City center’s hearts seem a bit forsaken

The open-air artwork displayed in «Hearts in Athens» ought to feel very lonely, as opposed to the cows who took over the city for months and turned into stars and mascots. The cows were cute, tender, elegant, flirtatious and coquettish. Everybody wanted a photo with them, everybody stopped to take a look. The hearts, however, make the city look like a department store window ahead of Valentine’s Day; they seem heartless, distant and indifferent. Few Athenians stop to take a good look, choosing instead to walk past them. It’s not the artists’ fault (the majority of whom are of the new generation), who have tried to incorporate their worries, sensibilities, imagination and city images into the shape of the heart. Perhaps that’s precisely where the problem lies, the heart’s actual shape, which is overused and identified with too many things, ranging from Latin American soap operas and Mills & Boon romances to chocolates and cholesterol advertisements. Public art through open-air exhibitions, which first appeared in Athens last year (with a preview during the Athens 2004 Olympics) is a good idea, familiarizing citizens with the visual arts. In a city where visual public culture is identified with busts and sculptures, the familiarization of citizens with contemporary art could very well act as a well-received, «free» education. While the cows stopped in Athens as part of a European capitals tour, the hearts begin their road trip from the Greek capital. The open-air exhibition began on January 21, when key city-center spots filled with over 70 flat or three-dimensional hearts: Kolonaki Square, Syntagma Square, Korai Street, Arsakeio Hall, Panepistimiou Street and Vassilissis Sofias Avenue, to name but a few. Whether hanging from walls (or flat surfaces) or installed on pedestrian streets, squares and sidewalks, the works are scheduled to stay put until March 19. A charity auction will then take place on a farewell evening organized for April 14, with 50 percent of the proceeds aiding the charity Together for Children.

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