Imagination, daring, freshness in Athens

The Olympic Games are livening Athens up with imagination, daring and freshness. A new artistic light will shine into every corner, from Omonia Square and Pireos Street to Dionysiou Aeropagitou and Apostolou Pavlou streets. Dozens of visual effects will bring art out of the museums and incorporate it daringly into the city. Contemporary visual creations will coexist alongside monuments and historic routes, while the Games will bring original decoration to the streets, with flags, ribbons, banners and installations. The Olympic decorations will appear in a few days, bringing joy, color, and a modern look to the city. The Acropolis has acquired new lighting and soon the streets in the historic center of Athens will acquire their own artworks. Sculpture and installations everywhere will mark the Olympic occasion. The public will be asked to not only observe but also to touch and participate. From the end of July till September 30, Athens will experience a visual pandemonium. Large and small installations will be set up at different points in the historic center, from Dionysiou Aeropagitou, Apostolou Pavlou, the Pnyx and Philopappou to Pireos, Kerameikos, Omonia, the National Gardens and the Zappeion. «Athina by Art» is an art walk, designed by the Society of Greek Art Critics (AICA-Hellas) and Athens Municipality. Athens 2004 has similar projects under way. Sixteen art critics and curators worked on the planning for Athina by Art, including the work of about 100 Greek artists. The works will be set up in various public spaces, familiarizing us with art we are used to seeing only in museums. Within a few days, 85 large works of art will transform the face of the city, from anthropomorphic sculptures at Kapnikareas (some near the monument, others at nearby stores, on balconies and in windows of neoclassical buildings) to the sculpture Yiannis Bouteas will install at the entrance to the Herod Atticus Theater. Among the olive trees in the Pikionis islet between Dionysiou Aeropagitou and Apostolou Pavlou, Dimitris Aleithinos will set up a likeness of Zeus Artemisios that will revolve slowly, as if floating. The base resembles a glass column filled with Attic soil of different colors. Every road will offer a surprise. For those seeking peace and quiet, there will be an insulated environment on Athinas Street, while outside Kerameikos a huge photograph of Syntagma will be illuminated in such a way that walkers think birds are flying overhead. At the National Gardens, Nikos Haralambidis is setting up a new «sociable gymnasium.» Among the many artists involved in the project are big names such as Takis, Costas Tsoklis, Pavlos, Thodoros, Constantinos Xenakis, Filolaos, Michalis Katzourakis, Yiannis Michas, Iason Molfesis, Chris Yiannakos, Diochanti, Nafsika Pastra, Leda Papaconstantinou and Opi Zouni. Also participating are leading artists of the younger generation, including Marios Spiliopoulos, Maria Loizidou, Pantelis Handris, Nikos Travnos, Haris Kontosfyris and Andreas Savvas. Artists will be in the street to meet the public and talk about their work. Athens 2004 is preparing nine projects of its own starting July 29 and running to September 6. At the entrance of the Theater of Dionysus on Dionysiou Aeropagitou is Meein Yoh’s sculpture «White Noise, White Light.» Constructed by a team from MIT, it is a 180-square-meter platform made of optical fibers resembling ears of corn that will rustle at the touch and movement of passers-by. On Apostolou Pavlou opposite Aghia Marina, Paul Matisse, grandson of Henri Matisse, will set up an Olympic simantro or monastery bell made of metal scaffolding with a hammer at the end of a rope.