Creating opportunities in art

No one can deny the need for support and reward when it comes to young artists in this country. In a certain way, the Deste Prize, which turns 10 this year, covers some vital ground regarding the contemporary visual arts scene. On the occasion of the opening of the Deste Prize 2009 finalists exhibition on Thursday, May 14, Dakis Joannou, president of the Deste Foundation, spoke to Kathimerini. According to Joannou, the establishment of the prize was «one of the ways with which the foundation deals with Greek reality.» However, as far as Greek art is concerned, the organization’s strategy is not a done deal. «In the beginning, a lot of people thought that the foundation’s aim was to ‘help’ Greek art. I’m very much against this idea. You can’t help. What you can do is create opportunities. Helping someone is the worse thing you can do,» noted Joannou. «The foundation’s aim is to develop the necessary infrastructure that young artists can rely upon in their own efforts. This has always been the foundation’s strategy and it remains unaltered. In this light, the award is a good mechanism for the creation of this platform.» Even though this kind of award does not flourish here, the notion of responsibility is not on Joannou’s agenda. «I don’t feel any kind of responsibility – nor do I seek it. Whatever it is that we do, we do because we feel that we’re doing something right, that we are, in a certain way, adding something, creating a platform for young people so they can move on.» That platform is also open to those who have already made a few first halting steps toward international recognition. Among this year’s six candidates, namely Athanasios Argianas, Irini Efstathiou, Haris Epaminonda, Rallou Panagiotou, Vangelis Vlachos, Giorgos Sapountzis, Epaminonda and Sapountzis’s names have already made some waves abroad: «They had the opportunity and the inclination to go abroad,» noted Joannou. «Should they be punished because they could and did?» For the first time in the award’s history, the finalists’ works will be going on display at the Cycladic Art Museum. In the past, the works were exhibited at the foundation’s previous premises in Psychico. On September 14, a five-member international committee, comprising Lisa Phillips, director of New York’s New Museum of Contemporary Art, collector Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Jeffrey Deitch, founder and owner of New York’s Deitch Projects, photographer Thomas Struth and Joannou will choose and announce this year’s winner, who will accept the 10,000-euro award. Not as aid, but as an opportunity to go onto even better things. Deste Award 2009, Cycladic Art Museum, 4 Neofytou Douka, tel 210.722.8321-3. (Opens May 14 and runs to September 30.)

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