THE EXHIBITION running these days at the Hellenic American Union, pays homage to the Athenian apartment block in a complex theoretical and artistic manner. Entitled simply as “Apartment Building”, the exhibition delves into this architectural structure’s strong social, aesthetic and emotional symbolism, its formal features but also the human element involved. In the last 100 years, the apartment block has spread through the urban landscape of Athens like a wildfire, dominating it all the more. Furthermore, it has certainly influenced the culture and behavior patterns of its people. This exhibition gives credit to this characteristic structure of Athenian urbanity, and all that it has offered to its society.
With paintings, sculptures, installations, photographs, maquettes and archival material, this exhibition has been expertly curated by Nikos Vatopoulos and Iris Kritikou, and comprises the works of 63 artists, spread out in the two exhibition halls of the Hellenic-American Union. A wide range of materials, techniques and approaches are used by the artists: From Alekos Fassianos’s angel builder perched on top of an apartment block, to George Rorris’s raw, realistic rendition of an apartment room with life model, from Io Angeli’s ‘Lockdown’ sketches in the apartment, to Kostas Papanikolaou’s beautiful balcony scene in egg tempera, where shady ladies hide under a bright orange balcony tent.
The forms of the apartment blocks lend themselves to geometrical abstraction, with all their windows, rectangles and squares, horizontal and vertical lines, and many of the artists have enjoyed exploring these formal qualities, while others stay focused on the human element, and the people that inhabit, or live around the concrete blocks that dominate Athens.
In his text for the exhibition, Nikos Vatopoulos describes the apartment building as “a typical feature of Greek urban space, it links together the integration paths of various different social groups, reflects the evolution of cities during the 20th century, manifests various scales and qualities in the built city fabric”. Iris Kritikou’s text for the exhibition describes her own fond memories of growing up in an apartment building in Exarcheia, where playing “pool” with her Barbie dolls on the balcony was later replaced with teenage parties.
Although life in an apartment block in Athens might have its downfalls, this exhibition certainly highlights that the right perspective and human relationships are what truly make the difference, wherever you live. And that Athenian apartment blocks do have their own aesthetic charm. They are not after all, the monstrocities of enormous council estates seen in other countries. They are smaller blocks, and more humane, with balconies where you can enjoy that Greek sunshine. So let’s hear it for the Athenian apartment block!
- Runs till Jan 31 at the Hellenic-American Union, 22 Massalias Street, Kolonaki. Open Mon-Fri 12.00-20.00. Saturday 10.00-14.00. Closed Sunday. Free entrance. For more info visit www.hau.gr
- This article has been written by artist/journalist Stella Sevastopoulos, who runs ‘Art Scene Athens’. You can check out her online art portfolio here