Visual arts venue in Psychico

Just a short drive from the center of Athens, the area of Palaio Psychico is not really a suburb yet is strictly residential with lots of green, several two-story homes and small, one-way streets. Its closeness to the city but resemblance to a suburb is a combination hard to find. Yet the lack of a commercial area counts for many as a disadvantage and also gives, at least to an outsider, the impression of an area lacking in liveliness and a sense of a community. Despite first impressions, there is both the feeling of community among the inhabitants of Psychico as well as a number of venues that help tie the community together. One such venue is the Municipal Gallery of Psychico, a former house whose owners (Meni and Takis Lefa) bequeathed it, along with their art collection, to the district’s municipality to be used as a cultural center. The gallery opened to the public two years ago with an exhibition of the Lefa collection, 400 paintings and engravings of some of the classics of 20th century Greek art; among them works by Giorgos Mavroidis, Paris Prekas, Odysseas Fokas, Aimilios Prosalentis, Nikolas Xenos and Thalia Flora-Karavia. The curator of the gallery, art historian Eugenia Alexaki, has since begun a project on the conservation, classification and study of the Lefa collection. She has also organized a series of contemporary art exhibitions with the objective of turning the gallery into an active and contemporary-oriented art venue. The various educational programs and seminars, both in art history and the applied arts, have also helped integrate the venue into the community of Palaio Psychico. «Epipleon» (Plus), which is the latest curatorial project by Alexaki currently being held at the gallery, shows the curator’s concern with site-specific projects that bring out the history of the gallery and its relationship to the present. Eleven contemporary artists (Cornelios Grammenos, Thrafia, Lizzie Calliga, Niki Kanagini, Vassilis Kokas, Aimilia Papafilippou, Alexandros Pfaff, Andreas Savva, Yiannis Skaltsas, Angelos Skourtis and Yioulia Hadzigeorgiou) have been asked to create works that relate in some way to the Lefa house and its art collection. One of the most engaging works is Lizzie Calliga’s video which captures the reflections of light as it bounces off the surface of the sea and streams in the shutters of the artist’s 19th century old home on Spetses during the height of summer, transforming its interior into a beautiful landscape of changing, luminous shapes. Aimilia Papafilippou’s installation of lit neon-blue threads creates a network-like effect in one of the gallery’s rooms and is another intriguing work. Kanagini’s two works – the documentation of a happening involving the public that took place during the show’s opening as well as the photo documentation of another work concerning domestic space and gender identity – show the artist’s interest in a kind of art that has social relevance and includes interaction with the public. On completely different note, Andreas Savva’s simple black-and-white signpost makes a witty comment on the relationship between artist and collector. Other works make more direct references to the Lefa collection or, in the case of Yioulia Hadzigeorgiou, to the building itself. A somewhat uneven exhibition with some good moments, it does, nonetheless, help to promote the activities of a venue that constitutes a small spot of culture in this area of Athens. Municipal Gallery of Psychico (15 Kokkoni, tel 210.671.7097) through May 5.

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