The 2004 Visual Arts Olympics

For the town of Maroussi, August 13 will not only signal the opening of the 2004 Athens Olympic Games. Also kicking off on the same day – and just a short distance from the Olympic Stadium itself – will be the Olympics of Visual Arts 2004, an international exhibition organized by Artiade, a non-profit cultural foundation. The exhibition will feature works by approximately 600 artists from around the world. In Greece, Artiade is represented by its director/producer, Spyros Mercouris. The selection Earlier this month, 50 percent of the entries (83 artists from 52 of the countries participating in the Olympics) were chosen by the foundation’s international jury for participation in the upcoming event. A second meeting was due to end a few days ago. Altogether, there were 2,500 works. In selecting the artworks, the jury committee is aiming for the Athens exhibition to represent a maximum number of countries, so that visitors could shape their own views of cultural life around the globe. According to the competition’s rules, the show was open to all artists willing to present new or past works – all it took was filling in an application over the Internet. One of the members of the judging panel, Carol Becker, head of the Arts Institute of the University of Chicago, noted the exhibition’s democratic character and the possibility of participating without government permission or any other kind of political intervention. It is certain that in the end, more than 100 countries will be represented at the upcoming exhibition. The works – including paintings, sculptures, installations, media and video art – will go on display in a specially constructed 6,500-square-meter building in the Maroussi area. The first Olympics of Visual Arts were presented during the Atlanta Games in 1996. An equivalent exhibition currently being organized to take place during the Beijing Olympics in 2008 has already reached an advanced stage. Meanwhile, the Olympics of Visual Arts 2004 will be on display until the end of September and will include a Chinese Hall showcasing China’s cultural tradition and activity. Cultural ideals Taking her cue from Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic Games who dreamed of future Games combining sports and art, Renate Westhoff-Reisch, Artiade’s founder and president of the Foundation Artiade NGO, said in a statement that the event’s objective this year was «once again to provide visitors from all over the world access to the cultural backgrounds of Olympic nations through art, offering them new and fascinating artistic insights.»

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