A historical neoclassical residence in the center of Athens is activated by NEON for the initiative CITY PROJECT 2017. Velonis employs this historical site in order to reconstitute its history and significance in public, while simultaneously addressing new and unexpected relations between space and works of art that develop in such a distinct environment. The exhibition is curated by Vasilis Oikonomopoulos, Assistant Curator, Collections International Art, Tate Modern, London.
In the context of the initiative CITY PROJECT, NEON commissions annually an artist to create a work of art exhibited in a public space for a specific period of time. Through this initiative, NEON aims to the presentation of contemporary art in public and historical sites, contributing to the interaction between art, society and the urban environment. The initiative is implemented for the last four years, with commissions to Zafos Xagoraris for his installation at a parking lot in the centre of Athens in 2016, Maria Loizidou at Kerameikos Archaeological site and Museum in 2015 and Aemilia Papaphilippou at the Ancient Agora of Athens in 2014.
This new commission by NEON is the largest in scale individual presentation of Costis Veloni’s work till the day. In ‘Α Puppet Sun’ Velonis develops an exhibition defined by new forms of relationships between space and the work of art, inventing an experimental form that corresponds to the unique site of the residence at Kaplanon 11. The residence offers an incomparable historical context, taking up an exceptional place in the social and political life of Greece throughout 20th century.
The residence was first occupied by Pavlos Kountouriotis, an admiral who later became the first President of the Second Hellenic Republic. Subsequently, it was utilised as literary salon and private residence of important personalities of the Greek 20th century history. Throughout the crucial decades of 1910 and 1920 it housed the headquarters of the People’s Party “Laikon Komma”. During the same period, Eleni ZouzoulaKanellopoulos, the first female author of children’s books in Greece, established a literary salon in the residence. This became a central meeting point for literary figures, poets, painters and intellectuals that defined with their work the culture of the time in Athens.
During the Metaxa regime just before World War II, the residence was converted into a boarding house for young female students, “O Oikos tis Foititrias”.
The development of A Puppet Sun reflects Velonis’ desire to bring the multiple narratives of the residence back into existence, and spark a dialogue between concepts related to everyday life, privacy and politics.
Exploring a symbiotic relationship with the site, Velonis embarks on a commission that encompasses a remarkable range of different media. He reveals the contradictions and coexistence of cultural aesthetics and ideological narratives, by combining the comic with the tragic, as well as social, political and psychoanalytical elements and influences that are central features to both the history of the residence, as well as his own work.