CULTURE

Broad review of last year’s culture events

Appraising the cultural events of the year in retrospect sometimes has the advantage of offering a more distanced and objective point of view. «Greek Culture Yearbook 07-08,» a Highlights magazine project recently published by Filotheamon, provides that critical, distanced appraisal and gathers in a single book the Greek cultural highlights of the past year in architecture, the visual arts, photography, theater, dance, cinema, music (contemporary and classical) and books (with subsections on prose, poetry and essay). Each section is written by a specialist in the field. The third in a row since 2005 when the first «Yearbook» of the series was released, the publication is a critical survey of Greece’s cultural life and a useful, well-rounded record of its major events. The full English text also makes it accessible to an English-speaking public. In the architecture section, Tonia Makra singles out three major projects that include the completion of the New Acropolis Museum, the new construction for the Athens Exchange on Athinon Avenue and the beginning of the work that will renovate the former FIX brewery into the premises of the National Museum of Contemporary Art. The project will be completed in 2009. Other important projects include the renovation of two listed buildings, the Pallis Mansion on Syntagma Square, which has been converted into the Public multimedia and book store, and the opening of the Vassilis and Marina Theocharakis Foundation for the Arts and Music in a building of the interwar period on Vassilissis Sofias Avenue. Praiseworthy remarks have been written for the 5th Greek Architects Biennial. In her introductory appraisal of the Greek visual arts scene over the past year, Iota Constantatou writes that 2007 was marked by a general effort to give international exposure to the local art scene and the Greek art market. Constantatou also writes of a «rejuvenated» Art Athina (the annual art exhibition), and appraises the two major art fairs: the Athens and Thessaloniki biennale. She makes positive comments on the Athens event but is more distanced and descriptive in respect to the Thessaloniki biennale. Her selections of gallery shows are well balanced. Written by Ioanna Vasdeki, the photography section offers a well-rounded, clear view of the state of photography in Greece. Critical remarks on the infrastructure of photography in Greece (private and public initiatives, museums etc) help place the exhibitions in a broader context. The Photobiennale (the former Photosynkyria), organized by the Thessaloniki Museum of Photography, is mentioned among the most outstanding events. According to Irene Mountraki, who has written the theater section, 2007 was not marked by «grand departures or innovations» in theater but for «abundance and reruns.» The appointment of Yiannis Houvardas as director of the National Theater is mentioned as a breakthrough. (The late Nikos Kourkoulos was its former director.) Christina Polychroniadou and Maria Kriou write of the Greek dance scene as increasingly eclectic and interesting. They also speak of greater mobility between the local and the international scene. In the cinema section, Voula Palaiologou is critical of the meager funding that the Ministry of Culture gave Greek filmmakers but, in terms of the actual films produced, is overall optimistic. She refers to Greek filmmaking as becoming more outward-looking. George Allamanis is quite skeptical about the contemporary Greek music and Yiannis Svolos makes daring criticism of the classical music scene. The activities of the Greek National Opera under the brief directorship of Stefanos Lazaridis are singled out as being among the highlights. George Vailakis senses «diversity» in Greek prose and George Veis writes of Greek poetry as «esoteric,» yet thinks that Greek poets remain among the most prolific in Europe. Spyros Georgiou singles out some of the most important books in the «essay» section. The analytical reviews are matched by color images of the selected events. Together, they make a 600-page, hard-bound edition that is an important reference book on Greece’s cultural life of the past year.