Artists breathe new life into empty shop windows

The empty display windows of 15 shops in downtown Athens that had been forced to close down due to the crisis have been given a new lease on life by students of the Athens School of Fine Arts, who have been allowed to use the storefronts as showcases for their work.

The initiative was spearheaded by artist Marios Spiliopoulos, a teacher at the school, and musician Marios Strofalis, who joined forces to muster support from the City of Athens and get the students on board.

The pieces can be seen on the classic shopping route leading from the city center all the way up to Kolonaki, along Stadiou, Academias, Voukourestiou, Amerikis, Skoufa, Solonos and Patriarchou Ioakeim streets.

On Academias, a sleeping bag draws the attention of passers-by: it?s not a homeless person, but a piece by Eleni Fountoulaki. In the shop window that once used to display the creations of fashion designer Lakis Gavalas on Voukourestiou Street, there is a painting of a skeleton enjoying a glass of wine — a comment on bygone opulence by Nasos Frantzeskakis. On Stadiou, a group of artists have transformed the exterior and the interior of a closed shop with graffiti, while on Amerikis Street, a sculpture by Spyros Haralambopoulos depicts a boy milking a goat.

?It is like a stopgap against mounting depression,? said Spiliopoulos, whose initial idea it was to start the project. ?It took a great deal of energy and time in order to convince the shop owners to allow us to use their spaces. We knocked on 120 doors, but only 15 opened.

?The original idea,? he explains, ?was to organize the exhibition along Patission Street. But when I approached the owners there, the response was very disappointing. We ended up finding more obliging people in Kolonaki. The owners were more open-minded and they grasped the concept immediately.

?The shops remain closed and the window acts like a screen. We did not want to create alternative gallery spaces, but to construct short narratives that will be seen by passers-by,? said Spiliopoulos, who was inspired by similar pioneering initiatives organized by members of the Young British Artists movement of the 1980s and in the city of Berlin in the 1990s.

The displays by the students will go down on January 7.

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