Over recent years, Athens has experienced cultural momentum despite being in social and economic upheaval. Athens and its Periphery in Regards to Contemporary Painting highlights existing practices and looks at the inspiring and creative production that is thriving across the city and well beyond its boundaries. This exhibition acts as a survey of exciting new practitioners developing in Athens and its surroundings.
The artists exhibited share experiences both from within Greece and internationally, creating a unique context in the place we live in, producing wider context yet still using a unique vernacular language. In addition the recent influx of cultural practitioners that pass through or have decided to make Athens their home creates a synergy that is unparalleled to other places at this time. A unique new generation is unfolding and the momentum created by this movement is undoubtedly felt across the city and beyond. This force has grown through a rich grass-roots culture; many of the artists exhibited here have been involved in or created their own project spaces, show rooms, zines, publications and forums. This network of collective ‘do it your self’ enterprises creates innovative methods of living within periphery culture. Additionally the interconnectedness of geographic locations like Thessaloniki, Nicosia, Amsterdam or London is aided by a burgeoning online presence, and invitations between project groups to collaborate and show each other’s work makes us question where the centre ends and the periphery begins.
Looking back in history, it’s interesting to consider Peggy Guggenheim’s gallery Art of this Century in New York (1942). The gallery opened in a progressive yet uncertain climate; and hosted a new frontier of young American artists emerging after years of economic depression during the 1930s, along with European émigrés seeking greener pastures. Guggenheim would annually exhibit the Spring Salon for Young Artists. These shows would act as a survey to present the best of this new and exciting generation ‘serving the future instead of the past’, with the inaugural show including Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell and Piet Mondrian. Frederick Kiesler design the space under two key frameworks: firstly, he organized artworks within three-dimensional space as part of a total environment, rather than simply hanging them on the two-dimensional walls. Secondly, he aspired to ‘maximise the perception of art’; one specific motif that illustrates these principles being the arm, extending the artwork away from the wall, actively presenting it to the viewer.
Athens and its Periphery in Regards to Contemporary Painting takes influence from this model, making this link to emphasize the similarities between two disparate places, pushing creative innovation in promising times.
Hugo Wheeler is an independent curator, he moved from London to Athens in March 2017 where he co-founded Hot Wheels Projects.