Cultural Scene – Greece

Almost forty years after the fall of the dictatorship Greece is a blossoming democratic state, member of the EU, has already experienced his first immigration wave and now tries to find his new role on the map of the world. Also the contemporary art has profited from this situation and blossoms for about twenty years increasingly. The absence of an intelligent and well structured policy for the promotion of contemporary art, the financially poor public promotion, the lack of institutions and of necessarily infrastructure for contemporary art has isolated living culture of Greece and artists long time from the international mainstream. Still before a very short time one understood the visual arts (and culture generally) as a kind of tradition which was, however, closed in itself and ethnocentric and in which academic axioms like "Hellenism" and the admiration of the antiquity took a high value.
Against it one saw "advanced" Greek art almost only abroad (from artists like Kounellis, Samara or Takis), at home hold it an edge existence. Only in the very last time the knowledge asserts itself with difficulty that art is a must for cultures identity, exactly in relation while it based on experiences which itself will get to know directly.

The today's Greek society has assimilated mediterrane and oriental influence as well as western lifestyle and western consumer behaviour. In spite of traditional traditions, more narrowly family connections and a conservative mighty orthodox church Greece is already a country oriented absolutely to the west. During the last years a lot has done, in particular thanks to private initiative and privately financial support. New showrooms, galleries and artist's initiatives, and two state museums in Athens and Thessaloniki, the two biggest Greek cities in which all most the artistic activities concentrate for contemporary art, were established. The growing cultural scene is determined, above all, by the big collectors, private museums and a germinating gallery scene and is anew animated. Even the artfair of Athens (Art Athina), the yearly shop-window of local art trade with increasing international participation, was brought to life in 1994 from a private initiative of engaged gallery owners.

Another leading figure in the art scene was his former multi-billionaire's colleague Dimitris Pieridis also coming from Cyprus, his activities, nevertheless, reach from the antiquity up to rather less supported contemporary Greek art. Vlassis Frissiras is one of the 10 most significant art collectors of the world and a profilic promoter of contemporary art. His museum shows important works of Greek art and more than 3000 examples of international contemporary art like of Peter Blake, Frank Auerbach, David Hockney, to Paola Rego, Jean Rustin, Pat Andrea, Valerio Adami, Mimo Paladino, Antonio Segui u.v.a. Farther significant collections and private institutes are the Lambrakis Research Foundation and the Basil and Elis Goulandris Foundation.

In comparison to Athens the artscene of Thessaloniki is less spectacularly, without a jet set character. But on the other side, here in the centre of the South-east European cultures and economic movements the people are related more to substance and look more to their own cultural identity. This was maybe one reason, why the incomparable collection with works of Russian avant-garde artists of the Greek George Costakis (1913-1990), formerly resident of Moscow and one of the most significant collectors of the 20th century, came to Thessaloniki. Art Forum Culture Foundation is hosted since 1996 in Thessaloniki as well.  The Museum of Modern art, inside the fair ground of Helexpo, holds a huge collection of international and Greek art, supported from the private collection of Alexander Iolas.

Just in spider of the Southeast, in Thessaloniki, the resumption of cultural priority and a suitable promotion can carry on not only the economic development, but also be a guarantor for an international common language. Outgoing from the knowledge that blossoming cultures and growing national economies cause itself mutually,  the missing or otherwise used official support is of course still a not satisfactory brake moment.

At the moment originate some fine collections with international and Greek contemporary art. Thus The Thessaloniki Museum of Photography is just the only museum devoted to this prospering medium in Greece - and one of just a few of its kind in Europe. From determining influence in this region and further on is also the gallery-conglomerate Tsatsis Projects / Artforum, one of the most significant Galleries generally in Greece. The narrow co-operation to Artforum Culture Foundation enables in common strain to be involved in central area of contemporary culture. Pantelis Tsatsis founded as well 2016 the now leading artfair of Greece: Art Thessaloniki.

Also the audience grows bit by bit for contemporary art, however, the market for such works is still small. It corresponds to an order of logic that on the opening to contemporary culture in the country itself, in the end, will follow also the interest abroad. Besides, the extension of the art understanding will contribute to the self-esteem also of the Greeks and the people of the greater area all over the world. Besides, stylistic questions are, actually, of secondary nature, it is determining which contents are transported. It would be to be thought absurd that an equalised art that means an art calls to western measurements would have future. Forms and colours may pass in a global world without shade, but spiritual penetration of life can arise always only from the own culture and landscape and will develop in confrontation to the unknown.
Kounellis formulated this in his charta, published 1995 in Milan, as follows: To make art is a need, then you find a language with which to construct an image, every age identifies with a new image, that nevertheless contains the past as imaginary and as language, albeit essentially reformed.

Greek Art Today

GREEK ART TODAY

Greece, the starting place of Artforum Culture Foundation, is an European country of potent contradictions, a region both central and peripheral, a historical and vital geographical point of passage, which has operated throughout history to distil alien ideas and to act as a link between two different civilisations and two different worlds to build up a connection between different civilisations and different worlds. This influence from East, the Occident as well as the north and the south found its entrance in the Greek thinking and life.  In this rich, different and contradictory intersection area, different views, influence and sensations could bundle up to themselves and cause the forming of an independent hellenic culture.

Today the overall situation remains unknown to art-lovers as well as to art critics as well. The arts in Greece, the Balkan and most of the Mediterranean countries are isolated and get a few  chances only under foreign cover. But this is at first a problem of the images of this area and of interest and knowledge abroad, not a problem of quality.

See: Famous Greek Artists

Interview – Artforum Culture Foundation

Interview with members of the Board of Trustees

Question: Which assignments does Artforum Culture Foundation (abbreviation ACF) fulfil?
Apostolidou: ACF is a foundation which runs cultural activities. The main running projects are, for instance, our NETWORK+ Project and our idea of a European Cultural Centre (ECC) in Thessaloniki. The latest example an single artistic idea is the initiation of the project Sancto Subito with which we would like to perform a contribution to the actual discussion about the system of ethical values.

Question: Contemporary art plays a leading role at ACF. What is the policy of ACF concerning international change exhibitions and itinerant exhibitions, which ACF shows in its spaces or sends somewhere else?
Apostolidou: ACF wants to promote the cultural dialogue and the artistic exchange in the conviction, that this is conducive to the reciprocal understanding and the tolerance between the nations. Concerning the role of ACF, it consists in promoting cultural variety and knowledge about the art as well as in announcing significant art in Greece and from Greece.

Question: What are the main focuses of ACF?
Apostolidou: The name of the foundation itself formulates already the responsibility to be involved for cultural interests. This contains at first all areas of culture, all parts of the arts and extraordinary expression forms of social life. We are open for all areas of culture and try to link up existing activities to allow new views. Indeed, because of personal interest and for strategically reasons, nevertheless a special focus lies on the mediation of fine art. Our assignments can be controlled and forced better over this line. Literature readings, music, dance and theatre complement our program. Furthermore we are willing to  co-operate for cultural activities of local authority districts and companies. We like to be in contact with galleries and collectors. With pleasure we exert ourselves for the objective interests of artists. This approach is especially suitable to link cultural, social and intellectual interests.

Question: Which is the practical use that do you see subsequently of such synergy effects?
Safiriou: L'art pour l'art is absolutely necessary, because mind and soul want to be able to relax. This should be immanent, in any case, of every art. However, in addition, we see art as a practical instrument of philosophy, to give sense (!) to our life. We have to imagine, that art is the only area in which science can be freely run. We are interesting in artistic research as contributions to individual psychology, to ethics and to utopia. An architecture as a living space, e.g.,  and the integration in town planning and landscape planning,  is nowadays an area where is highest state of emergency and where totally thinking and working is absolutely necessary.

Question: ACF disposes of relatively big exhibition floor spaces and more attached space. For what needs ACF has to be so self-sufficiently?
Apostolidou: It is one of the aims of ACF to led artists real, virtual and spiritual space where they can show their artwork and where it can be valued according to her own aesthetics without having to pretend. This was and is one more one of the main functions of the exhibition hall and the other spaces.

Question: How is the financial position of ACF?
Apostolidou: ACF is a non-profit private foundation. This means, our work is not profit-oriented, possible profits are used exclusively for foundation purposes. ACF undertakes all activities from the own strength and therefore private and public sponsorship is necessary and very welcomed. A municipal or state sponsorship or participation does not exist at all till today. For this reason ACF is independent and we are free in our decisions. Nevertheless, a support from the European Community would make sense and would become very helpfully to fulfil our pan-european and international targets.

Question: Which special performances does ACF offer additional to the art and cultural program?
Apostolidou: ACF publishes own publications, books, catalogues and posters. Additional and in co-operation ArtForum Edition publishes graphics and multiples of selected artists. ACF has a library system for research purposes at the seat of the foundation, as well as at the contact offices. ACF is a partner for private and institutional collectors to whom we can give assistance in collaboration with specialists in questions of the art market, for conservation, technical analysis, art historical problems and authenticity. As a partner of artists we consult objectively further approach and we coordinate documentation and inventory. We can also be responsible for treatment, care, publication and utilisation of art estates of antiquities up to contemporary art.
ACF also maintains good relations with Greek publishing companies and can arrange contacts for writers. In the same way ACF is a partner for foreign music and theatre ensembles coming to Greece and the neighbour countries. An area for which we like to do more in the very future will be cinematography.

Question: How do you see the situation of Greek literature today?
Apostolidou: There are great Greek authors, prominent lyricists. However, the young authors have fewer chances outside Greece. This has possibly to do with narrative forms, which are not simply, can be mediated to most of the audience. On the other hand, the phenomenon has to be ascertained, for Italy e.g. the Melanese publisher Inge Feltrinelli have pointed out, that the origin of the authors is not of big importance. Attributes like "German" and "Italian" or "Greek" and "English" really do not exist anymore in today's literature. Last but not least, personality is necessary for success, but however, indeed, there are cultural differences also in the reception.

Question: Does sport not replace increasingly the role from art and culture in the favour of the people?
Apostolidou: First of all, sport is an essential part of the culture and, secondly,  artists deal for a long time in an analytic way with this phenomenon. In this sense sport activities of course also belong to our assignment. The Greeks are keen on sport, they have create  sport as a cultural thing. The resumption of the Olympic games in 1896 was financed to a third part from the private pockets of the people, which were not quite rich.
A great support came also from wealthy people of the Greek community, living in  Alexandria, Egypt. It is to be seen with joy how Greece and the Greeks have shown their  capacity and organisation talent with the Olympic Games in 2004 and the football European championship as well. This has delivered an important contribution to the cultural self-confidence of Greeks today all over the world. Nevertheless, it is a pity that, although the international Olympic committee designate the environmental care as columns of the Olympic ideas, the responsible managers have done only very little for this.

Question: Did it belong to the concept from the beginning of ACF to include also art in the program from neighbour-countries and international art beside the focus on contemporary art from Greece? On which considerations this decision is based?
Safiriou:In my opinion the cultural bottom is especially fertile in these regions which dispose of a great heritage  and which has been offside for longer time because of political and economic reasons. This is in culture not more differently than in agriculture. However, it requires special care.

Question: Which politic-cultural aims do you pursue and how do you see the possibilities of ACF?
Safiriou: There will be no lasting peace, as long as mistrust remains the prevailing and everything edging out norm. Cultural ignorance is the mostly incriminating factor which sows mistrust between us and which can lead to war. The increasing efforts towards a cleaner and greener planet lead to nothing,  if we will destroy at the same time the human achievements which are contemptuous foreign to us. It is not enough giving disaster relief and economic support to the people, but to refuse her aesthetic needs, however, only because these are different from our needs.

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