CULTURE

Classic works of modern art in an Athens venue

The red frame of a window display on Lykavittou Street in Kolonaki will catch someone’s eye. The display belongs to the Down Town Art Gallery Shop, a recently opened art venue and an unusual spot designed at the opposite end of the conventional, all-white ice-cube-shaped galleries. Owned by the jeweler and art collector Alexis Mariathanakis and with gallerist Nikos Stathoulis as artistic counsel, Down Town Art Gallery Shop is a home and showroom for modern and contemporary art. The gallery, which is named after Stathoulis’s Down Town gallery in Psyrri (one of the first galleries to open in downtown Athens), is not run as a conventional art gallery with temporary exhibitions and one-man shows. Instead, it pivots on its rich permanent art collection, which ranges from works by the great classics of modern art, including Picasso, Matisse, Max Ernst, Joan Miro and Alexander Calder, to Greek artists such as Yiannis Tsarouchis, Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghikas, Alexis Akrithakis and Takis and works by emerging contemporary artists. The diversity is apparent. Creations by Paul Thek and Andy Warhol, including the Warhol-signed work of the Marilyn Monroe image published in the late 1970s, and a series of original lithographs by Ernst are presented in the same space as those by emerging artists such as Anastassia Vassileiou, Vangelis Vassileiou, Evripidis and Nikos Nomikos. Many of the classics come from the Alexander Iolas collection. Stathoulis, who is Iolas’s biographer, recognized the authenticity of these works and helped track down many of them around the world to bring them to the gallery. The mark of Iolas is evident on one side of the gallery, which is taken up by a large window display containing documents and photographs of Iolas. The elegant catalogs and publications that Iolas made for the artists that he represented (Max Ernst, Man Ray, Alfred Otto Wols, Rene Magritte, Roberto Echaurren Matta, Niki de Saint Phalle) are presented in a separate display case. The official opening of the gallery, which is planned for November, is meant as a tribute to this great Greek art collector and coincides with the 20th anniversary of his death. Besides the impact that some of the works have, what is also striking is the design of the gallery. Gray and red tones and carefully designed lighting that can be adjusted for various effects help create a relaxed atmosphere and warm environment that pull in the viewer and generate a sense of ease. The extended operating hours of the gallery (it will be open until 10 p.m.) strengthen the cool profile of the gallery. While the valuable works in this gallery would categorize it as a high-end venue, the place remains friendly and open to visitors. Located in Kolonaki, in the heart of the neighborhood’s commercial area and next to some of the neighborhoods traditional coffeeshops, Down Town Art Gallery Shop is a welcome and fresh addition to the city’s art scene. Some of the city’s trendiest gallerists have closed down and downtown Athens is no longer the capital’s artistic center. With that in mind, we should watch with interest to see how this new venue establishes itself in the urban gallery scene. Down Town Art Gallery Shop (15 Lykavittou, Kolonaki, tel 210.364.0223). The website, www.athensdowntownart.com, will be up and running in September.