Flash Art


David Elliott talks about the 4th Moscow International Biennale for Young Art
Tatiana Martyanova
This Is Cannibal Island Now
Lodovico Pignatti Morano
Gary Indiana
Monir is always the answer
Maurizio Bortolotti
The remarklable journey of Iranian artist Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian, a pioneer in contemporay Middle Eastern art
Hou Hanru
Helena Kontova
Mary Margaret Rinebold
Articles archive

Focus Greece





Athens, 1974. Lives and works in Athens.

On practicing the art of object making I excelled in various highly sophisticated and utterly useless tasks such us transferring a mural onto a sheet of

masking tape, carving wood with a paper cutter or balancing a cardboard tower. Each skill has been envisioned and mastered for the merit of the particular piece and is of no use otherwise. I bring each new piece the hint of an extraordinary code under construction to articulate an ordinary desire. The

desire is voiced in a tongue which is a mirror image

of the desire itself and is redeemed.

(Dora Economou)

Represented by: Loraini Alimantiri/gazonrouge, Athens.

Image: Corrections, 2007. B&W print, dimensions variable. Courtesy the artist and Loraini Alimantiri/gazonrouge, Athens.





Voltnoi Brege (Athens, 1972), Mr. Comfort (Athens, 1966), Evgeniou (Athens, 1971). They live and work in Athens.

The Erasers’ work is based on the integration of various seemingly diverse elements such as live cinema, improvised music, live performance art, the

Internet, objects and audio installations. These materials are incorporated into each of the Erasers’ performances, installations, urban interventions and

online works, with the goal of creating an overall experience, a new ‘open’work in which the audience can be immersed and yet have the freedom of expression and interpretation. The combination of these diverse elements is based on the Erasers’s search for a new audio-visual language. (The Erasers)

No gallery representation.

Image: www.charlessaatchi.org, 2007. Website.





Athens, 1976. Lives and works in Athens.

Stelios Faitakis is not a religious fanatic, but his work is directly associated with religious tradition. His representational painting and its figures are inspired by Byzantine icons, Japanese and Tibetan tradition and Persian

miniatures. He also admires the visual universe of Pieter Bruegel, Goya’s prints and black paintings, Gustav Klimt, Mexican monumental painting and the medieval German painting tradition.

(Patricia Giannopoulou)

Represented by: The Breeder, Athens.

Image: Not The One, 2007. Oil on canvas, 120 x 80 cm. Courtesy The Breeder, Athens.





Athens, 1972. Lives and works in Athens.

Dimitris Foutris started as a painter, developing a keen interest in new media appropriation and application to traditional media, like methods of contemporary digital image and data processing. He integrates the visual language from different cultural areas, like gothic and heavy metal pop

culture, using multimedia installation and performances. His work plays with the communicative layer of traditional notions of art and contemporary,

customized visual language. (Atnonis Pittas & Alexandra Landre)

Represented by: Ileana Tounta, Athens.

Image: Possible stage for a heavy metal solo guitar performance (after mortician’s obliteration), 2005. Installation view at Deste Foundation, 2005. Courtesy the artist and Ileana Tounta, Athens.






Trikala, Greece, 1973. Lives and works in Athens.

I am creating my own mythology. Every new element, imported into this world, adds a new piece to the endless puzzle of this mythology. The ‘realistic’ space of the studio provides me with enough room for the realization of my

projects — from the most modest to the most megalomaniacal. Narrative, the source of the image and the aspect of space, will continue to be the main tools sustaining my method. (Maurice Ganis)

No gallery representation.

Image: Windows, 2007. Oil on canvas, 60 x 70 cm.





Athens, 1973. Lives and works in Athens.

Vasso Gavaisse creates geometric works from paper, with perfect shapes repeated in various sizes and developed from the idea of the perfect solid. The particularity of her technique is based on the adherence of a metallic, colored film that reflects light and the surrounding space and which enhances the impression of movement. The manner with which she cuts and bends her material creates a solid surface that gives a static effect to the works. This process permits her to define and control the final form, reducing the element of chance to the reflection of the light.

(Gallery artist’s statement)

Represented by: The Breeder, Athens.

Image: (from left to right) Lucy and The Sky, Kindergarden, Hours, 2006. Metallic paper, 135 x 97 cm each. Courtesy The Breeder, Athens.





Athens, 1972. Lives and works in Athens.

For the past two years I realized a two-part project called “Without My Own Vehicle,” a long journey from Athens to Auckland through Turkey, Iran,

Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Australia. As I travel I create images, usually the photos I take and turn into cards; I collect

small observations, music, writings, ephemeral items and send them daily through the post to a selected group of individuals, who become virtual

participants to this journey.

(Alexandros Georgiou)

Represented by: Eleni Koroneou, Athens; Dodo Gallery, Thessaloniki.

Image: Kids with McDonald Clown Mask, 2007. Manipulated image on paper, 9 x 13 cm. Courtesy Eleni Koroneou, Athens.




Korinthos, Greece, 1969. Lives and works in Athens.

Vangelis Gokas’s hazy and dreamlike landscapes clearly derive from the European romantic tradition of landscape painting, in particular, as the artist himself acknowledges, from Caspar David Friedrich’s paintings; and yet, it also seems that another sort of nature — more enigmatic, definitely artificial, probably of a hyper-local and universal tinge — runs though these landscapes. (Christopher Marinos)

Represented by: Batagianni Gallery, Athens; TinT gallery, Thessaloniki.

Image: After Claude Lorrain, 2007. Oil on canvas, 210 x 195 cm. Courtesy the artist.





Lakis Ionas (Athens, 1974) and Aris Ionas (Athens, 1975). They live and work in Athens. A playful assault on the desire for an authentic life occurs in the performance and mixed-media of the duo Lakis and Aris Ionas, and their glamorously inept two-man rock band The Callas. The Callas create an entire aesthetic universe from a life based on DIY hedonism and the self-fulfilling conviction that if you want to become a rock-star-superhero simply by acting like one and wearing a superman outfit, you can; however shoddy your stage props, and however shaky your musical skills! (JJ Charlesworth)

No gallery representation.

Image: Oh Shut Up! Oh! Fuck Off! I Love You! (detail), 2007. Performance (featuring The Callasettes) and installation. Courtesy the artists.





Limassol, Cyprus, 1967. Lives and works in Athens.

Following a painstaking, insistent and often painful process of struggling with the local authorities and the UN’s bureaucracy, the “Social Gym” project managed to dismantle three parts of the dividing wall in Cyprus in order to transfer the barricade barrels (from which the wall is built) to the 27th São Paulo Biennial. Moreover, a group of volunteer soldiers were convinced to participate in the project. Altering their militaristic role, the soldiers shifted their duty of protecting/guarding the wall by dismantling it. Subsequently, another group of Brazilian soldiers in São Paolo received the barrels in order to set them inside Niemeyer’s building. (Vassilika Sarilaki)

No gallery representation.

Image: Carnival Pause, 2006. Installation view at 27th São Paulo Biennial. Courtesy the artist.






Athens, 1966. Lives and works in Paris.

My research concentrates on the creation of a psychological universe made up of fragile, tense and humorous relationships. This dimension relies on

the conjuncture of heads and various elements that must remain enigmatic, like traces that relate to floral patterns, spherical shapes or electric wire.

These heads represent a familiar and strange psychological state that I try to emphasize via the cohabitation of shapes which oppose certain elements like interior and exterior, lightness and weight, seriousness and the comic, acuteness and tenderness.

(Katerina Christidi)

Represented by: Ileana Tounta, Athens.

Image: Untitled, 2007. Charcoal on canvas, 210 x 280 cm.






Athens, 1977. Lives and works in Athens.

On its vast painterly surface four intertwined scenarios unfold, created by sixty wooden panels covered with colored wax. All together, Polar Aurora, Vortloop, Arkadian and Cosmic Debris have the power to effortlessly draw us inside this multi-dimensional virtual topos, constructed of spatial arrangements in skewed geometry. An intriguing exchange of loops, vortexes, colors and built-in narratives are organized in a manner not dissimilar to flat-screen monitors, and thus creating an allover spatial impression. (Gallery artist’s statement)

Represented by: The Breeder, Athens.

Image:Wave Optics, 2007. Wall painting, 360 x 600 cm. Courtesy The Breeder, Athens.






Thessaloniki, Greece, 1967. Lives and works in Berlin.

Christina Dimitriadis uses photography to articulate a personal expression of space, one that is largely autobiographical and based on intimate relationships. Her quiet yet highly poised and charged compositions focus mostly on private, domestic areas, examining the ties that bind us to those closest to us, and asking how we occupy our most intimate and familiar spaces. In addition, the possible playing out of different family relationships she hints at, and the feelings of belonging or being out of place in one’s own environment, are questions that resonate for each and every one of us.

(Katerina Gregos)

Represented by: Eleni Koroneou, Athens.

Image: I remember All of You, 2006. Exhibition view at Kanazawa Citizen’s Art Center, Japan.





Athens, 1979. Lives and works in Athens.

Through structures with anthropomorphic, volatile and constructional characteristics, Anastasia Douka creates objects that are ‘vehicles’ to an intermediate space. Her archaeology is not time or space specific. She often

borrows and uses elements of different civilizations without reservation. At the same time, her work is full of basic elements that can now be considered universal, for example her most recent preoccupation with basic shapes, such as the equilateral triangle in an attempt to speak about equilibrium and basic knowledge. (Gallery artist’s statement)

Represented by: Loraini Alimantiri/gazonrouge, Athens.

Image: Hands for Eyes, 2006. Cardboard, 120 x 120 cm. Courtesy Loraini Alimantiri/gazonrouge, Athens.


It’s not often that Greece finds itself on the main stage of contemporary art. Nor does it often happen that two international biennials of contemporary art open around

the same time in a country that has never had any major international biennials.

With this Focus Greece Flash Art seeks to discover who the protagonists are of such a complex, emerging scene, which has finally decided to take the main stage. This issue’s Focus Greece starts with Mario Garcia Torres, who, in an interview with Martijn van Nieuwenhuyzen, tells us about his collaboration with the local collective

Locus Athens, inspired by Martin Kippenberger’s MOMAS in Syros. In her introduction text to Focus Greece, Katerina Gregos gives us an overview of the

realities that constitute the ‘contemporary art system’ in Greece a ‘problematic’

country, given its cultural legacy and its geographical position between the

Mediterranean Sea and the Balkans. In an interview with Vangelis Vlahos, Christopher Marinos presents the promising young Greek artist. Also, in another text on Dakis Joannou, Marinos describes the activity of the great collector, going on to list the people and events that have brought contemporary art to Greece, through ‘cult’ shows and Joannou’s collection, one of the most important in the world.

For Flash Art, Marina Fokidis interviews the ‘hottest’ protagonists of the local,

contemporary art scene: curators, critics, artists and collectors give their views on the

state of contemporary art in the country. As usual in Flash Art Focuses, the Artists

Dictionary completes this survey and presents a new upcoming generation of

45 young artists working with video, installation, painting, photography and various new media, represented by the younger galleries on the local and international art market. Flash Art would like to thank everyone who contributed with their efforts and advice to making this survey on the Greek art scene as comprehensive and engaging as possible.

Valentina Sansone 





Athens, 1979. Lives and works in London.

Through my surreal animations and video installations, I explore the language of cinema by sampling extracts from classic animation movies, cult horror

films and family photographs. My works are darkly humorous explorations of popular culture, which I subvert by the gloomy imagery of death and tragedy.

I interweave small sequences of found material into unsettling collages of familiar narratives, creating a haunting landscape accompanied by sounds and music also deriving from popular films. Consequently, I give way to both the recognition and the redefinition of these existing details.

(Loukia Alavanou)

Represented by: Upstairs Berlin, Berlin; Haas & Fischer, Zurich.

Image: Geppetto’s Clocks, 2006. Digital video projection, 8 mins. Courtesy Upstairs Berlin, Berlin.





Athens, 1966. Lives and works in Athens and in New York.

I always worry that memories strive to usurp the original event’s place in the hearts of people. Like some horror movie parasite taking first the form, then the place, of its victim in the family hearth. All such quibbles miss the fact that my memories were always asking for wonder, even awe, but not belief. And this is what I try to explore: the absurdity of that strange place in the midst of the familiar. Historically and stylistically my prints are out of wack. And a little magical.

(Dimitrios Antonitsis)

Represented by: Ileana Tounta, Athens; Gering & Lopez, New York.

Image: Where the Queen Stands Guard 1 (series), 2007. Bubble jet on gold foil, 127 x 74 cm. Courtesy the artist and Gering & Lopez, New York.





Athens, 1976. Lives and works in London.

Athanasios Argianas’s sculptures and installations are based on musical pieces that he has written, compositions like whistling quartets alluding to protomodernist synthesizers like the ’30s Theremin, or ‘invented’ folk songs written in the form of cyclical canons. Then the canons themselves are visualized in a series of loop-based sculptures. These formal models attempt to humanize modernist cultural tropes — namely the abstract Constructivism of Naum Gabo and Moholy-Nagy, avant-garde literature and the esoteric understanding of the technology of the time — through the mediation of folk art’s endlessly repeated forms. (Gallery artist’s statement)

Represented by: The Breeder, Athens; Max Wigram, London.

Image: Music For Four Imagined Theremins, 2006. Mixed media, dimensions variable. Courtesy The Breeder, Athens.






Athens, 1979. Lives and works in Leipzig, Germany.

Nikos Arvanitis’s work is concerned with the various contexts in which our view of reality takes shape and root, attempting to reformulate the cultural coordinates of such contexts. His practice can best be described as a balancing act in that it engages in managing the tension generated between two different demands: on the one hand, those raised by a sincere wish for individuals to connect and communicate; and by the effort to undermine the

omnipotence of mass culture on the other, so that the inherent contradictions of societies that act as host for it may be revealed. (Polina Kosmadakis)

Represented by: a.antonopoulou.art, Athens.

Image: Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie, 2007. Installation view. Courtesy  a.antonopoulou.art, Athens.





Athens, 1982. Lives and works in Athens.

In recent years B. paints on the street with artists Andreas Kassapis, Stelios Faitakis and above all with his friend Zoe. His work comments on the number of ads at every corner of the city and on the bombardment of corporate logos. He uses the language and methods of marketing to counter-attack with his own ‘trademarks’: his drawings come in a standard yellow and black form and his figures often sport a “B.” as a logo. He chooses dirty and deserted spots in depressed areas, where his cheerful figures are meant to make the place familiar to passersby and also to urge the next street artist to paint more works and thus set a public exhibition. (Patricia Giannopoulou)

Represented by: The Breeder, Athens.

Image: a view of graffiti in downtown Athens. Photo: The Breeder, Athens.





Larissa, Greece, 1966. Lives and works in Athens.

Vassili Balatsos’s work is based on systems and variations, evolving simultaneously through a pictorial approach and different series, mixing

painting, photography, collages and wall drawings. “Independent Landscapes” are wall drawings of modernist buildings and cityscapes made with adhesive tapes; in the series “Low Profile,” the artist uses the automatic photomaton, creating unique and elusive prints of colored curtains or neutral laminated backgrounds; and in his recent series “Cleaners are b&w,” he re-colors pictures from newspapers using thin felt markers and acid colors. All these series are titled after their date, place or serial numbers. (Ghislaine Dantan)

Represented by: The Apartment, Athens.

Image: Cityscape (series), 2005. Adhesive tape on paper, 94 x 130 cm. Private collection.




Kamena Vourla, Greece, 1961. Lives and works in Athens.

In my recent work I use photography, video and installation, emphasizing the concepts of displacement and the horizon, as these are formed and defined within the perception and deconstruction of domestic space, which remaps the habitat as a variable. Issues such as obsession, boredom, loss, solitude, delirium as well as several other psychological states inform a fragmentary narrative in an autobiographical context, which becomes the shell of a folded physical space and the compound of a hermetic romanticism, where the social and the political are enveloped. (Kostas Bassanos)

Represented by: Ileana Tounta, Athens.

Image: White Nights, 2006. Lambda print on aluminum, posterboard, A4 white pages, 300 x 300 cm. Courtesy Ileana Tounta. Athens.





Athens, 1976. Lives and works in Berlin.

The concept and limitations of public space, its convention and abrogation through the appropriation and construction of a personal heterotopia, describe the theme of Yorgos Sapountzis’ work. His performances and videos are about the appearance of sculptural forms in public space and their relationship with the city and him. Adopting the practice of a space in between, something that results from the reciprocation from private to public space, Sapountzis creates what he calls “parasitic sculpture” producing “an

urban limbo” where everything is redefined, redefining in turn everything that surrounds them. (Gallery artist’s statement)

Represented by: Loraini Alimantiri/gazonrouge, Athens; Isabella Bortolozzi , Berlin.

Image: Forgotten Tactic, 2006. Video, 3 mins. Music: Joar P. Nordtun.





Athens, 1961. Lives and works in Athens.

The “sublimation of the line” is one of Christiana Soulou’s favorite definitions of her drawings, which are at once technically accomplished and delicate.

Her ink and pencil marks seem to waver between assurance and the felicities of chance — ever interrupted by tremors, scatterings of dots and muted

moments of color. At once possessed of a rich luminescence and a watery sadness or ‘lambousa,’ her works appear perilously poised between materialization and dissolution. Supernatural, talismanic and mysterious, Soulou’s subjects draw heavily upon literature and textual imagery — from Ancient Greek mythology to the Byronic hero. (Gallery artist’s statement)

Represented by: Sadie Coles HQ, London.

Image: Untitled, 2007. Graphite and colored pencil on paper, 32 x 22,5 cm. Courtesy Sadie Coles HQ, London.





Athens, 1979. Lives and works in New York.

Panos Tsagaris’s work has multifaceted levels and varies from performance to painting. By attacking the viewer’s senses and challenging established ideologies, his work comments on contemporary social issues while at the same time flirting with ideas related to religion and the apocrypha. His series titled “A Small Victory” (2007) includes symbols of power and authority presented upside-down. Made with the artist’s own blood, Tsagaris’s drawings are the result of personal pain and at the same time a celebration of life, creativity and imagination. Their provocative character and unusual media (blood and tears) are an organic part of the actual ‘message’ that the viewer is challenged to decipher. (Yuli Karatsiki)

Represented by: Kalfayan, Athens/Thessaloniki.

Image: Untitled (One More Precious Sacrifice), 2007. Blood on paper, 127 x 96 cm. Private collection. Courtesy Kalfayan, Athens/Thessaloniki.





Prague, 1973. Lives and works in Amsterdam.

The multi-faceted arrangement of Stefanos Tsivopoulos’s video installations — from the selection of actors and the mise en scène instructions to the texts and the final display of projections — constitute narrative webs that never end in linear stories and which question the mechanisms of reenactment

of reality and the abilities of memory. Although his works do not actually have explicit political themes, the fragmented, encased levels of reading indicate the primarily political character of representation, and lead the spectator to a course of reconsideration and exploration of all the levels of political annotation. (Theophilos Tramboulis)

Represented by: Alphadelta, Athens.

Image: Untitled (The Remake), 2007. HDV, 13 mins. Courtesy Alphadelta, Athens.







Kalamata, Greece, 1967. Lives and works in Berlin.

Dimitris Tzamouranis uses simple, everyday random images, acknowledging the precariousness of snapshots. He uses the capabilities offered by state-of-the-art technology and the popularity of common views, yet maintains the

academic art and craft of oil painting on traditional canvas. The resulting painting work reformulates the timelessness of the creative act, harmoniously reconciling the two worlds. (Katerina Koskina)

No gallery representation.

Image: Baum in Ratzeburg, 2007. Oil on canvas, 180 x 210 cm. Courtesy the artist and Wohnmaschine, Berlin. 







Athens, 1977. Lives and works in Athens and Vienna.

Jannis Varelas’s drawings involve the dissection of the image, but he works with this process to different effect. Varelas makes a kind of loose-form collage that is primarily grounded in the practice of drawing. Because of this, his works on paper offer an alternative form of representational space than

that created by Hannah Höch, or by artists who might be seen as her direct descendents such as Martha Rosler, whose feminist collages of women in lacy underwear spliced with pornographic material revealed a repressed ‘sexual unconscious.’ (Catherine Wood)

Represented by: The Breeder, Athens; Galerie Krinzinger, Vienna.

Image: The House, 2006. Diptych, pencil, charcoal, collage on paper, 300 x 265 cm. Courtesy The Breeder, Athens. 






Athens, 1968. Lives and works in Athens.

My sculptures function as cultural, as well as personal, metaphors for a view of the world marked by history and determined by fears and longing. My latest work refers to individual selfdetermination and personal involvement with the notion of liberty based on related philosophies that advocate the elimination of institutional ideologies. The modest character of constructions and its ironic asceticism conveys a visual form based on weakness via the

bohemian, the emigrant, the lonesome figure, the loser and the disappointed.

(Kostis Velonis)

No gallery representation.

Image: Installation view, Koln Show 2, BQ Galerie,Cologne 2007. 





Athens, 1971. Lives and works in Athens. Vangelis Vlahos’s “1992” (The renovation of the former parliament in Sarajevo by the Greek State),

2006–07 deals with Greece’s role in the Balkans, over the last 15 years. The archive is displayed together with two different architectural models of the Parliament building — one based on found images from the Internet picturing the building before renovation, and the other based on the actual architectural drawings taken from the construction company which is in charge of the renovation. (Gallery artist’s statement)

Represented by: The Breeder, Athens.

Image: “1992” (The renovation of the former parliament in Sarajevo by the Greek State), 2006-07. 2 scale models 1:150, 7 folders, folding table, handout

posters. Courtesy the artist and The Breeder, Athens. Photo: Vivianna Athanassopoulou.






Athens, 1978. Lives and works in Glasgow and Athens.

My work so far has to do with both the investigation of modernism’s formalistic practices and the selection of thematic sections from the absoluteness of romantic metaphysical visions; here personal memory is included and used as a tool, either with the juxtaposition of personal symbols and representations or as a guiding factor for the work’s structure. My images are organized within the context of reworking already structured depictions (there are allusions to tribal death masks, Arnold Boecklin’s Isle of the Dead, etc.) and so signify allusions where the metaphysical entity of form intersects with the absolute structural substance of the notion of drawing.

(Rallou Panagiotou)

No gallery representation.

Image: Death Mask III, 2007. Pencil, watercolor, spray paint on paper, 190 x 150 cm. Courtesy the artist.





Athens, 1968. Lives and works in Ioannina, Greece and Athens.

My work explores the relationship between marks, text and texture. The drawings are a combination of semi-transparent abstract landscapes of marks, empty spaces and blurred typeface borderlines, or dense layers of handwritten text. Some drawings have been made by superimposing layers of text copied with the use of carbon paper. Entire books, chosen in different languages, are reduced to one single surface by mounting layers of writing on top of each other. Text is not meant to be read but to be seen as an image, and to make visible what language itself generates: a deceptive imagery.

(Nina Papaconstantinou)

No gallery representation.

Image: M. Foucault, Des espaces autres, 2007. Glue on vinyl, 400 x 300 cm.





Chios, Greece, 1971. Lives and works in Athens.

In a recent solo exhibition (“Gallery Trophy”) I presented a tennis court, in half of its real dimensions, placed in the gallery’s space. The gallery was transformed into a court which was distorted in order to accommodate in its new ‘role.’ Facing it, on the other side was the ‘prize,’ a wild boar’s head. The head of the wild boar was placed in the space, like the embalmed trophies of hunters in mountain village houses, as a demonstration of power and dominance. (Nikos Papadimitriou)

Represented by: Alphadelta, Athens.

Image: Gallery Trophy, 2007. Mixed media, dimensions variable. Courtesy the artist and Alphadelta, Athens.





Athens 1970. Lives and works in Athens.

Ilias Papailiakis’s work engages a reenactment of the past: the history of painting and the appropriation of contemporary iconography from the mass

media. Tradition is regarded as continuity, in the manner of the historical avant-gardes that envisioned culture as a continuous flow, and is more

explicitly expressed in his work through an elaborate baroque sensitivity. Ilias Papailiakis exhibits an interest in power structures, using strong imagery that deals with violence and rupture. Issues of propaganda and politics are prominent in his work, which also features a critique of the media.

(Gallery artist’s statement)

Represented by: The Breeder, Athens; Upstairs Berlin, Berlin.

Image: Festen, 2006. Pencil on wood, 30 x 26 cm. Courtesy The Breeder, Athens.





Athens, 1974. Lives and works in Athens.

Angelos Plessas declares himself an autodidact in the sense of his not having studied what he does, which is mostly websites and digital drawings.

When he first got interested in computers and the Internet, it never even occurred to him that he was making contemporary art. It was Andreas

Angelidakis and Miltos Manetas who put him right on that! He met Andreas in a chat room, and Miltos in ‘reality’some time later through Andreas. His first

work, entitled Around Myself, depicts a round Internet Explorer window framing a photograph of Angelos, which gets bigger when you click on it.

(Katerina Nikou)

Represented by: Rebecca Camhi, Athens.

Image: TalkindAndWalking, 2006. Print on road sign. Courtesy Rebecca Camhi, Athens. 






Athens, 1970. Lives and works in Athens.

I summon dirty ghosts of Pop byproducts, cathartic psychoanalytical practices like those in pulp DIY improvement handbooks, obscure rituals of either self-gratification or sectarian and even shamanistic nature. I am trying to build a parallel universe made of numerous yet classified props, rituals and

tactics, bound together in a code of practice, anarchistic, aggressive, totally romantic but at the same time cynical and cryptic, that uses homocentric

circles of meaning. (Poka-Yio)

Represented by: Loraini Alimantiri/gazonrouge, Athens.

Image: Self-decapitated, 2005. Silicon, synthetic resin, human hair, iron gate construction, 360 x 350 x 225 cm.





Athens, 1979. Lives and works in Athens.

My work consists mainly of drawings/paintings and short videos. My influences come from David Lynch’s and Andrej Tarkovskij’s cinema, comics

and various artists who have in common the obscure worlds which they create. For me an artwork is interesting when it produces an emotional reaction that deals with the subconscious and our deepest thoughts in the way that dreams do. (Dimitris Protopapas)

Represented by: The Nomads Gallery, Athens.

Image: Untitled, 2004. Video still, 2 mins.




Athens, 1967. Lives and works in Athens.

I think that the deepest feelings arise in crucial conditions. A mature individual cannot experience happiness devoid of feelings of sadness, success without the possibility of a downfall, sweet sensations without the menace of reversal. However, it is through these contradictions, as painful as they may be, that the magic of life can be experienced even if it is only just for a few moments. (Mantalina Psoma)

Represented by: Rebecca Camhi, Athens; Kapinos, Berlin.

Image: The Quest 18, 2006. Oil on canvas, 60 x 80cm. Courtesy Rebecca Camhi, Athens.






Athens, 1971. Lives and works in Athens.

I use video, photographs and installations to recreate the mechanisms of understanding the city through its own hectic memories, as this is the main ingredient of the two-way relation of the traveler with the place visited. Through the observation/approach of crucial political or social issues of recent history, parts of our personal/national identity are built that transform the process to the purgatorial and the defensive and help us realize the dangling character of Greece between the Balkan counties and the EU.

(Yiannis Grigoriadis)

No gallery representation.

Image: Melancholy of an Autumn Afternoon (Romania), 2005. Photograph on aluminum, 45 x 60 cm. Courtesy the artist. 





Athens, 1973. Lives and works in Athens.

Eleni Kamma ‘copies’ architectural projects scrupulously and sensitively by combining elements of architectural design (from all sorts of sources, from

ready-to-deliver models to Renaissance manuscript illustrations) with elaborate pattern designs. Her fanciful, labyrinthine and enchanting habitations function as ‘portraying’ architectures, as hovering, discontinued spaces within which the look is constantly subverted and any possible narrative is perpetually overthrown. Her indirect reference into constructional and architectural utopias of modernism is ideologically dislocated to the a-topias of the postmodern. (Sotirios Bahtsetzis)

Represented by: Loraini Alimantiri/gazonrouge, Athens.

Image: Hortus contextus/The treatment of small sites: garden enclosed by treillage, 2007. Pencil, watercolor, ink on paper, 220 x 150 cm. Courtesy Loraini Alimantiri/gazonrouge and the artist.





Athens, 1979. Lives and works in Athens.

Dionisis Kavallieratos’s sculptures look like oversized awkwardly distorted and reformed gadgets that seem to belong to some kind of a neo-pop universe. Equipped with detailed knowledge of comics, animation, films and other underground obsessions, his surrealistic and excellently crafted sculptures are full of sarcastic humor and ironic comments on mass culture,

male stereotypes and violence, but at the same time they become this young man’s self-made oversized toys in his imaginary world. (Gallery artist’s statement)

Represented by: The Breeder, Athens.

Image:We all Live in a yellow submarine/Nuclear farts, 2006. Carved wood, 260 x 150 x 60 cm. Courtesy The Breeder, Athens.





Athens, 1975. Lives and works in Athens.

In his fluorescent large-scale paintings Panayiotis Loukas evokes the nihilistic aspects of the self, as well as the formal, narcissistic autonomy of pictorial space. Thus, his last series draws on the individualist anarchism of Max Stirner and his groundbreaking work The Ego and its Own. Based solely on source photographs (usually taken from vintage architecture magazines and

family portraits), his slick images feature buildings, animals and youths, set in a magical decorum of eerie landscapes. (Christopher Marinos)

Represented by: The Breeder, Athens.

Image: Burning from The Inside, 2007. Oil on canvas, 220 x 180 cm. Courtesy The Breeder, Athens.





Washington, 1967. Lives and works in Athens and New York.

The View from Bed is a scale model of my bedroom in my studio. The bed has been removed from the room. The access point of the viewer is from the perspective of the missing bed, therefore the space is upside-down.

It’s rather like turning a subjective experience on its head so that the subject (me, i.e., the bed) is removed and the void becomes the window for the viewer. It’s about turning a personal experience into an objective one, the subject having been removed and just the point of view being left, making the audience the other half of the equation.

(DeAnna Maganias)

Represented by: Rebecca Camhi, Athens; Thomas Erben, New York.

Image: The View from Bed, 2006. Mixed media, 101 x 130 x 170 cm. Courtesy Thomas Erben, New York.





Athens, 1964. Lives and works in Paris, Los Angeles and New York.

Domestic glimpses enclosing all the sexy physicality of afternoons of boredom, the soft fetishisms of those who allow themselves to be overwhelmed by inviting sofas and bras, unadorned interiors glorifying every single accessory, rooms and objects with tensions and individual temptations pulsating inside. Timid poses full of loving cruelty for the voyeur, eyes and mouths towards the hypnotic screen of white walls of sparkling monitors and of photographable bodies… (Gianluca Marziani)

Represented by: Yvon Lambert, Paris/New York; Cosmic, Paris; Kalfayan, Athens/Thessalonoki; Pack, Milan.

Image: Still Life with Gucci Sunglasses, 2006. Digital drawing on photographic paper, 126 x 169,5 cm. Courtesy Pack, Milan.






Athens, 1973. Lives and works in Athens.

Pavlos Nikolakopoulos’s work sits rather uncomfortably in the company of a univocal theoretic interpretation. One might say that it resists any attempt at

readily having its language placed under the dominant aesthetic categories and current trends. It will not favor perception through the senses alone, neither through the intellect at that, nor will it attempt to strike a balance between the two. Instead, it inspires a game in which one is inconstantly,

restlessly, erratically swaying between material and mental pleasure, between a training of the senses and a training of the mind. This has been and still continues to be a typical characteristic of his work. (Efi Strousa)

Represented by: Qbox, Athens.

Image: Always Watch What The Hands Do, 2007. Mixed media, 280 x 600 x 320 cm. Courtesy Qbox, Athens.




OMIO is a collective born in Athens in 2002.

Omio’s practice consists of a variety of actions, situations, taking place outside of institutional structures. They are small acts that provide momentary disruptions, ‘cuts’ in the everyday rationalized order (function) of society. These acts take place where “one stands and ties his shoelaces.” These acts are based on a continuous collection and reassertion of environmental components in specific sites-structures. The topography of each of these

sites is highly considered. (OMIO)

No gallery representation.

Image: Untitled, 2007. Photograph, dimensions variable. Courtesy the artists.


Marina Fokidis

Is Greece near Mykonos or anywhere around Hydra? Is there anything else to see besides

the Parthenon so as to fill up the few hours I am planning to stay in Athens? It’s been a long time since these kinds of jokes — obviously inspired by real incidents — haunted contemporary Greece and its legacy as a mythical place. Yet, even now masses of tourists come and go every summer so as to ‘live their personal myth’ in a country mostly

known (or even better, mostly marketed) for its ancient past and its crystal clear sea. In

such a situation, contemporary expression has had to surmount many obstacles in order

to grow! As paradoxical as it might sound, the ‘State’ seems to have done its best to ‘hide’ anything that does not refer to our glorious ‘cultural heritage’ or that does not serve a

contemporary re-definition of ‘Greek cultural identity.’ There is no fixed recipe for contemporary art, like there is for feta cheese. The ‘right’treatment for its exposure is much more complicated. And so far in Greece it has been implemented by different individuals interested in visual art. Gallerists, collectors, critics, curators, theoreticians, art administrators — who have had the passion and the will to closely follow contemporary artistic production — have aided in its development despite the absence of a state-sponsored infrastructure. Numerous individual efforts have finally amounted to a condition that has provided for the initiation of two young biennials and the appearance of a dynamic spectrum of younger artists, galleries, institutions and exhibitions with a more international profile. Just a few of these people share their views with us here.

Marina Fokidis 


From left: Andreas Angelidakis. Photo: Angelo Plessas; Dimitrios Antonitsis. Photo: Jeffrey Apoian; 1stAthens Biennial curators. Photo: Charlie Makkos; Natasha Adamou (The Breeder) with gallery assistants Stathis & George.


Architect, Athens


If you had to give a brief, descriptive summary of Athens as a city, what would it be?

Chaotic, angry, inspiring, uninspired, relaxing, trashy, beautiful and unacceptable.

Has the location of Athens with its idiosyncratic character informed your architectural/

artistic practice at all? In the beginning, I was very much inspired by the landscape of Athens, the failed modernist dream that became a nightmare of cheap construction,

romantic ruins mixed with economic ruins, beautiful light and bad intentions.

Somehow this will always inform my work, though I’m currently more inspired by architectural history than urban reality. Of course it is a moment in time where ‘anything goes,’ and it goes everywhere all the time non-stop, so inspirations change according to the last link you clicked on.

What interests you less and what more in Athens?

The sea, the sunset, getting lost in the new urban sprawl, the hills interest me more. The inhabitants of Athens interest me less. The average Greek has to really re-focus their life and imagine a less conformist and much more ambitious future. It is really a socio-cultural problem.

What do you think will be a good reason for someone outside Greece to come and stay in

Athens? And vice versa, to immediately leave Athens?

Well, it’s a young society very much under development, so it’s like a poker game, anything can happen, and you have chances to win and chances to lose. But if you have the resources and you know exactly what you want to achieve without experimenting too

much and you just want to tap into existing networks, then maybe you should get the hell

out of here and choose a place that will make life easier.



Artist, Athens and New York


Your curatorial and artistic practice extend far beyond the narrow local borders. What made you decide to reside in Athens?

I am fascinated by hybrid culture. Athens is definitely the most hybrid city in Europe. If I had to move elsewhere, it would be Las Vegas.

What are the pros and the cons for a contemporary artist living in Athens today?

Athens is like a bipolar chick. There are no pros and cons. Just good days and bad days.

You were one of the first artists in Greece that curated exhibitions with an international


My motto is: think globally, act locally.

What initially prompted you to expand your practice from art making to include curating?

Boredom and the academic myopia of the ‘professional’ curators. To quote Kant:

“What the critic has to say is necessarily consequential and unessential.”

How much does one practice inform the other?

It’s a big blur. Sometimes I hire myself as a curator. Like in 2005, where I attempted to put up three solo shows of my work simultaneously. It worked!

You have been running the Hydra School Projects very successfully for eight consecutive

years. What does it take?

A cool ‘smoothie mixer’ and a feel for the next flavor.

If you had to give a brief piece of advice that could improve the situation of the Greek art

scene (in the broadest sense) for the future, what this would be?

Be naughty and eccentric. Even Mr Ripley couldn’t stand being good. And he was terribly

talented, I hear.



Curators, 1st Athens Biennal


You founded a non-profit company named Athens Biennial and instigated the first international biennial in Athens before even having secured any funds or organizational structure for it! Was that meant to be a guerrilla strategy so as to provoke and shake the long-lasting discussion about the biennial in Greece?

We can think of few things that sound more conformist than a ‘guerrilla strategy.’ ‘Guerilla’

tactics are gracing the salons of the art world, anyway, so it is hardly left to us to play the

revolutionaries. What we did was not guerrilla. What we did was bluff. And that is not a

‘strategy,’ it is a kind of trial and error, a crazy idea, a big plan that we dreamed up and

thought: “What if?” Moreover, it is not our place to tell anyone what should be discussed. It is true that there is an ever growing and vigorous art scene in Athens. Designing an independent structure, an art organization willing to commit to the production of significant works and work towards the interaction with the international scene, was the next logical step. Yes, it is true that we had no funds, no organizational structure, not even an office.

These things loom large and important when you don’t have them, like the first time you have sex. Once you do, though, the issue becomes how to get better at it.

Given the fact that none of you have an experience with curating international exhibitions

(certainly not biennials, nor smaller international shows) but at the same time you have the courage to take that risk, how do you feel about learning while being involved in such a big challenge like an international biennial?

Very fortunate. We think that even better than having experience yourself is working with people that do. That said, we have had to improvise in many areas because often even experience cannot counter-balance the lack of infrastructure. In the end, though, we don’t think we were particularly courageous. We just had something really personal to say.

Do you have a plan that would secure the continuation of the Athens Biennial institution

in the future after the completion of “Destroy Athens”?

The formation of a board of art professionals which will suggest and select future curators is underway. Our major goal, however, is for this organization to be alive and active during the inbetween times of the actual Biennial, hence we started by publishing an online monthly magazine (a. athens contemporary art review), creating an artist-run web radio (artwave), publishing books and organizing a conference with esteemed participants.

Furthermore, from the very early stages, we were thinking of international collaborations

and how they could be structured, we therefore approached the Istanbul and Lyon

Biennials and all together initiated “tres bienn,” a collaboration of the three biennials

opening in the same month. This soon developed into something more creative, based on

Lyon’s concept, an exchange of proposals for artists and artworks among the curators of

this year’s editions: so, Banu Cennetoglu and Pierre Joseph are participating in the 1st

Athens Biennial at the suggestion of Istanbul and Lyon respectively, while at our suggestion Eleni Kamma is taking part in the 10th Istanbul Biennial and Kostis Velonis in the 9th Lyon Biennial. Another upcoming initiative that we feel very optimistic about is the formation of a network of European biennials, in an attempt to instigate dialogue and facilitate mobility for artists and art professionals. Our partners in this network, with whom we are currently in the planning stage, are Lyon, Istanbul, Liverpool, Berlin, Venice, Manifesta, Tirana, Goteborg and the Peripheric Biennial. To sum up, the plan is to

continue working.

The contemporary art scene here (production and infrastructure) have a very tiny (if any) input to the international dialogue around contemporary art and to the international art market. Especially if one considers the fact that there are many interesting artists living and working in Greece, what do you think is wrong?

What goes wrong is thinking about these matters in terms of “what is wrong.” Where exactly is the law that says that this abstract entity called “international art dialogue” has an obligation to include everyone? Art is not the UN. What is important is that there are artists based in Athens that have challenging and thought-provoking work. 



The Breeder gallery, Athens


You are among the few Greek gallerists to promote Greek artists in international art fairs.

How do you feel about the contemporary art scene in Greece? What is its potential?

It seems we can’t avoid art fairs, since every step we took from the beginning involved

great risks. The gallery aims at promoting the artists it represents, Greek or not Greek, in

the best possible ways. Art fairs are very important, but equally important is creating the right context for the artists, introducing them to curators, writers and institutions and

placing the works in important collections. We are the biggest fans of our artists and we

are very pleased to see them steadily achieve the international recognition they deserve.

What about the Greek collectors? Is there a strong local market?

We never solely relied on the local market. Nevertheless, Greek collectors, who are very

well informed and adventurous, were always supportive of us, although they were only a

few when we first started in 2002. Since then we have worked toward cultivating a younger generation of collectors. Now that the market has expanded greatly in Athens, we work with a group of people that follow the gallery program, but are also happy and excited to travel with us for new art discoveries. In general we feel this is a very good moment for Athens, not only for the market but also creatively. The long boiling art scene seems now ready to explode!



Collector, London and Athens


You have been organizing the Hydra Workshops, including artworks from your collection

(Ophiuchus Collection) for over ten years on the island of Hydra in Greece. How do you arrange these special gatherings in Greece?

Having lived now for almost 35 years in Greece, and having been part of the Greek heritage through my marriage to my late husband, Constantine Karpidas, this is a way for me to continue his legacy, his involvement with and support of the arts. Together, we shared the patronization of helping the youth of Greece realize their dreams. The last 10 years, Hydra Workshops has arranged, through the leadership of Sadie Coles, to bring young artists to Greece. Sadie’s tireless efforts and focused vision has been instrumental to all of this. By inviting these talented artists each year to Hydra, we hope to bring them, as well as the greater community of curators, collectors and art lovers in attendance,

closer to the Greek culture, while also exposing the younger people here in Greece to the exciting developments in the art world globally.

Are you acquainted at all with the Greek contemporary art scene? What do you think of the younger Greek artists?

We are seeing more and more notoriety of the young Greek artists. However, we need

Christopher Marinos

RECOUNTINGA COLLECTOR’S deeds, the temptation to track down the true nature of his motives seems all but inevitable. Where does that secret and sacred attachment to the object lie, and how are we to explain this compulsive impulse? Travel writer Bruce Chatwin famously replied to this twofold question in The Morality of Things, a talk he gave at a charity auction in London in 1973. 


“Post Human,” exhibition view at Deste Foundation Centre for Contemporary Art, 1992; “Monument to Now,” exhibition view at Deste Foundation Centre for Contemporary Art, 2004.

A collector, according to Chatwin, develops a moral system from which man is excluded. This means that the collector participates in a private religion (which is none other than the art market), thus becoming slave to his insatiable desire for acquiring numerous objects. Collecting art, he says, is a desperate strategy against failure, a personal way for healing loneliness. In an attempt to back up his bittersweet argument, the English author — who used to work at Sotheby’s before turning to writing — recites the usual Freudian formula: the pure collector is a voyeur of life, someone who uses the amassment of objects to protect himself from those who wanted to love, and who entertains thrilling emotions towards soulless objects and cold feelings towards humans. “He is the classic frigid man,” wrote Chatwin; “he who draws on the vigor of the past to counterbalance the sterility of his era.” Bearing in mind Dakis Joannou’s peregrinations in the art world in the last 25 years, and despite any affinity someone might feel with the traveling thinker Chatwin, these ideas of renunciation sound gravely mistaken. Joannou, one of the most prominent collectors in the world, simply does not conform to this kind of pigeonholing — and that is for many reasons. First, Joannou seems to be more concerned with the present state of art and its regenerating power

than its glorious and traditional bygone aura. As he once said to his beloved artist Jeff Koons, whose One Ball Total Equilibrium Tank (1985) formed the basis of his collection: “I am especially drawn to art that makes a statement that relates to our society and the way we live today.” Thus, the suspended, motionless basketball in a tank of water reflected much about the stable fluidity and allure of the ’80s as well as the lessthan- zero lifestyle of the period. In actuality, though, the absolute personification of a collector’s statement is a Jenny Holzer truism after which, not surprisingly, was named Joannou’s boat: “Protect me from what I want.” In a Flash

Art interview with Massimiliano Gioni ten years ago, Joannou applied this statement to art collecting, providing an example of his candid as well as pragmatic thinking: “For sure I am not trying to be protected from what I want in art. It is actually the other way around.”


URS FISCHER, Bread House, 2006. Bread, wood, silicon, screws, foam, 500 x 400 x 500 cm; MAURIZIO CATTELAN, Ave Maria, 2007. Polyurethane and metallic parts, clothes, dimensions


Secondly, and ironically, in a recent interview with psychoanalyst Hilary Rubenstein Hatch, published on the occasion of the “Dream & Trauma” exhibition in Vienna, the Greek collector turned the Freudian interpretations upside down, giving a smart whirl to the stereotypical questionnaire. “YOU tell me why I collect. YOU tell me what my collection means. YOU are the psychoanalyst,” he said to the startled Hatch.

Nevertheless, in the course of time Joannou has spoken about his collection in depth. “The core idea of my collection has to do with life, and the connections between life and art, the communication across barriers and across borders. This show is not about art, it’s not about concepts; it’s not about ideas — it’s about life,” he said for the smash hit exhibition “Monument to Now” in 2004. “Life,” then, seems to be the key word. As society turns into a dark and gloomy place, his collection and the accompanying exhibitions that bring his new acquisitions to the wider public follow a similar path. The same goes for Joannou’s ideas about his often disturbing works which now express ‘the dark side’of life. “Without the ‘dark side,’” he explains to Hatch, “we would be very boring. Maybe these aspects of life are less threatening if you bring them out into the open. They are less frightening when they are out there.” Yet every exhibition organized by Deste Foundation Centre for Contemporary Art (established by Joannou in Athens in 1983) has an elegant quality and a neo-humanist scope. Exhibitions such as “Cultural Geometry” (1988), “Artificial Nature” (1990), “Post Human” (1992), “Everything That’s Interesting Is New” (1996) and “Global Vision: New Art from the ’90s” (1998), apart from revealing the curatorial potential of Joannou’s vast collection —which is another important aspect of his engagement with art — managed to provoke an ongoing dialogue with the most timely issues of the day. Similarly, “Fractured Figure,” the current exhibition at Deste, curated by long-time collaborator Jeffrey Deitch, “reflects the way an increasing number of artists are viewing the human

form, bears artistic witness to a fractured world and calls for a renewed embrace of humanity.” Like nearly all Deste shows, “Fractured Figure” contains works that celebrate the darkest regions of the human psyche. “The new approach to the figure,” notes Deitch, “is more about the real world than the ideal world. The victim of the suicide bomber now rivals the fashion victim as a subject for contemporary figuration.”

Once again this show presents some of the most intriguing works produced in the last two years, including sculptural pieces such as David Altmejd’s The Giant (2006), Pawel Althamer’s Black Market (2007), Urs Fischer’s Bread House (2006), Andro Wekua’s Get Out of My Room (2006), as well as new works by Folkert De Jong, Mark Manders, Paul Chan and Terence Koh, among others. The “Fractured Figure” is an apt demonstration of the kind of art Joannou favors, that is, body-related works that are idiosyncratic, pertinent and highly seductive. Last but not least, for those who know him better Dakis Joannou is a generous host, famous for his loyalty to the artists and their work, a great enthusiast and supporter, and a man of conceptual rigor, who can think with his eyes — admittedly, the exact opposite of the morally dubious portrayal given by Chatwin.



Christopher Marinos is an art critic and curator based in Athens.

Dakis Joannou was born in Cyprus in 1939. He lives and works in Athens. 

Christopher Marinos


CHRISTOPHERMARINOS: In the last five years you’ve worked on a series of projects based on the building of the American Embassy in Athens. Can you give me a brief outline of this evolving work?

Vangelis Vlahos: The building of the American Embassy in Athens was designed by Walter Gropius in the late ’50s in a variation of the thendominant International style of architecture. The building was loaded with a symbolical burden from the start. The Embassy in Athens was part of a series of prestigious embassy projects, through

which the US hoped to project the image of openness and democratic participation. Even though it was originally conceived, in terms of construction, as an ‘open’ structure with public access, today, the building, which has been the target of numerous public protests and terrorist threats, has become something of a fortress with high fences, electronic locks and surveillance equipment.

The projects involved, in general, describe the Embassy’s transformation over time into a political target. Each archive that accompanies these projects focuses on a different incident related to the building or the Embassy’s activities — from a terrorist attack against the Embassy in 1996 to diplomat Brady Kiesling’s resignation in 2003 because of the US policy in the Iraq war. The building’s connections to the broader

political and social climate, namely the current political reality in Greece, makes up the context that I am interested in. 


Athens Tower (the five unrealized versions), 2004. 5 scale models 1:150. Installation view at Els Hanappe Underground, Athens. Photo: Vivianna Athanassopoulou. Private collection;

A scale model of the US Embassy of Athens (in four parts), 2006. Installation view at the 27th São Paulo Biennial. Courtesy the artist and The Breeder, Athens. Photo: Wolfgang Trager;

CM: In your projects informational texts and archival material are presented with models of buildings. I wonder if there is a specific textual hierarchy between them.

VV: Some of the buildings that are involved in the projects are defined by the context of the archives and the texts that accompany them. In some cases, the accompanied material contributes to the development of the architectural models. For example, in Buildings Like Texts Are Socially Constructed (2004), that was presented in Manifesta 5, the selection of the presented buildings and the construction of the architectural

models were based only on information I found in architectural forums on the Internet. As a consequence, the architectural models that resulted were not very close to the actual buildings. Or, in “1992” (The renovation of the former parliament in Sarajevo by the Greek State), 2006-07, which includes two architectural models, the construction of the first model is based only on images found on the Internet — mostly images where the building was destroyed during the war — while the second model is based on the actual architectural drawings and illustrations that depict the building’s future

image — given to me by the construction companies that are responsible for the renovation of the building.

CM: Do you have a first-hand experience of the building site?

VV: In some of my projects the information about different buildings and the construction of the models don’t result from a direct personal relationship to the subject in question or an in situ research but mostly from found material from different sources. The archives are a way to cover the lack of first-hand experience. The research develops a more self-understanding process than an objective record. Misconceptions and mistakes are possible or unavoidable in this process, but at the same time they show the limits of reconstructing the past or a certain reality in its original form.

CM: How does the archive function in relation to the architecture portrayed?

VV: The archives can be a tool to ‘read’buildings. I see architecture as the starting point for a more thorough research on different socio-political issues. I am not interested in a building as such, but in the different associations and contexts, which result from the conditions of either its construction or its use. In the way the formal

elements of a building in relation to the different stories it contains can reveal information about wider contexts. 


New Markets Require New Structures, 2005. 4 scale models 1:150, table with metal frame, 8 framed lists and texts. Installation view at 27th São Paulo Biennial. Courtesy the artist;

The Breeder, Athens. Photo: Wolfgang Trager;

CM: Your projects seem to focus on the application of the principles of modernist architecture in different local contexts instead of the formal qualities of modernist architecture itself.

VV: Yes. Although the formal qualities of modernist architecture were initially conceived as universal and neutral, the application of these qualities in connection to different localities differs a lot. For example, most of the high-rise buildings that are included in New Markets Require New Structures (2005) were built under communism in Eastern Europe. However, their architectural style is close to the Western International style. Visually those buildings don’t say much about their actual context. They are not directly connected to an Eastern European national style. What they seem to have in common is the historical context in which they were constructed and used. Most of them were state owned until 1989, while after the political changes and transfer to private capital they were sold to private real estate developers, who renovated them and sold or rented them to private local and foreign companies. Having already adopted a more western look before the political and economic changes in the region, it was easier for the new political and economic systems to develop and utilize them.

CM: Where does this interest in high-rise buildings stem from?

VV: I was originally interested in high-rise buildings motivated by different opinions

expressed in architectural forums on the Internet which seemed to connect in a metaphorical way the status and the dynamics of a city to the height of its buildings. I started by collecting information related to the Athens Tower building — motivated by its definition as the tallest building in the Balkans in 1971 — and I extended my

research on other high-rise buildings in the wider area of Eastern Europe and the Balkans. Gradually, the research distanced itself from the descriptive element of height, embracing other aspects identified with these buildings in connection to their local contexts and the interconnections of these contexts.

CM: Your working method has often been described as “archaeological.” What are your thoughts on that?

VV: I adopt an archaeological-like methodology in the sense that I usually focus on fragmental items of the past or of our times, trying to understand a wider socio-political context, of which I do not have detailed knowledge, or sometimes other direct or personal relationships. It is like trying to understand more about the past or contemporary reality by focusing on a specific relic of it, searching for its roots and trying to connect it to a larger order. Every fragment can be a source of information for the broader understanding of the cultural context of its time and the re-contextualization of today. I am more interested in re-defining and contextualizing than just preserving and recording.



Christopher Marinos is an art critic and curator based in Athens.

Vangelis Vlahos was born in 1971 in Athens, where he lives and works.

Selected solo shows: 2007: Borgovico 33, Como, Italy; The Breeder, Athens. 2004: Display, Prague; Els Hanappe Underground, Athens.

Selected group shows: 2007: “Monument to Transformation, Fragment #4,” Index Foundation, Stockholm; Praguebiennale 3, Prague; “A Number of Worlds Resembling Our Own,” SMART Project Space, Amsterdam. 2006: 27th São Paulo Biennial; “Closely Observed Plans,” Display, Prague/tranzit, Bratislava; “Walking & Falling,” Magasin 3 Stockholm Konsthall. 2005: “Going Public ’05,” Contemporary Art Centre, Larissa, Greece. 2004: Manifesta 5, San Sebastian, Spain; 3rd Berlin Biennial. 


Archive on Brady Kiesling, 2003. Handout posters, 3 binders. Photo: Vivianna Athanassopoulou; “1992” (The renovation of the former parliament in Sarajevo by the Greek State), 2006-07. 2 scale models 1:150, 7 folders, folding table, handout posters. Courtesy the artist and The Breeder, Athens. Photo: Vivianna Athanassopoulou;

The National Bank of Greece (NBG) 1961-2006, 2006-07. 2 scale models 1:50 and 1:33, 4 folders, table with metal frame. Courtesy the artist and The Breeder, Athens. Photo: Vivianna Athanassopoulou.

Katerina Gregos



AS WITH MANY COUNTRIES that possess a significant cultural heritage and who

have an awkward relationship with modernity, Greece does not seem like the obvious place for contemporary art. This is not abetted by the fact that the country itself occupies an indeterminate ‘gray’ zone on the European map in general; with antiquity still a strong symbolic point of reference, but the forces of globalization very much at play, Greece is trying to come to grips with its hybrid modern identity. Never considering itself as part of the Balkans, nor really acknowledging its ‘oriental’ influences, it has mostly looked to the West for inspiration and guidance. It was also not part of the historical upheavals of the late ’80s and early ’90s in Eastern Europe and thus was not caught up in the penchant for Balkan ‘exoticism’ that pushed many artists from that region into the spotlight. Like most other small countries on the so-called ‘periphery,’the contemporary art situation in Greece is characterized by both problems and promise.


PANOS KOKKINIAS, Leonidas, 2007. Digital print, 120 x 164 cm. Courtesy Galerie

Xippas, Paris/Athens. 

In the last ten years there has been a marked increase in activity in the field of contemporary art; there has even been talk of a ‘scene,’though this discussion is largely internal and serves local interests. What is a ‘scene’ anyway, and what exactly does it consist of? It is doubtful if any curators or collectors from abroad can name more than one or two contemporary Greek artists (at best). That aside, quite a lot is happening. Consider, for example, the founding of not one but two biennials in the two largest cities, Athens and Thessaloniki.

Most things of note that occur in Greece are almost invariably instigated by the private

sector, which has done the most to advance contemporary art. First and foremost among

these initiatives is the Deste Foundation Centre for Contemporary Art which, almost single-handedly, put Athens on the map through exhibitions drawn from the highprofile

collection of its founder Dakis Joannou. Though the Foundation has toned down its activities in the last years, it still constitutes an important point of reference in Greece, especially for younger artists. However important the foundation has been in bringing international contemporary art to the attention of a wider audience in Greece, it has not really managed to promote Greek artists abroad in any significant way. The Deste Prize, which is given to a Greek artist every two years, remains a mostly local affair. Private galleries have been instrumental in raising awareness about contemporary art. Given the lack of public money and, until recently, the lack of institutions, private galleries have played a quasi-institutional role for years. In recent years, dynamic new galleries (predominantly Athens-based) have emerged. These galleries constitute a dynamic second generation, subsequent to a handful of their predecessors who laid the foundations in the ’80s and ’90s. The newly established galleries are savvier; they have understood the importance of a good international network and visibility in international art fairs, something they pursue actively. That aside, they have been the first to really actively support and promote Greek artists internationally and to address one of the primary problems of Greek contemporary art: visibility abroad. Until now, most galleries were very good at ‘importing’ foreign artists and not so adept at ‘exporting’ homegrown talent. Now, one can slowly begin to see Greek artists exhibiting in foreign galleries and international shows. This is perhaps one of the most positive developments, as Greece does not provide an environment conducive to the production of art: opportunities for artists remain quite limited and individual subsidies are close to non-existent. The Ministry of Culture funds the national participations in biennials, but the choices are often erratic and the criteria unclear. The Athens School of Fine Arts, the ‘bastion’ of art education in Athens, is a conservative, retrograde institution where the curriculum is still mostly based on the old ‘atelier’ system. Apart from a few exceptions, the faculty consists of unremarkable artists, out of touch with international developments. As a result, most artists leave the institution apathetic and ill prepared for the competitive, professionalized environment of the art world.

What is most surprising in light of these difficulties is the lack of self-organization

and collaboration among artists, and how few artist-run initiatives there are. Artists prefer to rely on the few structures that exist or to heedlessly contribute to questionable curatorial enterprises in the hope that someone will notice; mostly, of course, that doesn’t happen. Some decide to leave. Curators are in a similarly difficult position, as there are few institutions where they can make their mark, and few sources of funding to make independent shows. Nevertheless, distinct curatorial positions are missing, as is an understanding of the difference between organizing and curating an exhibition. This

situation may be alleviated by a younger generation of curators who have studied

abroad and have returned to Greece in the last decade. Similarly, there is a lack of critical discourse; this is not helped by the fact that there is not one publication that produces any significant work in that direction. Art magazines come and go, but their contents are a pluralist mix and match. In that sense, the demise of GAP, a freebie magazine published by Futura, perhaps the most interesting art publisher in Greece, has indeed left a gap; it was one of the few places where one could find clearly articulated opinions. The latter now are mostly expressed in more alternative journals such as the modest freebie Local Folk, instigated by artist Vangelis Vlahos and critic Despina Zefkili, and a. the athens contemporary art review published online by the Athens Biennial, both of which aim to address the critical gap. Nonetheless, when compared to other European countries, contemporary art in Greece still does not occupy a significant space in the public domain. 


NIKOS NAVRIDIS, Difficult Breath # 2 (series), 2004. Photograph on paper, 124 x 179 cm.

Courtesy Magnus Müller, Berlin; NIKOS ALEXIOU, The End, 2007. Ink on paper, dimensions variable.

As far as public institutions are concerned, things finally seem to be showing some progress. Since 2000, Athens finally has its National Museum of Contemporary Art, which will move into the permanent premises of the old Fix brewery sometime in 2009, Greek politics and bureaucracy allowing (the museum is state funded). Thessaloniki,

on the other hand, which is keen to challenge the ‘hegemony’ of Athens, has three main institutions: the State Museum of Contemporary Art, whose main claim to fame is the Costakis Collection of Russian avant-garde art; the private Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art, which depends on donations from artists for its collection and has limited funds to make significant shows but is active on a local level; and the Contemporary Art Centre of Thessaloniki (CACT), an autonomous branch of the State Museum, which appears to be gaining in momentum in recent months following a period of nebulous choices. Generally, however, Greek museums and publicly funded institutions of contemporary art suffer from a clear direction and mission, adopting the more convenient ‘one size fits all’ mentality. What’s more, all these institutions are dealt cards from the hands of the politicians who fund them, so their status is volatile. Directors are (more often than not) political appointments, ‘players’ from the local scene. It is indicative that — as yet — there is not a single foreign director in a Greek institution.

Of all the national institutions, perhaps the exception is the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Athens, where some sense of direction may be discerned, even

though this, at times, seems to be in line  with the major international exhibitions of the day. Criticism that it does not support emerging Greek artists seems to have been taken into account, and the museum is now planning a show of younger Greek artists (born after 1965) for 2008 in its temporary premises. What Greece lacks in terms of strong

public institutions it makes up for in private collections. For a small country, it boasts a

considerable number of engaged private  collectors. These collectors mostly buy abroad

and predominantly opt for foreign artists who are seen as a more secure investment. This

does not help to strengthen a weak local art market or Art Athina, the Athens art fair (now in its 13th year). There is also no system of tax breaks that would encourage collectors to play a more important role in supporting public institutions. Instead, they do that abroad. Despite the undoubted energy on the horizon, there is still a lack of alternative spaces and independent collaborative practices. An exception is Locus Athens, a low-budget, flexible, nomadic project which, on an irregular basis, instigates stimulating exhibitions and happenings at various locations in the city of Athens. Also worth mentioning is Bios, an independent multidisciplinary space focusing on the exploration of urban and media culture, which has a very interesting program of experimental music, film, performance, lectures and workshops. A new and promising initiative scheduled to begin operations next year is ITYS — the Institute for Contemporary Art and Thought. Set up by the former Belgian gallerist Els Hanappe, ITYS aims to generate more dialogue surrounding contemporary art and will focus on the awareness of Greece within the region, something that would indeed be constructive since it is missing in ongoing discussions.

Art production itself mostly follows the legacy of the Western modernist tradition

and is still predominantly object based. The work of the younger generation tends to be

quite formal and less concerned with the particularities of local context. Processoriented,

experimental, site-specific and conceptual practices, as well as institutional critique, are more rare. Lately the trend — in tune with the preferences of the international art market — seems to be characterized by a craft-based, DIY, post-punk, rock’n’roll, neo-Gothic, figurative aesthetic, with drawing being the dominant art form. One often sees examples of a naïf figuration, coupled with a renewed interest in pattern & decoration. This trend, of course, is not particular to Greece alone. Fewer are the artists whose work engages with the realities of Greece’s urban situation, or that reflect on its socio-political situation: the implications of its increased (EU aided) prosperity, its position in a rather volatile geopolitical area, or its blind embrace of globalization. What is surprising is that while Greeks in general are vehemently engaged in politics, there is an absence — indeed even suspicion — of any kind of political engagement in most artists’works. Few artists manage to ‘make it’ internationally, but the younger generation seems to gradually be gaining more exposure abroad. There are also a number of mid-career artists who have managed to carve out a distinct niche for themselves. Conceptual video artist Nikos Navridis (Athens, 1958) is one of the few Greek artists who is often present in major international biennials and exhibitions. His practice — which centers around a philosophical investigation into the basic act of breathing — focuses on existential

questions and states of being. His videos, both in terms of production and technology,

are exceptionally sophisticated and exacting by Greek standards, in comparison to the low-tech and DIY aesthetic that is prevalent (for reasons of economy). Indeed, video and new media are still not as widespread in Greece as other European countries, and the discourse surrounding audio-visual culture and new media has only recently begun. Another internationally active mid-career artist who has been active in that direction is the US-based Jenny Marketou (Athens, 1954), whose multi-disciplinary work over the years has consistently explored questions of surveillance and the impact of technology on

public life. Nikos Alexiou (1960, Rethymno, Crete), on the other hand, who represented Greece in Venice this year has, over the years, developed a sculptural and multi-disciplinary practice that often takes its inspiration from Byzantine or religious iconography, combining elements from his own heritage with the language of

modernism. Panos Kokkinias (Athens, 1965) is perhaps the most interesting and accomplished photographer of his generation. His subtle, constructed photographs

explore notions of alienation and the fragile relationship between man and his surroundings, whether natural or artificial. Kokkinias was also the only Greek artist

recently included in Phaidon’s survey of photography, Vitamin Ph. These artists are, however, exceptions in managing to transcend the borders of Greece. Most artists still feel quite isolated, and there are high hopes that all the newly created initiatives will help to consolidate the position of Greek artists at home as well as internationally. Hopefully, in the future, artists will also be able to get better support from patrons, state institutions and galleries alike, so that they can make more ambitious work and not have to self-finance their work, as is now mostly the case. Despite the problems faced, however, it

is clear that the energy that characterizes the current situation is unprecedented. The

moment is at its most opportune: if all these efforts can come together constructively,

avoid customary micro-politicking and infighting, and be consolidated in the long

term, the tables can really be turned. The ‘scene’ that is currently being talked about in

Greece mostly revolves around the structures where art is presented and the ‘movers

and shakers’ behind these. When public interest for contemporary art goes beyond

its now marginal niche, when contemporary art becomes a serious item for public

discussion, when we are able to talk about an improvement of the conditions for art

production itself, and artists can better empower themselves, and when Greek

artists are able to take their place on the international map in the long term, only

then will we be able to speak of a truly successful ‘scene.’



Katerina Gregos is a curator and writer based in Belgium.

She is artistic director of Argos, Centre for Art and Media, Brussels. 


From left: NIKOS NAVRIDIS, Difficult Breath # 4 (series), 2004. Photograph on paper, 124 x 179 cm. Courtesy Magnus Müller, Berlin;

JENNY MARKETOU, Translocal, 2004. 9 single channel video installation, dimensions variable. Installation view at the Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art,Thessaloniki, Greece. Photo: Hu Fang.



From left: Pauline Karpidas and Sarah Lucas. Photo: Johnnie Shand Kydd, London; Xanthippe Skarpia- Heupel; Maria Papadimitriou; Christos Savidis; 1st Thessaloniki Biennial curators. 



Artist, Athens


What do you identify as the principal difficulty of the Greek contemporary art scene (in its broad sense) when it comes to participating in an international dialogue and the international contemporary art market?

I wonder where the so-called center of contemporary art is today. Over the last 10 years I have seen improvements in my country only in the non-governmental sector (some private foundations became more active and some galleries decided seriously to promote Greek artists at international art fairs). The real problem in Greece is the lack of institutional structure and governmental support for local artists to travel abroad for residencies and to have substantial possibilities to apply for grants. And nowadays I am questioning how the art academies function. About the market I may say: the market kills art like marriage kills love, but almost everybody wants to marry money. The Greek artistic scene is untouched by today’s international art market because it’s not in the market just like every other product from Hellas, except yogurt and feta cheese. This year Greece is inaugurating two bright new biennials out of the blue.

How do you feel about the instigation of the two Greek biennials this year?

This phenomenon is demonstrative of one of the Greek pathologies: how to switch over




Artistic Director Art-Athina, Athens


You have been organizing and producing contemporary art shows, conferences and festivals mainly from your base Thessaloniki, a city which seems to be off the center of contemporary art activity. What do you feel about that? How have you managed to make them succeed?

Working on a contemporary art project in Thessaloniki or from Thessaloniki is more or less similar to working in any other European city. Problems related to the periphery and the local are common everywhere. At the end of the day, it is the quality of an organization that ensures international standing, recognition and promotion, even on an international level.

Last year you were appointed artistic director of Art-Athina, and have already overseen a successful first year. What do you think has changed from previous years? How do you perceive its future?

Many things have changed. I will not mention my own conclusions, but this year’s participating galleries’ comments. A new generation of Greek collectors, very well informed on the international scene, has been formed. Also, international collectors bought Greek artists. We’ve had very warm response to the VIP program.

What do you think of the contemporary art scene in Greece?

There is very strong mobility in Greece. This year we have two biennials and Art-Athina, with its dynamic “Restart” while the market is growing fast. There are many good artists with great work. All these are clear signs of development. However, steps need to be taken toward the creation of a network necessary for the support of artists interested in pursuing an international career. We are on the right track.



Curators, 1st Thessaloniki Biennial


You managed to present the first biennial of contemporary art ever in Greece, funded by the state. How long have you been planning this project?

Maria Tsantsanoglou: The creation of a biennial in Thessaloniki has long been a goal of the Greek State Museum of Contemporary Art. The Ministry of Culture supported this project, seeing it not just as one more art event, but as vital to the ongoing development of a contemporary visual culture in Greece. The whole Biennial was organized in only ten months, thanks in particular to the enthusiasm and professionalism of the two main invited curators, Catherine David and Jan-Erik Lundström, and to the hard work of the Museum team. All the cultural institutions of Thessaloniki involved believed in the project and honestly supported it, making it, finally, a real biennial involving the whole city and not just a museum event.

Thessaloniki seems a periphery to contemporary art center cities. Do you identify this fact as a potentiality for such an important art event as an international biennial?

Catherine David: In a globalized world Thessaloniki is ‘peripheral’ only under very

specific geo-cultural and art economy perspectives. In the context of the explosion of biennials and other art and cultural periodical events, I would think that Thessaloniki has a certain number of cards: a rich antique, historical and modern past; a very heterogeneous collection of urban spaces; a big number of young people studying there during the year, in other words a city where artists and other people could consider staying for a while in order to work and meet. I see a big potential there for building up an original cultural meeting place; but here the curators might have visions [for which] the decisions are unfortunately in the hands of often less inspired political actors and economic arbiters.

How did you select the artists for your section in the Biennial? Did you consider the

idiosyncratic character of Greece as a factor in these decisions?

The process differs from exhibition to exhibition. This time the starting point was very concretely, even literally, three texts by Foucault, one of them being the Heterotopia text itself. These texts provided an atmosphere, a chord, a certain cluster of themes. And from this artists, often with specific works, invited themselves, so to speak. In most cases, my response, as curator, was to specific works of art, rather than to the overall oeuvre of an artist. The rapport between the textual platform and the artworks selected was, naturally, completely contemporary. The works of art in my exhibition do not explicate Foucault, nor do they even need Foucault if you press the point. But the dialogue occurring is remarkable, astonishing. There was a given venue with a given amount of space. And since it was the spatial choreography, the use made of that space, that would decide how this exhibition would meet its audience; a space that was challenging and complicated, but thus also turned out to be inviting, smooth and engaged. There are specific characteristics of contemporary Greece that I could underline or confirm — the remarkable presence of both classical thought and classical aesthetics, the latter observable through the powerful dominance of classical media such as painting or sculpture; the infinitely complex layers of memory and forgetting in a city such as Thessaloniki, one of the most multicultural and diverse cities in the history of mankind; the commanding presence of Olympus Mount as seen from downtown Thessaloniki; and so forth, but none of these made me aware of any idiosyncrasy.

Did you get acquainted with the local art scene of Thessaloniki while you were there?

CD: When I was invited to work for the Biennial my first comment and critique was

precisely about the extremely tight schedule that would prevent me from getting well

acquainted with the artistic and cultural scene of Thessaloniki. But I understood and accepted that this was due to the late final decisions from the city and politicians. And I hope that the next biennial will be organized in time to avoid repeating this. The ideal from my point of view would be that the curators have time and conditions in order to design a few projects which would develop with local people and guests in Thessaloniki throughout the two years leading to the biennial.

What is your strategy toward the continuation of the Biennial in the following years?

MT: Our strategy for the future will be to bring to Greek and international artists and audiences new platforms of ideas, both aesthetic and ideological, while avoiding fashion and market trends, and continue to support artists from countries with difficult access to the so-called ‘Western world.’



Marina Fokidis is an art critic and curator based in Athens. 

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