Contemporary Greek art enlivens upmarket hotel

As a large, chain hotel, the Athenaeum Inter-Continental hardly conjures the image of a more personalized and intimate «art» hotel. Yet, the 200 works displayed there leave no doubt that this is a place where contemporary art holds pride of place. The hotel’s owner is none other than Dakis Joannou, one of the art world’s greatest collectors. His other three hotels, Periscope in Kolonaki and 21 as well as Semiramis in Kefalari, are also filled with art, though the display is not as surprising there considering their small scale and boutique-like character. The Inter-Continenal’s orientation toward art actually goes back to the early 1980s, when Joannou took over the hotel and placed works from his own collection on the hotel’s premises. The art exhibited back then included mainly works by an older generation of artists including Takis, Diohanti and Tsoclis. New works were placed in the hotel’s lobby, restaurants and conference rooms recently and were presented earlier in the week at a heavily attended opening. Joannou has worked closely with the project’s curator, Effie Michalarou, to impart the hotel’s rather impersonal spaces with the youthful, fresh edge of contemporary art and an air of sophistication. Although the exhibitions of Joannou’s collection focus on the work of international artists, the Athenaeum Inter-Continental includes only contemporary Greek art. This seems to be intentional, a way of acquainting the foreign visitor with Greek art, but also a way of alerting Greeks themselves about their country’s presence in the collection. All the works presented at the Athenaeum Inter-Continental were made especially for the hotel and the spaces in which the works are displayed. This, together with the fact that most spaces include works by only one artist, shows keen attention to the content of the art and not the use of art as mere decoration for the hotel. The conference rooms on the hotel’s lower level are some of the most interesting exhibition spaces. Some works are by emerging young artists such as Irini Miga, whose delicate yet witty drawings depict tools and visual puns, giving a youthful and light ambience to one of the hotel’s conference rooms. At the Zoe cafe, Aphroditi Liti’s four abstract-shaped sculptures depicting the four seasons also show Joannou and his team want to offer more than just a fragmentary presentation of each artist’s work. Throughout the hotel one also finds works by artists such as Alexis Akrithakis, Eleni Christodoulou, Thanassis Totsikas and Yannis Bouteas. They are exhibited in a way that both blends and accentuates the surroundings, creating an interesting place somewhere between the realms of interior architecture and art and offering another way to peruse art outside the traditional «white cube» environment of a gallery.