Time ripe for an Athens Biennale?

What is to become of all the artwork that formed the «Athens by Art» project during the Olympic Games, due to come down on September 30? It’s a question that seems to concern just a small handful of art lovers. The outdoor public art display allowed thousands of Athenians to view art in a different light over the past two months, thanks to the 84 works on display that changed the feel of central avenues, pedestrian roads and squares, giving the city a fun and playful look. «The City of Athens, which organized the project in cooperation with the Society of Greek Art Critics, intends to find a way so that the artworks can remain in the city,» says the pioneer of Athens by Art, sculptor Costas Varotsos. He does, however, point out that «it is, of course, impossible for them to remain exactly as they are right now, either because some do not have a permanent character or because they are located inside archaeological sites. I think that it is very important to hang on to them, so that they can breathe new life into other parts of the city and stand as a memento of the Athens Olympic Games.» «I hope that both the City of Athens and the artists themselves act generously so that the works of art can come into the possession of the City and be fully taken advantage of,» Varotsos notes. If the artists decide to donate their works to the City of Athens, that would mean that many obstacles to the purchase of works bound for display in public spaces – normally done by tender only – would be overcome. Varotsos informed us that some artists, among them Takis, have already stated their intention of donating the works they did for Athens by Art. «I think Athenians do embrace art. A lot has changed since ‘The Runner’ was placed in Omonia Square in 1988, thanks to the insistence of Xarchakos,» says Varotsos. «Walking down Dionysiou Areopagitou or Apostolou Pavlou streets, I saw how much pleasure the public derived from the artworks, how they commented on them, took part in interactive projects. We mustn’t underestimate the Greeks. They react in a very positive manner when they see things happening, changing. I was also impressed by the dedication and will of the Greek artists in Athens by Art.» «I believe,» the artist continued, «that this is the perfect time for us to create a permanent event of an artistic nature in Athens. The time is ripe for it. I have proposed that a Biennale be held in Athens, displaying artwork all over the city. Prime Minister and Culture Minister Costas Karamanlis, his deputy Petros Tatoulis and Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyannis have given a lot of weight to cultural matters and I think they will view this proposal in a positive light. Everything takes effort, is a struggle, but I am optimistic.»

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