CULTURE

The city of Athens as the artist’s model

Traffic jams, noise pollution, lots of people, buildings on the border of collapse, but also blue skies, a view of the Acropolis, walks in squares and open-air cinemas – this is all part of what happens in Athens every day. And it is also what is happening at the exhibition that recently opened at the City of Athens’s Melina Cultural Center in Thiseio. Titled «It Happened in Athens,» this is a group exhibition of works in which recognizable names such as Spyros Papaloukas, Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghika and Panayiotis Tetsis coexist alongside young artists who have not even had the time to hold solo displays. But all artists share the same model, namely the city of Athens. «We started historically, with a review of the Thirties Generation,» explained art historian Iris Kritikou, curator of the exhibition, referring to a 1930s art movement that combined Modernism with tradition. «Then comes the 70s generation and, of course, anything related to the political developments in Athens at the time.» On the ground floor, there is a political view of the capital, not just through works like Yiannis Gaitis’s 1968 «Dolofonia tis alitheias» (Murder of the Truth), but also Harris Kondosphyris’s more recent «En psychro» (In Cold Blood, 2008), from his «Eglimata» (Crimes) series. It is an exhibition that contains many gems. One can see Manolis Bitsakis’s revealing 2005 «Kolonaki» alongside Hadjikyriakos-Ghika’s valuable «Hartaetoi stin Athina» (Kites in Athens, 1938-52), but also Tetsis’s near abstract «Steges» (Rooftops, 1961-63). On the upper floor, works by younger artists offer a «more expressionist look» of the city, with Antonis Kyriakoulis’s humorous «Oi dromoi tis Athinas» (The Streets of Athens) being next to more stifling scenes, such as the work of Nikos Moschos. «There is no consistency, in the same way that there is no consistency in the city,» said Kritikou. «Here you can see what everyone is concerned with and that all these small images ultimately contribute to a bigger one.» The theme is so wide that anything goes. «We could have presented other works by the same artists, while this same exhibition could take place again in two years’ time, with entirely different works,» she said. The techniques are endless and so are the different views of the city. What is certain is that there is a lot to see. And while the venue may not be ideal for such a large number of works, in a way this crowding together on the two floors of the cultural center seems appropriate. After all, this is Athens.