CULTURE

Smaller Art Athina does not scrimp on quality

Smaller but livelier, Art Athina is back at the Faliro Arena on the southern coast of the Greek capital, and after the art fair’s unfortunate cancellation last year it is again serving as a meeting point for artists from all over the country as well as domestic and foreign collectors who want to get an idea of what is going on in the Greek art world.

“Greece did not even have a government this time last year and we were trying to secure the participation of foreign galleries, so it’s reasonable that there are far fewer entries this year,” said Alexis Kaniaris, one of the co-organizers, in explanation of why the number of exhibitions has gone down to 45 this year from 60 in 2011.

Still, despite its streamlined size, Art Athina 2013 is very satisfying. The display pavilions are well spaced out and set up and there is a good selection of artwork on sale for all budgets. Prices have dropped by around 15-20 percent on average in comparison to previous years, while buyers who reserve a piece on the spot usually receive a sizable discount. Younger artists are creating exciting work at very attractive prices, while the more established seem to have come to their senses and adapted their prices to the crisis.

However, gallery owners are not getting their hopes too high in terms of sales this year.

“What we are most interested in is getting people to come to the fair and see the work, which is of very good quality. This is what will give us gallerists some heart,” said Harissa Dimitrakopoulou of Astrolavos, which has three branches in Athens and Piraeus.

Giorgos Kartalos, the owner of the capital’s Agathi gallery, added that “in the past we knew that many of the works we were showing at the fair had already been sold. That is not the case any longer, but we don’t let it stop us.”

The event is perhaps more important for people who own galleries outside of Athens and especially in more remote parts of the country where there is a limited audience for the visual arts.

“Just being here is extremely important to us,” said Vicky Papatzikou from Veria in northern Greece.

Maria Albani, owner of the Alma Gallery in Trikala, central Greece, is of the same opinion, and she came to Art Athina with a very nice collection of works by significant Greek artists.

With the rental rates for the pavilions down by 40 percent this year compared to 2011, there are a quite a few out-of-towners who have seized the opportunity for some publicity.

The financial aspect aside, the work being shown this year is especially interesting and, unsurprisingly, much of it is inspired by the crisis. Younger artists such as Dimitris Anastasiou and Rania Bellou are standouts, while there are also plenty of regular veterans who never fail to please, such as Alexandros Psychoulis, Manolis Bitsakis and Mantalina Psoma, to name but a few.

Special mention must be made of the program of foreign collectors and VIPs, in which some 60 people are participating, as well as the parallel exhibitions. One, curated by Marina Fokidis, showcases art sent by various foreign galleries, including pieces by Juergen Teller, James Franco and Jeremy Deller. The second, “Paradise Lost,” is curated by Artemis Papaioannou and presents a selection of young artists.

Art Athina runs through Sunday and is open from noon to 9 p.m. Admission costs 7 euros (5 reduced). For details, log on to www.art-athina.gr