Omonia Square gets new artistic emblem

The history of Omonia Square is very much the history of Athens. This may sound like a cliche, but each successive transformation of the square over the decades has reflected the changes taking place in the metropolis as a whole. From the Belle Epoque square surrounded by hotels and artists’ cafes at the turn of the 20th century, all the way to the days of the green-glass «Runner» by Costas Varotsos and the upheaval of the Metro works, Omonia Square has been a silent witness of endless change. At present, the square is in the process of acquiring a new emblem: a large, impressive sculpture by Giorgos Zongolopoulos. Had the square’s reconstruction been completed on schedule, the sculpture would have been easily visible, but as it stands surrounded by construction materials, trucks and debris, it is hard to spot. Zongolopoulos’s sculpture is a composition of lateral and horizontal metallic beams containing rotating wheels within their squares. A small water fountain is currently being constructed at the base of the sculpture, which, once complete, will feed water to the entire construction. The playful, water-powered structure will then spurt jets of water off the rotating wheels. The installation of the sculpture brings to mind the history of Zongolopoulos’s involvement with the changing faces of Omonia Square, beginning in 1960 when, with the cooperation of Costas Bitsios, the sculptor won a tender for the attractive fountain which used to adorn the square. His original proposal also included a wire sculpture of Poseidon in the center of the fountain, which was, however, scrapped after receiving bad reviews from the Athenian press. Zongolopoulos was then told to continue making proposals for a sculpture at Omonia Square. Although the years went by and all works were put on hold during the dictatorship, the sculptor persisted in coming up with new ideas. When, in the late 1980s, then-Athens Mayor Miltiadis Evert agreed to Varotsos’s attractive «Runner» (now standing outside the Hilton Hotel), more promises were made to a disappointed Zongolopoulos, whose work already adorned several cities in Greece and abroad. Two years ago, Zongolopoulos’s new sculpture was exhibited at the Venice Biennale, and Yiannis Kalandidis, the artist’s friend and president of the Unification of the Archaeological Sites of Athens SA company – which is responsible for Omonia’s revamp – grabbed the opportunity to make a proposal to the artist. Zongolopoulos will turn 100 years old this year and Athens, the city in which he has lived all his life, will finally fulfill a 33-year-old promise.