Money is not enough for art

Greek artists are not receiving the practical attention and encouragement they need. Compared to a country like Spain, for example, where there are a number of opportunities, Greece has no support mechanisms to promote and help artists take their first steps in the art market. Art prizes are an important form of recognition for those in a stage of transition after finishing art school. The DESTE Foundation for Contemporary Art prize, established seven years ago, the Eurobank prize for top students at the Athens School of Fine Arts and the Fryssiras Prize (although the latter is awarded to foreign artists as well) are a sign that things are improving. Kathimerini talked to art critic Olga Daniilopoulou, director of the Nees Morfes Gallery, about an exhibition of the prize winners in the Spyropoulos art competition, now in its 15th year. Six artists – Georgia Hadzivassileiadi, Fanni Sofologi, Panayiotis Vittis, Georgia Sagri, Theodoros Stamatoyiannis and Alexandros Avrana – who distinguished themselves in the competition over the past six years are showing work ranging from video and performance art to installations. Every year, two candidates are chosen by a committee whose members change frequently. Of the prize winners, only one has presented paintings. Is this kind of medium on the decline in Greece, in contrast to the comeback it is experiencing abroad? The truth is that we have not awarded prizes for paintings because the entries were of poor quality. So why not give the prizes to works that were better? Generally, however, I believe that we are currently in a new phase, with artists, art critics and art historians focusing on contemporary forms of expression. There is a need for new things and it is being expressed dynamically. Has your long tenure on the panel of judges given you the ability to get into the minds of the entrants, and what changes have you seen over the years? Young artists are a lot less confident nowadays. I have a feeling they spend a lot more time thinking about how to promote their work than they do on the essence of it. This shows a shift in mentality that has occurred gradually over the years and part of the blame for this lies with the teachers at the Athens School of Fine Arts. But, there are exceptions – young people whose priority is their education and their careers. Do the works that have won over the past 15 years share anything in common? There is a common denominator among the artists, but that is a desire to move in a direction that will make their work better known. It seems as if they are following a trend of sorts. Do you see the existence of more awards as a positive thing? Do prizes, such as those given by DESTE help these artists become more known abroad? An increase in the number of awards certainly can have a positive effect. In general, though, I would say that if the basic infrastructure is lacking, talented artists will still have to go it alone if they want recognition. An artist may receive an award from DESTE and have his or her work included in the Dakis Joannou collection and then see it traveling to exhibitions abroad. But to build a career abroad, young artists also need the support of the state. What does the future hold? We are planning to sell the building now housing the Spyropoulos Museum in Ekali in order to buy something downtown. This will display the 260 works we have from Spyropoulos as well as the work of young artists who have received the foundation’s award. We are also planning to have spaces available for temporary exhibitions and other artistic activities. If all goes according to plan, we should be ready in about two years. Thankfully, we have found a home in the Nees Morfes Gallery that allows us in these difficult times to show the work of the award winners to the public.

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