ATHENS: AN ARTISTIC AGORA
Another iconic building designed by Renzo Piano is the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre, home to the Greek National Opera, the National Library of Greece, as well as the Stavros Niarchos Park. It is also one of the largest green areas in Athens (21 hectares).
The architecture was designed to restore the natural and conceptual connection between the land and the sea. On his first visit to the site, Piano talked about lifting a piece of land to design a sloping park, a hill under which he would place the building facilities from the top of which we would regain the lost view of the sea and the Acropolis. All of which he did.
Until 7 November, the cultural centre welcomes 46 emblematic sculptures of internationally acclaimed artist Takis (Panayiotis Vassilakis, 1925-2019). Two years after his passing, the exhibition entitled Τakis: Cosmos in Motion showcases an impressive body of kinetic masterpieces.
Twenty years in the making, the Greek capital finally has its Museum of Contemporary Art. Named EMST, the institution is housed in the former FIX brewery, an emblematic, Athenian landmark designed by renowned architect Takis Zenetos back in 1957. Today, after extensive renovations, the exhibition spaces run over 18,000 square metres, featuring installations, paintings, photography, film and new media. Works by Arte Povera master Jannis Kounellis and neon sculptures by Greco-American artist Chryssa are highlights. The collections are well worth exploring.
Another world-class institution is the Museum of Cycladic Art. It houses one of the most complete private collections of Cycladic art worldwide, with representative examples of figurines and vases, tools, weapons, and pottery that flourished in the central Aegean during the Early Bronze Age (third millennium BC). The minimal figurines have influenced countless modern artists such as Constantin Brancusi, Amedeo Modigliani, Alberto Giacometti, Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore and Ai Weiwei. The museum regularly welcomes international artists to create a dynamic confrontation between historical pieces and their art. Downstairs, in a small light-filled space, the Cycladic Café is well worth a stop with Stelios Kois’s architectural installation and Eleftheria Deko’s creative light design.
Galleries, artists and curators are leading the charge with some wonderful initiatives. Founded and first based in Beirut, Carwan Gallery moved to Piraeus this spring, establishing itself in a district of old warehouses, rapidly turning into a creative hub. The new space is set in a former 19th century commercial warehouse with high ceilings and original features such as a timber roof truss and multi-layered brick walls. Under the direction of Nicolas Bellavance-Lecompte and Quentin Moyse, the design gallery promotes and produces cutting-edge collectible design from the Eastern Mediterranean region and beyond.
“Athens is going through a total Renaissance; in a way this location is the starting point from where Ancient Greek civilisation spread all over the Mediterranean,” Bellavance-Lecompte explains.