People who often walk in the garden of the Zappeion Mansion in downtown Athens know that they are always in good company, with the statues of great Greek benefactors, poets and philosophers, but also more tender figures such as Dimitrios Filippotis’ “Young Fisherman” and Georgios Vroutos’ “Eros.” These and more make up a family of sculptures by well-known artists that were placed at iconic spots in the mansion’s garden, as was the custom of ancient Athenians paying homage to their gods and heroes.
Until now, though, these statues had remained shrouded in darkness after nightfall. Not only was their beauty invisible, but the gloom of the park was also a security concern. About a year ago, the ever-active chairwoman of the historical site’s managing agency, Olympia and Bequests Committee, Christina Vagena, decided to do something about it, not just to showcase the sculptures but also to improve the site’s overall nocturnal image. Vagena has already done much to make the site more visitor-friendly – including the recent opening of a playground – and this was another such initiative.
To make it happen, Vagena reached out to Eleftheria Deko, who recently also did the new lighting system for the Acropolis. The internationally acclaimed lighting designer in turn offered her services pro bono, designing a new lighting system for 17 of the Zappeion statues and overseeing its implementation. Two sculptures are in parts of the park run exclusively by the Athens municipal authority and are already illuminated, while another four are inside the mansion.
The initiative began in December 2019 and included some gardening work as well, to cut back trees and bushes that obscured the view of some of the sculptures. The pandemic caused a few delays in the delivery of the lights, which came from abroad, and in the work of the crews, but the project managed to stay on track thanks to the excellent cooperation between the designer and the management committee.
“As a visitor and observer of Zappeion, but above all as a citizen of Athens, I saw it as imperative that the vibrancy of the building and its equally beautiful and historical garden is as evident at night as it is during the day,” says Deko, who treated each statue with attention and care.
“It was an enormous honor for such a charismatic professional to offer her assistance free of charge and to breathe new life into the sculptures. When the pandemic blows over, all Athenians will have the pleasure of rediscovering them and enjoying them,” adds Vagena.