Athens contemporary art fair claims a cultural role

Contemporary art fairs are usually commercial events which highlight a great variety of the latest artwork. Art Athina, Greece’s biggest annual contemporary art fair, also sees itself as pursuing cultural goals. This is true – to an extent. For years, galleries were the only venues where the public could consistently view contemporary art. This may not be entirely the case anymore, but galleries are still this art’s primary showcase. Art Athina, now in its 12th year, promotes the current contemporary art scene. To enhance its cultural edge, Art Athina’s organizers are also staging several parallel exhibitions at the fair. One such exhibition is «CA: Artists from California in Greek Art Collections.» Curated by New York-based independent curator Max Henry, it displays works selected from some of the major private Greek collections – Dakis Joannou, Zacharias Portalakis, Dimitris Passas, Charis David, Konstantinos Papageorgiou, Grigoris Papadimitriou, Yiannis Christoforakos and Dimitris Gigourtakis. To be sure, Greek art collectors are increasingly opening up to international art, which is motivating foreign art galleries to participate in Art Athina. Of the 43 participating galleries, 14 are from Europe and the US. In an effort to bring more international attention to the Greek art scene, organizers of Art Athina have also invited selected foreign art collectors, curators and museum directors. Another parallel exhibition at this year’s fair is «LOUD & CLEAR,» an interactive video project involving nine composers and an equal number of artists, including Marlene Dumas, Pierre Huyghe, Viktor & Rolf and Gillian Wearing. The project was organized by the interactive Bifrons Foundation in Amsterdam in collaboration with the Baltic Center for Contemporary Art. A third project held for the first time this year involves purchasing art on display at the fair. Funds from Art Athina’s major sponsor, Bombay Sapphire (Alpha Bank is another sponsor), will be used to purchase one of the contemporary artworks presented at the exhibition and selected by a committee. The work will be offered to the National Museum of Contemporary Art. By collaborating with a state museum, Art Athina further underscores its «cultural role.» This role has earned the event the financial support of its principal sponsor, the Ministry of Culture, since its inception even if, in reality, Art Athina is chiefly a commercial affair. Opening Friday evening, HELEXPO center (39 Kifissias, Maroussi). To 24/5. For information, call 210.691.2331.