ART ATHINA has certainly moved around a lot over the years since its first fair in 1993: From the Hellexpo exhibition space on Kifissias Avenue, to the TaeKwonDo stadium in Faliron, the Athens Conservatoire and even the former airport at the Ellinikon, whilst also going virtual during covid. Yet the Zappeion Megaron has certainly been the most suitable of venues for this event, and it is there that it has returned to this year, for a very grand art fair indeed, gathering 80 galleries. Bigger and better, with a stronger international vibe, this year’s Art Athina, which runs September 16-19 is a place where you can get a picture of the main gallery protagonists of the Greek art scene under one roof, plus the works of the artists they represent, and also get to know the work of many more artists from around the world. This year, galleries from another 15 countries are included: from London to Edinburgh, Ukraine to Georgia, Turin to Los Angeles, Copenhagen to Paris, to name a few of the countries and cities it attracted.
Greece has witnessed hard times over its recent history, with its economic crisis only to be followed with the covid crisis and now another more widespread European crisis… So, one would think that art is the last thing that people would buy here. Yet, the sales for some galleries went well, especially for the London gallery Ginny on Frederick, which took part for the first time. This young gallery (1-year old), showed the work of Jack O’Brien and Charlotte Edey. The latter, found interesting carved wooden ‘frames’ (basically old frames used for icons, called ‘iconostasis’ in Greek), that she had found and bought at the Monastiraki Flea market at Avissinias Square, and at The Scavenger’s Flea Market in Eleonas. She then recontextualized these found objects by presenting them as windows to imagined landscapes, by placing within them her own rather abstract artistic scenes. The gallery was pleased to announce that the entire series of her works were sold at Art Athina. So yes, the crisis is ongoing, but not an obstacle to some dedicated art believers.
It is interesting to see how each gallery sets about showing its art in each of the booths. For example, the Rebecca Camhi Gallery turned its booth into something a lot more colourful, by adding patterned traditional rugs on the floor. On its walls the works of Konstantin Kakanias, whose designs also feature on a Greek-theme-inspired Christian Louboutin range, add some cutting humour. The Blender Gallery’s booth was also striking, with its aim to create an interactive viewing space, combing colourful ceramics with a virtual exhibition and NFTs.
In terms of art, there is something for everyone, plus plenty of the contemporary! Check out Caroline Larsen’s huge colourful flowers, made with paint straight out of the tube, to an image of Sponge Bob made out of sponges, the map of the world made out of plastic bags (both by Iakovos Volkov). Art made out of tobacco leaves (by former dean of the Athens School of Fine Arts, Panos Charalambous), and art made out of magnets (by Takis), or even lightning (by Kostis), also feature. The myth of Leda and the swan gets a contemporary reworking in blue biro by Alex Psychoulis, while artist/poet Maria Stamati’s mixed-media works inform us that the path of decision isn’t about division, but about understanding. The delicate, sublime works of Sotiris Sorongas depict the decaying ‘bodies’ of old wooden boats (‘kayikia’ as they are called in Greek), while the works of Nikos Mikroulis turn watch mechanisms into art. And these are just a few of the myriads of art forms you will encounter at Art Athina, that present how the roads of creativity are boundless.
The parallel programmes are also interesting, including talks, kids workshops etc. For the first time, an artist’s prize was given, the winner of which was announced on September 18. Giorgos Gerontidis, with his work ‘The way we learn about animal species’, was the first winner of this prize. For more info, go to the Art Athina site.
Art Athina is constantly broadening its horizons, including a design pavilion, an artists residency. It is organized by the Panhellenic Galleries Association, whose president is Yianna Grammatopoulou. Under the aegis of the President of Greece, Katerina Sakellaropoulou.
Art Athina runs September 16-19 at Zappeion Megaron. The artistic director of Art Athina is Stamatia Dimitrakopoulou. Open 12-9pm. Tickets at 10 or 7 euros.
- ‘Art Scene Athens’ is written and run by artist/journalist Stella Sevastopoulos. You can check out her art here.