Athens gathers American artists

The artistic scene in Athens has undergone some rapid changes during the past few years. The opening of new galleries has brought about a diversity to match the variety that one meets in contemporary art. More importantly, an increasing number of galleries have turned to international artists, therefore bringing a flavor of foreign trends to Greece. That the range of art offered by galleries has broadened is obviously a sign of a growing art market. However, it is also an aspect of a culture-oriented contemporaneity in which art events are growing in number and permeating all aspects of life. The art market in Greece, however, remains small, with most of its impetus deriving from just a handful of art collectors, who have also gradually turned to buying international art. This is what the situation roughly looks like today, but it is hardly what things were like a decade ago. Eleni Koronaiou, owner of one of the most reputable Athens galleries for 15 years now, has witnessed the change from a local to a more international artistic scene and market, particularly as she was one of the first gallery owners in town to exhibit foreign artists systematically and to pave the way for art’s present reception. Her German education and years of living in Germany, where she experienced from up close the vivacity of the neo-expressionist movement, initially led her to show German artists. But since the mid-1990s, she has also gradually expanded to incorporate American art with Christopher Wool, Elizabeth Payton – newly emergent at the time – and Rudolph Stingel among the American artists who were first shown at the gallery. New York-based painter Les Rogers, whose show is currently on (a one-man show begins next week at the Leo Koenig gallery in New York) is just one of the three American artists that Koronaiou has shown in a year. Bill Saylor, Matthew Antezzo, Lina Bertucci and Jack Pearson, not to mention a host of renowned names such as Paul McCarthy, Gregory Crewdson and Larry Clark, have also had their work shown at the Koronaiou gallery. Leaving aside the more recognizable names and moving on to the younger artists, it is tempting to look for a unifying American style. Classification has, after all, always been a reassuring way of making sense of art, especially for the Greek art public, which, generally speaking, observes the international currents of contemporary art from a distance and only fragmentarily. Could one possibly look for a Young American art scene, comparable perhaps to what was billed in the 1990s as the Young British art scene? The choice of artists at the Eleni Koronaiou gallery has, of course, not been made with such a grouping criterion in mind, and the diversity of works shown attests to that. There is nothing much to instantly link the paintings of Les Rogers – a blend of gestural painting with references to comics – to the installation by Aidas Bareikis. In fact, variety of expression is perhaps the only steady aspect of contemporary art, something which the art, the recent show at London’s Barbican center, helped tease out. Despite its title, there was no one American style emanating from the exhibit but individual artistic statements instead. Back in the ’90s, one could perhaps single out recurring preoccupations, such as the issue of identities or the abject body, but making such clear-cut classifications today is no longer valid. In light of this, a gallery like that of Eleni Koronaiou does not feature art of a particular kind but selects artists on an individual basis.