CULTURE

Contemporary art takes to hotel

Art exhibitions, generally speaking, are not famed for drawing in the masses. But the opening of «Visions» a week ago at the Athens Imperial Hotel proved to be something of an exception. Thousands of people (it is estimated that 4,000 came to the opening) flocked to the third floor of the hotel, where each of the 31 rooms had been transformed into an art gallery, and to the party that followed afterward. Hundreds of fine arts students, artists, curators and people from the art world who attended the event agreed that this was not only the most expansive and varied exhibition of a series but the most interesting as well. «Visions» is organized by Kappatos art gallery as the continuation of an idea that was conceived seven years ago. Back then, Gerasimos Kappatos thought of presenting the work of young artists and providing public exposure to the ideas of young curators. He asked curators to select an artist of their choice and gave each of them one of the four rooms in his art gallery to exhibit their work in. Due to its success, the exhibition was established on an annual basis and as participating curators and artists increased in numbers, Kappatos looked for larger spaces. He also became intrigued with the idea of showing art in spaces other than an art gallery, thus also making art more accessible to a general public. The St George Lycabettus Hotel hosted the exhibition for two years. Athens Imperial is the host for this year’s exhibition, which will also move to Thessaloniki in May, to the Macedonia Palace Hotel. By bringing together artists and curators, this exhibition conceived by Kappatos serves not only as a meeting ground for the art world but is also an occasion to test out curatorial ideas and to reveal the trends of contemporary art. The novelty of «Visions» is that besides the standard pairing of an art curator and an artist, it invites artists to play the role of curator and is also open to the inclusion of ideas by art collectors and artists that do not strictly belong to the visual arts. One of the most interesting presentations is the room curated by artist Nikos Alexiou. In the room, the artist has placed a small part of his personal art collection; most of the work bears a close affinity with the work of Alexiou. Next door, an installation by Alexiou himself shows his preoccupation with light materials, particularly paper. Where «Visions» also differs compared to the other exhibitions of the series is in its inclusion of international artists: Hans Op de Beeck and SKALL are jointly presented in an installation curated by Sotiris Bachtetzis. Both artists explore what constitutes a work of art and what its role is. Several of the most engaging installations are included in the RADAR display, which is the name that artists Giorgos Gyparakis, Costas Ioannidis and Alexandros Psychoulis have given to their group projects. The installation, which is curated by Daphne Vitali, contains three separate works, apparently all concerned with the use of language in a multiethnic, globalized world. Savvas Christodoulidis’s installation of an oriental-looking chandelier positioned on a table is one of the most optically pleasing works of the exhibition. Proposed by curator Nadia Argyropoulou, the work is intended as a take on the objet-trouve and the gap between the utilitarian and aesthetic properties of an object. A disturbing, yet gripping and well-thought-out installation is that by Marios Spiliopoulos. Curated by Fay Tzanetoulakou, the installation addresses violence. Spiliopoulos has turned the hotel room upside-down and filled it with drawings of red ink and photos depicting scenes of violence. The strong sense of a human presence or of a crime having just been committed is haunting and is what makes the installation have such a powerful effect. Artist Paris Haviaras has turned his room – the curator is Iota Constantatou – into a collection of bric-a-brac, odd objects referring to popular culture. Something like the artist’s studio or archive, the work is suggestive of issues related to memory. Most works are presented in installation form. Even painter Evgenia Apostolou has her red, heavily-impastoed paintings – beautiful in their tactile quality, color and well-worked surfaces – positioned on top of a bed covered with white linen. Apostolou and her curator, Maria Marangou, intended to test the extent to which painting can operate as an installation. In «Visions,» each artist is given the opportunity of an entire, single room to express his thoughts. Diversity and experimentation is the point here. So is the idea of placing art in the context of an alternative space and bringing in a broad public as viewers. «Visions» at the Athens Imperial Hotel (Karaiskaki Square, tel 210.520.1600) through February 19. Open daily from 2-10 p.m. For info, contact Kappatos Gallery (6 Aghias Irinis, 210.321.7931).