I WENT to bed on Thursday, June 23, thinking Bremain was more likely. Woke up to the chaos of Brexit. Depression sets in, the idea that Britain could become an isolated little island cut off from Europe. Sometimes, the blow comes from where you least expect it! In the meantime, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre’s ‘Metamorphosis’ Festival was beginning to gather the crowds in Athens (June 23-26). How apt the festival’s name was after all – because the world at the moment is truly witnessing a metamorphosis. Greece included, because on Friday night, when I went and visited this place that dreams are made of, I got a glimpse of a different Greece, or rather the true potential of Greece, what Greece is capable of – ‘excellence’.
So many cultural institutions at the moment are gearing up in Athens, ready to open their doors, to create a truly awesome cultural experience: the National Museum of Contemporary Art, the renovated National Gallery, the new Goulandris Museum of Contemporary Art in Athens, and the SNFCC (Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre). Next up? The transformation of the former airport site. They say Greece doesn’t have too much industry, well it certainly seems to have a growing cultural industry – and how beautiful is that? And culture is connected to tourism, which is connected to entertainment etc, all things we do well in Greece.
But as Dracopoulos (Co-President of the SNF), said in his talk with Renzo Piano on June 24, the SNFCC needs the support of the State, and the community. When a journalist (John Hadoulis), quite rightly asked him what will happen to the SNFCC when it gets handed over to the State, and if he was worried whether it will suffer the same fate as the Olympic venues, many of which are totally neglected, Dracopoulos answered that you can see the glass either half full or half empty. It’s up to each and every one of us to support the SNFCC. He then posed the question: ‘What are YOU going to do about it?’
I visited the SNFCC twice, Friday and Saturday. Why? Because it is so enchanting a place, so wonderfully designed, with such vision. I enjoyed the exhibition of Panayiotis Tetsis’ paintings, I walked the grounds, enjoyed the stunning views, and the concerts in the magnificent Mediterranean Park. I want to believe that it’s here to stay, and there is a brighter future for Greece. This is an example of what Greece could be. More of this, should be our aim. It takes money of course, lots of it. The SNFCC cost nearly 600 million euros. But it also takes a different mentality – a positive one. Team spirit, community support. The Greeks often have this mentality to sabotage the good people, the ones that do things right, rather than support them and follow in their footsteps. Is it jealousy? They are a jealous people. Hence the ‘evil eye’ custom. But that’s not going forward. That’s staying in the same miserable rut.
The Laurie Anderson concert was certainly a bit ‘weird’ for the crowds that had gathered there, but they were so enchanted by the whole experience, that they sat and listened. The SNFCC had cast its spell over everyone. The free water, sandwiches and icecreams no doubt helped too! Young and old gathered, allowed themselves to accept this new experience, and for a moment, forgot their problems, the ongoing crisis. They probably felt as Laurie Anderson had stated she felt: “We’re not really here right now, we’re some version of changes happening”.
And to think, that all this started as a simple drawing by architect Renzo Piano, on a paper napkin. Renzo had said: “I believe that beauty and excellence are based on simplicity”. Renzo’s dream was simple, he wanted this centre to embrace the community. Now it’s the turn of the community to embrace this wonderful gift that has been given to them.
- The exhibition of Tetsis’ paintings runs till July 31.
- See also my article in Athens Insider Magazine on the SNFCC for more info: http://www.insider-publications.com/snfcc-the-gift-of-culture/