avenue near Neo Psychiko, where we find the "Umbrellas" by Giorgos Zongolopoulos, a sculptor who has made a great contribution in smartening up the public areas of Athens. Finally, we hope that initiatives such as the e-fos festival 2003, which for a short while transformed the walls of 18 city buildings into outdoor photo-galleries by presenting the work of several young photographers, will be the starting point for new, inspired - albeit temporary - interventions to the city.

Source:The official website of the ATHENS 2004 Olympic and Paralympic Games


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