Art Athina growing in stature

Art Athina, the city’s contemporary art fair that is scheduled to open May 22, is one of the most happening and international events on the city’s contemporary art scene. At an informal meeting with members of the press, Art Athina’s artistic director Christos Savvidis and general director Michalis Argyrou (essentially the event’s organizers), presented the main sections of the event, spoke with enthusiasm of their expectations of it and stressed the fact that this Athens art fair is gradually becoming a recognizable, international event with a growing, sound reputation. The Hellenic Art Galleries Association has been the event’s organizing institution from the start. Savvidis and Argyrou are in charge of the Art Athina fair for the second consecutive year. Last year, the change of hands from the previous organizers to the current ones was one of the reasons that caused confusion and dissent. As a result, several Greek galleries refused to participate. However, last year’s success seems to have changed the negative attitude, bringing most of the dissenting galleries back to the event. According to the organizers, another accomplishment is the fact that some of the most important, cutting-edge international galleries which participated in Art Athina for the first time last year have shown a willingness to participate at this year’s event as well: Peres projects from Germany, Monitor from Italy, Christian Nagel Gallery from Germany, and the Maag Gallery from Switzerland are among them. Does that mean that Athens is coming to the attention of the international art market? According to Savvidis, Art Athina not only attracts Greek buyers but many international art collectors as well. To a certain extent, this is due to the work that has been put into the so-called VIP program, which aims at luring international buyers to the Athens art fair by organizing special events. Savvidis also noted that recent art events, such as the two contemporary art biennials held last year in Athens and Thessaloniki, have helped create a buzz around the contemporary art scene in Greece. He also said that the fact that Art Athina is relatively small in scale when compared to the big European art events means that it can retain a more homogenized and focused personality, something which adds to its attraction. The structure Held at the Helexpo building, as in previous years, the 2008 Art Athina will be based on the same idea as last year’s event: «Basic Plan,» the main exhibition hall, will include 45 booths by Greek and international galleries. Isabella Bortolozzi will curate an independent section. Presented on a different floor, «Open Plan» is a separate, large display in which the art shown and the galleries represented are selected by a specific art curator. For this year, the curator is Bettina Busse, who works with the Vienna Museum of Modern Art. Sarah Belden who works with Curators without Borders – a platform for independent art curators based in Berlin – has prepared «Focus: Berlin-New York, First We Take Manhattan then We Take Berlin,» a curatorial project that compares the contemporary art scenes of Berlin and New York city. Art Athina also hosts a range of parallel projects, exhibitions that show the different facets of contemporary art. In the basement of the Helexpo building, Marina Fokidi has curated «The Garage Project,» an exhibition on the local contemporary art scene. Intended as a cool and hip exhibition, it encourages interaction and creates a relaxed, playful environment. Video art projections, for example, are designed in a way that resembles a summer, open-air cinema. Also part of the «Parallel Projects» section of Art Athina is «Lion under the Rainbow: Art from Tehran,» an exhibition on contemporary Iranian art which is curated by artist Alexandros Georgiou and produced by D.ART. The exhibition will be held in a building in the city center (48-50 Aeolou Street). «Elements of Light» curated by Boris Manner, professor at Vienna’s University of Applied Arts, is an exhibition that presents the works that the Russian artist Eugenia Emets and Austrian artist Markus Proschek produced during a residency on the island of Syros. The exhibition, held at the Hellenic American Union, is organized by the University of Applied Arts in collaboration with the Stella Art Foundation. Based on a Russian private art collection, this foundation is in the process of opening a museum of contemporary art in Moscow. Savvidis has said that museum will be directed by Robert Storr, director of the Venice Biennale in 2007 and a former dean of the Yale School of Art. The foundation has acquired several works from Art Athina. Savvidis said that the new museum will include a section on contemporary Greek art. Also part of the parallel project events will be an exhibition that will present works from the Costakis collection of early-20th-century Russian Avant-Garde. The State Museum of Contemporary Art in Thessaloniki, which owns the collection together with the Museum of Cycladic Art which will host the exhibition, are the organizers. During the three-days of Art Athina, there will also be round-table discussions, art presentations and lectures by artists, collectors, gallerists and international curators. Independent curators Catherine David and Christian Viveros-Faune are among the participants. By building an international network, Art Athina hopes to gradually give more exposure to Greek artists but to also offer the Greek public a more rounded view of the international art scene. Organizers seem confident that this is already well under way. Art Athina 2008 will open on May 23 at the Helexpo Palace (39 Kifissias Avenue, Maroussi) and will be open to May 25. Info:

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