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Art talks: From Guerrilla Girls to Pussy Riot and beyond

How Many Women Artists Had One-Person Exhibitions In NYC Art Museums Last Year? 1985 by Guerrilla Girls
MARCH HAS certainly started with artistic discourse, as seen with the Guerrilla Girl’s talk at the Onassis Cultural Centre on Thursday, March 9. (But it continues with plenty more, as you will read about later on). But first up, let’s do a quick resume of some of the key aspects of the Guerrilla Girls’ event:
This group of feminist art activists (who for 31 years now have been causing havoc in the art world, were represented by two of its members at the Onassis Cultural Centre on March 9. Firstly, they handed out bananas to the public, and then, with their guerrilla masks intact, they spoke about the plight of women artists (mostly), and their own fight since 1985 to set the balance straight in terms of gender and race inequality.
They also explained their history: Over 55 people have been ‘guerrilla girls’ since the mid-eighties (transsexuals too), from around the globe. For many years they were ignored by critics and art institutions, however, things have changed in recent years: in 2005, they were invited to participate in the Venice Biennale, and last year, on their 30th anniversary, Minneapolis’s Walker Art Centre paid tribute to them via a show. On another note however, their antics at last year’s Frieze Art Fair in London did not go down too well, and they were asked to stop handing out their material (stickers/leaflets) to the public. And so, their attempts to expose the ‘wicked ways’ of the art market, were stalled…

guerillagirls3

So, what are those ‘wicked ways’ exactly? According to the Guerrilla Girls, the top 1% of the art world (i.e. the really rich, e.g. collectors), controls the art market, museums and even the art world in general. Collectors are the ones that are pulling the strings, because they are on the boards of the most prestigious museums around the world, and so they sway over them too, in a sense. For example, they promote certain artists, which are of course also in their private collections. Hence the value of their collections rises. Furthermore, the art world is pretty dirty, in terms of money laundering and also because it is among the biggest black markets. Looted art works can fetch a pretty penny. Furthermore, the trend for collectors to create their own private museums is growing, seeing as this way they can both influence the art market even more, but also benefit from tax cuts.
Yet the Guerrilla Girls are especially peeved by the way collectors and art institutions pay millions for art works, but pay their employees very meagre wages. The issue of volunteer work was also brought up later in the question/answer session, and how that is also pure exploitation.
Now, back to women: According to a recent survey by the Guerrilla Girls, only 20% of the shows at top galleries in NYC were by women artists, and only 2% of museums have over 40% of women artists’ works on display. They joked also about how one person in Greece said to them that it wasn’t a matter of gender, but a matter of talent, as to why less women’s art gets into museums… (and I would add however that perhaps artistic talent (particularly in past centuries), has been something that mostly men have been given the opportunity to explore to its fullest… seeing as in the past, women weren’t even allowed in art schools). On a brighter note, the Guerrilla Girls did point out an interesting irony here in Greece: female art students outweigh male art students these days, but there are hardly any female art professors at the art schools.
Another interesting little project of the Guerrilla Girls, was their ‘Complaints Department’ which they set up in October of 2016, at the Tate Modern. They suggested whether the Greeks were interested in something of the sort being set up here. Yes Guerrilla Girls, please do, although you might be inundated by the response!

More art talks in March…
Art talks have been gaining popularity, and they are a good way of getting more insight into art and the art world. If you are interested in listening in on an artistic discourse, here are some more options available in March:

• Artist Glenn Ligon and fashion designer Duro Olowu join forces at the Museum of Cycladic Art, on March 16, where they will be talking about how Olowu curated Ligon’s show entitled ‘Making and Unmaking’ at the Camden Arts Centre (which won rave revues). Olowu (one of Michelle Obama’s favourite designers), has a great love of art, and close ties with artists, something which also influences his designs. The talk will be in English. (7pm at the Museum of Cycladic Art (4 Neofytou Douka St, tel 210-7228321). Tickets at 5 euros, must be booked online. Proceeds go towards funding the museum’s next contemporary art exhibition.)

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• Next up, is Pussy Riot – Russia’s answer to the Guerrilla Girls, at the Onassis Cultural Centre, on March 24, 7pm. Members of this punk band/art collective were sentenced to prison after their performance “Punk Prayer” in Moscow’s cathedral. Their unjust sentence attracted the attention of celebrities and politicians from around the world, who spoke up for them – including even Barack Obama. They still continue to cause havoc with their punk revolution, and their latest Trump-inspired critique ‘Make America Great’, was released in October last year. Entrance is free, but online reservation is required. (for more info, go to http://www.sgt.gr). The talk will be in English (with Greek translation available).

pussyriot

• And while the Guerrilla Girls were talking about their political art on March 9, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre kicked off a three-part series of free lectures on the history of photography, starting from 1839, when it was invented. If you’re interested in finding out more about the ‘mechanical eye’ and its main exponents, then why not catch the next two talks on Thursday afternoons (6.30-8.30, on 16th and 23rd of March).

• Talks and debates are also very much part of Documenta 14, which will be presenting its 3rd ‘Synantisi’, this time focusing on the performance legacies of 1982, and documenta 7, but also how this period has been interpreted and represented in art history and museums. Curators Hendrik Folkerts (of documenta 14) and Eirini Papakonstantinou (of Thessaloniki’s State Museum of Contemporary Art), will be speaking at the Rex Theatre’s Experimental Stage (Panepistimiou 48). The talk will be in English and Greek, with translations in both languages available.

• Within the context of the exhibition ‘Past Forward: The past as an excuse for new narrations of the present’, ISET (Contemporary Greek Art Institute), has also organised a series of lectures, which continue on March 15, with a talk on the history of Greek art institutions, to be conducted by three speakers: Donysis Kapsalis (Director of the National Bank of Greece’s Cultural Institution), Katerina Koskina (art historian/museologist and Director of the National Museum of Contemporary Art) and Syrago Tsiara (art historian at the Contemporary Art Centre of Thessaloniki’s State Museum of Contemporary Art). The talk will be in Greek. The event takes place at ISET (9a Valaoritou St, tel 210- 361-6165), at 6.30.

pantelias

• Also: On March 11 at noon, artist Miltos Pantelias will be giving a guided tour around his exhibition at the Evripides Gallery in Kolonaki (10 Heraklitou St); the exhibition runs till March 24. On March 12, at 12.30, National Gallery curator Lina Tsikouta-Deimezi will offer visitors a guided tour around the exhibition of works by Antonis Staveris, at the Sotiris Felios Collection (16 Fokionos Negri St). The exhibition runs till March 26.

antonisstaveris

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