Enduring artist Zongolopoulos remembered

Artist George Zongolopoulos (1903-2004) was never interested in publicity. His sole concern during his long and productive life was to be able to create on his own terms. Not only was he still making sculptures at the age of 90 but he also participated in the Venice Biennale. Some of his works can be seen at prominent sites in the country’s urban landscape: His «Umbrellas» are situated on Kifissias Avenue at the turnoff to Psychico, as well as at the Syntagma metro station and on the Thessaloniki seafront, while another sculpture of his sits in Omonia Square. All this is a silent reminder of his prominent career. Four years after his death, we now have the opportunity to see a retrospective on his work, a tribute to the artist that is being organized by the Athens Concert Hall with the help of the George Zongolopoulos Foundation. The display features 54 sculptures, 28 paintings as well as 56 architectural drawings and sketches for sculptures. Three of these sculptures are in the venue’s courtyard. All of the exhibits are from the George Zongolopoulos Foundation, except for 10 sculptures provided by the Portalakis Collection. Apart from the sculptor’s trademark works, which reflect all phases of his long career, the public will, for the first time, be able to see his sketches, models and architectural studies as well as a series of paintings that is as yet largely unknown. Unfortunately, this exhibition reminds us that we often don’t treat the legacies of great artists with the respect they deserve. Zongolopoulos’s sculpture in Omonia has been neglected. The initial plan had provisions for this work to interact with water, but even today this device has never been implemented. Collector Zacharias Portalakis, who knew the artist and his work personally, complained that Zongolopoulos should have greater representation in the National Glyptotheque in Goudi. While the sculptor was still alive, the museum had purchased one of his larger works. Zongolopoulos creatively followed all the artistic transformations of the 20th century. He became acquainted with the prominent artists and architects of his time and contributed to the creation of a dialogue on art. He was extremely interested in the location of his sculptures and their interaction with their surroundings and once claimed, «You are dead when you give in to the established sense of aesthetics and the lack of difference.» He remained active well into his older years, maintaining the enthusiasm of a teenager and the profound politeness for which he was known. The exhibition, curated by Efi Andreadi, will run to January 31. Athens Concert Hall, 1 Kokkali & Vas. Sofias, tel 210.728.2333.