Socio-political • October 2016
Economic crisis and creation



Since 2008, Greece has experienced the most tumultuous economic and political situation since the fall of the military Junta in 1974; the massive city riots and the subsequent and to the day ongoing economic crisis have shattered politico-economic stability. The domains of art and culture have not remained unaffected, and this subject has received attention in Greek and international press. This interest has transpired predominantly through a certain leitmotif; artistic creation is encouraged or has emerged directly from the economic crisis: “Greece’s Big Debt Drama is a Muse for its Artists” as a 2011 article in the New York Times suggests (Donadio 2011, cf. also Adler 2013, Pontida 2011). Within this common rhetoric, art and subversive politics, creativity and social turmoil are closely interrelated: creativity and crisis emerge and accelerate in parallel. The argument that an external or internal – political or cultural – crisis within art has been at the epicenter of artistic creation since the radical social changes of modernity, is largely a truism. Nevertheless, the relationship between artistic creativity and crisis should not be considered a universal constant to be applied without discrimination across modern societies. A precise examination of the specific variations or manifestations of this phenomenon in local artistic fields must instead be applied. Thus, this essay will not address the rather abstract question “Does artistic creativity flourish in conditions of economic crisis?” but on the contrary will investigate the genealogical transformations of “crisis” as such in Greek artistic context. To this end, it is crucial that we initially outline a basic context from which certain significant socio-cultural peculiarities giving shape to the Greek artistic climate emerge. It is in relation to these very peculiarities, this essay will argue, that contemporary creative production has had to relocate itself inside an immense international field of art. My main hypothesis is that the full inscription of the Greek art scene within the architecture of international contemporary art, has taken place against a different axiological and artistic background than that of Western Europe. As Nathalie Heinich recently showed, the framework of international contemporary art concerns a paradigm shift art antithetical to that of modern art (Heinich, 2014). This essay will argue that Greece’s absorption within this framework has been definitely realized over the last twenty years; a process which has even accelerated further in the recent years during the country’s economic collapse. It is within this context that the conjunction of crisis and creativity should be investigated as a radical breakthrough in the socio-cultural constitution of the Greek artistic field. The conclusions drawn in this essay may elucidate and indicate the type of socio-cultural variables unfolding inside of crises confronted by smaller and peripheral countries, without pre-existing modernist and contemporary art institutions, as they enter in the international field of contemporary art.

Article's keywords

Creation, crisis, economy, Greece, philosophy.

Table of Contents

The Background of an Identity Crisis

One cannot be too careful when analyzing 20th century Greek art since it is subject to historical and social peculiarities. As Kondylis has argued (Kondylis, 1991), modern Greece, shaped by post-Ottoman and Balkan origins, had not been clearly inserted within modernity. Thus basic elements of modernism, such as metropolitan culture, the distinction from modernism to postmodernism, or even the distinctions of high and low culture, do not seem to be easily applicable to the Greek cultural field. Yet, this does not mean that the Fine Arts were not developed systematically in modern Greece; this process in fact began in the 18th century, even before the foundation of the Greek State (1830) especially through the reception of abbé Charles Batteux’s influential treatise Les Beaux Arts réduits à un même principe. (cf. Glykofridi-Leontsini 2002, pp. 26-43).

In Western modernism, an artistic crisis was propelled with the collapse of the Fine Arts (academic) system, which declined as the number of artists working within the independent, commercial art market rose (White & White, 1993). In this respect, there are two main sociological conditions that point to the incomplete assimilation of Greece in artistic modernity. Firstly, the academy – in this case the Athens School of Fine Arts [ 1 ]  was the main legitimizing source for the configuration of Greek art in the 19th century within a vacuum of substantial art commerce (Markatou, 2008, pp. 198-199), a role that the School of Fine Arts seems to have kept for decades even after the Second World War (Papanikolaoy 2002, Christou 1992). Secondly, although Greek art did assimilate several innovations of artistic modernism, mainly those encountered by Impressionism and Cubism, it never produced radical avant-garde movements which questioned the legitimacy of the Fine Arts system. Moreover, the metropolitan city culture, a novel environment of important influence for many of the avant-gardes of Western Europe, was practically absent in the underdeveloped cities of modern Greece. Thirdly, a central theme for modern Greek artists which would distinguish them from the Western European canon was the intensive search for “Greekness.” This vague yet compelling demand for a distinct, national character of modern art, would encompass several variations and represent different political positions (Hadjinicolaou 1984, Kotidis 2011).

Therefore, what Bourdieu had considered to constitute the basic condition of the modern artistic field, namely the “institutionalization of the anomy” (Bourdieu, 1987), that is, artistic competition without a central source of artistic legitimization, might not be the case for Greek modern art. It cannot be denied that artists were concerned with various themes and experiments, however the notion of “Greekness” along with the School of Fine Arts stood as a powerful legitimizing axis and to a great extent constituted the artistic field in Greece even in the post War period. In other words, crisis with its radical modernist and metropolitan (or even technological) emphases was not the main context of Greek modern art.

Some historical information may further elucidate the peculiar character of Greek modern art and its distinctive resistance towards fully adopting the contemporary paradigm of art even until the 2000s. As in Western Europe, modern artists in Greece had indeed begun to arrange themselves into factions and circles but not into fully coherent “artistic movements”. For example, Omada Technis (Art Group) founded 1917 by N. Lytras, K. Parthenis and K. Maleas, demanded that the Athens School of Fine Arts shifted its orientation from the Munich Fine Arts School [ 2 ]  to the artistic experiments in Paris. Yet until the 1930s, Greek artists were limited to a tentative and gradual incorporation of the artistic breakthroughs in Western Europe, without forming a modernist artistic culture with its own specific identity. There was no avant-garde mobilization of artists which could break away with the Fine Arts System, and hence after the WWII there was no fully configured, historical modernist art, the limits of which a new generation of contemporary artists could transgress as was integral to the transition from the modernist to the contemporary art paradigm.

In the period between the two World Wars, Greece had to cope with a devastating loss in the Greco-Turkish war of 1920-1922 – resulting in a massive refugee flow from Asia Minor – as wells as with internal economico-political instability leading eventually to an economic default in 1932 (Mazower, 1991). It was during this turbulent period that a local culture of art makers emerged with the birth of the so-called “Generation of the 1930s”. This included a vast array of artists (including painters such as N. Hadjikyriacos-Ghika, F. Kontoglou, A. Asteriadis, S. Papaloukas), writers (such as N. Eggonopoulos, also a painter and arguably the main representative of surrealism in Greece, and the two subsequent nobelists G. Seferis and O. Elytis) as well as architects (such as D. Pikionis) [Figure 1 and 2].

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Figure 1. Fotis Kontogloy, Fresco from the Artist’s Home, detail, fresco, 1932 Copyright: National Gallery of Greece (note the anti-Western tone in the inscription which recounts the work and the people involved in the fresco, executed with “the ancient of system of the masters of the Orient”)

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Figure 2. Nikos Eggonopoulos, Title: Anthemios of Tralles and Isidoros of Miletus, oil on canvas, 1970 Copyright: National Gallery of Greece

The age of all these artists spanned over two generations and were all, more or less, active during the 1930s – some in the beginning and others towards the end of their career. Although there was no central or explicit theoretical basis [ 3 ] informing the different artistic approaches of the “Generation of the 1930s” we can identify a twofold cultural claim. First, to assess critically the basic conditions of modern European art in order to define a Greek artistic identity (the demand for ‘Greekness’) and second, to establish the Byzantine heritage, as opposed to that of Ancient Greece as vital to contemporary Greek culture (Spiteris, 1971, pp. 12-16) [ 4 ] . Hence, while the “Generation of the 1930s” tried to be – more or less – a national school, they also became the main vehicle for the introduction of artistic modernism in the country.

A peculiarity of the Greek creative field is not the demand for a local franchise of modernism (as in the case of ‘zenitism’ in ex-Yugoslavia,) but a reaction against modernism as such, thus leaving the Fine Arts system and the idea that visual arts are essentially craft-work unchallenged. These positions were closer to John Ruskin or the Ambratsevo Circle in Russia than to avant-garde modernism. Sometimes they were even more radical, reaching a head-on attack to modernism. Fotis Kontoglou, a painter and writer and probably the most reactionary figure of the “Generation of the 1930s,” was arguing that “[…] modernism comes by itself. It is like the flu, like the plague that comes and penetrates us” (Kontoglou, 1985, p. 73). Such radical views were not shared by everyone involved in the ‘Generation of the 1930s,’ yet it is safe to argue that the main issue of Greek modernism, as literary theorist Roderick Beaton has shown, “was how to be modern and Greek at the same time” (Beaton, 2011, p. 235). This apparent contradiction created the need for artists to respond primarily to an identity or cultural crisis, and secondly to the changing character of art in a modern technologized society. The issue of ethnic identity in art instilled the rise of modern art in Greece with a completely different emphasis since it set a specific criterion for artistic legitimization: a modern Greek artist should provide the lettres de noblesse of his Greekness even though there was hardly any consensus about what this Greekness really was. Thus, it was predominantly the specific crisis of an identity and not the general crisis of modernism that appeared to be of crucial concern to Greek modernist art.

A turning point for visual arts in Greece is the 1949 manifesto of the group Oi Akraioi (The Extremists) lead by A. Kontopoulos, the first manifesto for abstract art in the country. Subsequently, the period of 1949-1967 (spanning from the end of the devastating occupation of the country in WWII and a ferocious Civil War, to the start of the military dictatorship) generated significant changes within the Greek artistic terrain (cf. Matthiopoulos, 2002). Yet, neither the idea of “Greekness” nor the claims of the “Generation of the 1930s” were abandoned, as the dominant sources of artistic discourse (Loizidi, 2003). One of the main artistic policies of the Greek state in this tumultuous political situation was to encourage the development of a modernist (i.e. Western, thus politically safe) identity for Greek artists. This identity would be constructed with reference to Greek antiquity (Adamopoulou, 2008) as opposed to an Eastern or Balkan identity, which was arguably associated at the time with Communist countries. The competing meanings of “Greekness” became highly charged within the turbulent conflict of the state with the rise of the Greek Left, which had also developed its own version of “Greek art” (Matthiopoulos, 2002, pp. 377-387).

A generation of Greek expatriates of the 1950s and 1960s, mainly active outside Greece, rebuked or were indifferent to the idea of Greekness, such as Takis, J. Kounellis or V. Kaniaris; however, many painters of the period such as S. Vassiliou and K. Tsarouchis remained faithful to the cultural orientations of the “Generation of the 1930s”. However, even within this very division, Greekness remained as the central point of reference. Even though there were fewer and fewer artists that followed the tendencies of the “Generations of the 1930s”, Eleni Vakalo has sufficiently documented that in the post-War Greek art “the reference to the concept of ‘Greekness’ involves several views, its content is nuanced, it is thought as a presupposition or is projected as a goal, yet ‘Greekness’ is always considered to be a self-evident concept” (Vakalo, 1985, p. 127).

Therefore, even in the decades that followed the War, the crisis in Greek art still concerns a matter of identity without actually incorporating the new artistic ethos of the contemporary art paradigm, as it was manifested by artists as Warhol or Rauschenberg. The new artistic trends were actually channelled in Greece precisely through the Athens School of Fine Arts which did not seem to lose its pivotal role in shaping the Greek artistic field. “All the new artistic movements were received and legitimized through the School, without the danger of posing a challenge or injury” (Christofoglou, 2002, p. 94). That said, in 1964-1965 there was also the first serious expansion of the Greek art scene outside the School (Christofoglou, 2002, p. 88). Yet, from a sociological point of view, the institutional structures that were operative in the Greek art world during this period are still severely limited when considered in relation to the existing frameworks in the West. In reality, these structures are not very different from those of 19th century Paris (Bourdieu 1992, White & White 1993): upcoming galleries (Zygos in 1956 or Desmos in 1971, with the latter however not clearly oriented towards commercialisation) and collectors (notably A. Iolas) did in fact create an alternative pole to the Athens School of Fine Arts, thus encouraging the involvement of the private sector, and yet, at the same time, there were no major museums for modern- and needless to say- contemporary art [ 5 ] .

This produced a peculiar effect in Greek contemporary art: although there were Greek artists that were recognized internationally as contemporary, Greece did not produce contemporary art movements or recognizable art groups. Hindered by the political problems after the Civil War and the military Junta, the Greek artistic field did not form a local competition of different artistic proposals. It was instead, clearly defined by followers of European art in opposition to followers of the “Generation of the 1930s” – a crisis that sometimes boiled down to a struggle between supporters of abstract art (but markedly modernist, and therefore not contemporary art) and representative art (classical or traditional). The backbone of Greek art was still implicitly anchored in the constant negotiation of Greek identity and even the artists who rebuked this identity were forced to nolens volens position themselves inside an artistic sphere where a distinct identity – Greek or Western – was essentially the frontier of art. This comprises an artistic environment notably different to that of other Western countries where a heterogeneous plethora of competing gestures and media were integral to the rise of new dynamic artistic fields.

From Identity Crisis to an International Field

It is safe to argue that by the 1990s the most radical claims of the “Generation of the 1930s”, were not the central concern for the new generations of Greek artists (Hamalidoy 2004, Stefanidis 2002). After the Junta, Greece became a full member of the European Union (at the time E.E.C) in 1981, and by the 1990s it had one of the fastest economic growth rates in Europe (Clogg, 2013, p. 239). It was the first Orthodox Christian and ex-Ottoman (or post-Ottoman) country to enter the EU. This gave a new meaning to the Greek identity; it was no more a question of East or West, but one of periphery within the West. Thus, the issue of identity was now inserted in a wider discussion between centers and peripheries of art, and domestic Greek artists, who had little major contribution to the international field of contemporary art, were prone to identify themselves as a periphery.

In this context, the “identity crisis” gave way to a “field crisis” as Greek art entered the phase of a rapid identification with the international contemporary art paradigm. This process was not visible to the local art world before the 1990s. For example in 1993, the first large scale Greek exhibition of international contemporary artists (including Young British Artists and Jeff Koons)titled Everything That is Interesting is New, was organized – significantly – at the exhibition space of the Athens School of Fine Arts and produced, as noted by art historian T. Moutsopoulos, “reflexive responses on the part of the defenders of Greece’s national standing, who spoke of the dangers of ‘cultural imperialism’ and described the new, mostly American, conception as an ‘ephemeral fashion’” (Moutsopoulos, 2006, p. 79). These responses seem to reproduce the attacks against the development of the contemporary art paradigm in France in the 1960s, involving Rauschenberg and the new generation of (predominantly American) contemporary artists (cf. Heinich, 2014, pp. 25-35).

Today, international mobility further complicates the dynamics of art in multiple fields and competitive cultural networks. Of course, the contemporary art world retains a cosmopolitan elite of institutions, high profile artists and collectors (Thornton, 2009). Yet the greatest part of the contemporary art world is structured around a gigantic array of museums, institutions, venues, festivals, residencies and galleries substantially characterized by a new mobility, despite the fact that they comprise economies that do not meet the financial scale associated with star-artists and major metropolitan museums. The main goal for peripheral cities and countries is to invest (or invent) large amounts of symbolic and economic capital which will enable their efficient inscription within these international networks. Accordingly, the central preoccupation of Greek art lies in the attempt to establish and solidify its inclusion within these major cultural networks. Economic crisis becomes inexplicitly, a characteristic of the constitution of a new cultural terrain and a new institutionalization to achieve this integration. This has given rise to a new mentality in Greek creative practice accompanied by the accelerated flourishing of institutions of contemporary art. So in the 2000s, Greece saw the establishment of two different Biennales in Athens (four between 2005-2013) [Figure 3] and Thessaloniki (2007-2013), massive scale exhibitions such as Outlook (2001) and ReMap Athens (every two years, 2007-2013) along with the presence of significant collections such as the ones of D. Ioannoy and D. Daskalopoulos, and the organization of Art Athina (the Athens Foire since 1993).

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Figure 3. Title: A photo from the Athens Biennale, 2013 entitled Agora at the ex- Stock Exchange Building Copyright: AB4 photographic team

Secondly, besides the Athens School of Fine Arts there are now two more Fine Arts Schools (Thessaloniki 1984, Florina, 2007) and several other university departments provide bachelors and diplomas in artistic disciplines such as the Ionian University (Corfu), the University of Ioannina or the University of the Aegean (Mytilene), the majority of which have been created within the last 15 years. Additionally, it is planned that the National Museum of Contemporary Art, established in 2000, will soon open its doors to the public [Figure 4].

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Figure 4. Title: A view from the new building which will accommodate the National Museum of Contemporary Art (photo by the author)

Finally, private and intermediate cultural institutions such as the DESTE Foundation (founded in 1998 with the support of the collector D. Ioannou) and Frissiras Museum (important international collection of contemporary painting) as well as large cultural institutions, including Onassis Cultural Center (2012) and new private collections such as the George Economou Collection (2013) – all of which maintain a high international profile – alongside with a number of medium to large exhibition spaces and cultural venues in Athens (e.g. Kunsthalle, Beton 7, Romantzo) have nowadays a significant presence].

The expansion was explosive and was not set behind during the years of the crisis. It resulted in the materialization of a concrete field of contemporary art in Greece, clearly represented within current international artistic networks. In overview of these developments, it could be argued that Greek contemporary art is rapidly undergoing the expected process of synchronizing its artistic institutions with the paradigm of the contemporary artworld, moving away from the obsolete modern system wherein galleries and collectors discover the artists whose work is to be ultimately hosted in museum collections. Therefore, nowadays in Greece, galleries, intermediate institutions, festivals and museums form a more complex structure where artistic recognition is produced by several channels – with the museum remaining, on the highest symbolic level. This structure has been characteristic of the field of contemporary art in recent decades (Crane, 1987).

The Expansion of the Artistic Field as Crisis 

The impact of this rapid expansion of the contemporary Greek artworld is visible well outside the institutions of art and inside the cultural economy of Athens. An illuminating example is ReMap, a series of medium to large scale exhibitions of contemporary art (originally an organization operating in parallel with the Biennale of Athens) co-organized by the large real-estate company “Oliaros” in the quarters of Metaksoyrgeio and Kerameikos- “sensitive” neighborhoods of Athens with low renting rates and high immigration figures. In recent years this has caused a heated discussion on the “gentrification problem” in the press (Maragoy 2009, Georgas 2013 [cf. also the caricature by S. Derveniotis in figure 5.

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Figure 5. Title: A caricature of Spyros Derveniotis highlighting the implication of contemporary art in gentrification issues in downtown Athens Copyright: Spyros Derveniotis

The connection made between art with processes of gentrification is not something uncommon; it is carried out through the activity of a “neo-bohemian” population in search for inexpensive venues and housing, while at the same time contributing decisively to gentrification parameters (Lloyd, 2010) [ 6 ] . But the very fact that “gentrification” in Athens takes place with the aid of contemporary art is most indicative of the sudden and massive expansion of the artistic field in a country where even the national museum for contemporary art has not yet opened officially for the general public.

On the other hand, a peculiarity of Athens is the amount of street art throughout the city: it has been postulated that Athens has turned into a “contemporary Mecca for street art in Europe” (Alderman, 2014) [Figure 6 and 7].

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Figure 6. Graffiti in downtown Athens

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Figure 7. Graffiti from downtown Athens representing Dürer’s study Praying Hands (in reversed direction). The artist is P. Tsakonas and the graffiti was made by a joint program of the Greek Ministry of Environment Energy and Climate Change and the Athens School of Fine Arts (photo by the author)

It is important to stress that Athenian street art does not only involve popular or sub-cultural graffiti, but also the work of contemporary artists (who usually have a Fine Arts School background) becoming thus an alternative path towards admission to the institutional sites of art. Significantly, in May 2014, the newly-founded Onassis Cultural Center organized a large scale exhibition for street art in the city.

The economic crisis is not the exclusive preoccupation of the content of Greek contemporary artworks. Nevertheless, the crisis has probably further enhanced international visibility and mobility in the Greek artistic field. The announcement that the next documenta 14 curated by Adam Szymczyk in 2017 will open simultaneously in Kassel and Athens (Szymczyk, 2014) comes to verify an interest already evident in international press. The reason for this interest may lie in the system of values that run across the art world: the correlation of socio-political situation and art, which since the time of the avant-gardes is particularly high in the axiological framework of the art world. Hence, it comes as no surprise that the correlation between art and crisis would draw the attention of and even intrigue the international art world, an interest that was fostered by the accelerated expansion of the art world in Greece even during the years of the economic crisis.

In light of these facts, the changes taking shape within the artistic terrain of Greece do not point to a state of stagnation and inertia due to the collapse of economic resources, but rather involve its violent transformation from the level of the topical debate over the issue of ‘“Greekness” to its opening up to an international arena inscribed within the contemporary artistic paradigm for which neither Greek state institutions nor artists had been adequately prepared. This has resulted in a great asymmetry in Greek contemporary art: artistic competition explodes, yet formal institutional framework lags behind. We cannot yet pinpoint the extent and the kind of impact this has had on Greek art commerce (for example, prices may have fallen, but in the context of contemporary art production this helps the younger artists to make their first sales and affects negatively the older ones who are not willing to make the same concessions), yet the general transformation of artworld structures continues steadily if not aggressively towards an expanded cultural field, which, as is the case in most EU countries, presupposes a mixed environment of state and private support, where galleries are far from being the sole professional outlet of artists.

This does not entail that Greek artists have had better professional and financial integration. On the contrary, the sudden expansion of the field with its inscription to contemporary art in the absence of clear cultural policies of state support create a sense of asphyxia. Such policies were implemented as early as the end of the 1970s in France (Verger, 1991) – an example that was subsequently followed by other European countries such as Belgium – where national and regional collections for contemporary art combined with state funding for art spaces and artists constitute nowadays the norm. In Greece, there is no official state policy for the support of artists – either on an individual or communal or municipal level. Generally, the country lacks a steady and organized public mechanism that can adequately support the now expanded artistic field. Greece may have received certain benefits from cultural programs led by the European Union (such as the vast ‘Culture Program’ in 2007-2013), but the preservation of an enlarged artistic field without a defined state framework is bound – especially in a European context – to face all the local actors in contemporary art with uncertainty.


This process seems to be exactly the opposite of the idea, popular within the press, that the artists are being innovatively creative within the crisis in order to overcome a collapse of artistic activity. The crisis instead seems to have catalysed in Greece, a more competitive field of artistic production operating in synchronicity with the international art world. From their student years, European artists learn to build up a proper network of residencies, festivals, public commissions and collections, potential buyers- all of which help professional progression within a state sponsored artistic field. Adopting this basic strategy of the Western contemporary artist is difficult for Greek artists, (as well by gallery owners) who did not experience the evolution of contemporary art towards an economy not solely based on the gallery or the collector.

Even today, artistic identity as such, is constructed on the contradiction of free vocation – a tradition which goes back to the liberal arts – and professional integration. Nevertheless, it is exactly this kind of ambivalent identity, located between the singularity of artistic personality and democratic egalitarianism, which permits the contemporary artist to shift flexibly to different social terrains thus endowing him with an advantageously versatile position (Heinich, 2005). Interestingly enough, as demonstrated in the case of Greece, this peculiar position can backfire on the artist under conditions of a violent expansion of the field. Competition grows exponentially and a considerable part of artistic projects comprises unpaid work – as a result of vocation rather than profession. The question that remains to be addressed is how the growing number of Greek artists will respond to this situation. Many small countries without the solid substratum of artistic institutions in the major hubs of contemporary art may face similar difficulties, yet the Greek paradox lies in the gigantic burgeoning of the artistic field despite the crisis. Over the last 15 years, artists careers seem increasingly dependent not on a system of contemporary art stardom but on an informal yet aggressive competition of networks and CVs. In this respect, it seems that the opening of Greece’s art to the international networks of contemporary art, a process which was not complete until the 2000s, has had more detrimental consequences on the professional security of artists than the economic crisis per se. Undeniably, the fact that they coincided surely did not have beneficial effects for young Greek artists.

The relationship between creativity and crisis in Greece does not crystallise the conjunction of society and art, but appears more likely to have been the outcome of internal changes to the very society of the art world, namely its sudden expansion and incorporation into the international contemporary art paradigm. These internal changes should be taken into account: it seems that the socially privileged position of contemporary art endows the artistic field with the ability to reshape its own diffusion and economy even in tense economic and social conditions. The conclusions of this essay point to the fact that creative production does not merely have to cope with harsh socio-economic conditions – probably a case for the majority of artists today, not only in Greece – but must also tackle the endogenous implosion and simultaneous external explosion of the artistic field within international spheres.


An early draft was presented in the Athens School of Fine Arts in April 2014. I thank all those who provided feedback on the essay and particulary Manos Stefanidis for some data and his support. I need to thank Hailey Maxwell and Christos Asomatos from the University of Glasgow, Thanassis Moutsopoulos from Technical University of Athens as well as the two anonymous reviewers for their corrections and recommendations. Many thanks to the The National Gallery of Greece, Spyros Derveniotis and AB4 photographic team to allow the reproduction of the images.

Notes de bas de page   [ + ]

1. A forerunner of the School was established as early as 1837 under the name “School of Arts” (Scholeio tôn technôn). As Athens School of Fine Arts it was re-established in the 1930s.
2. As the first King of Greece was Bavarian (Otto the 1st son of Ludwig the 1st) the Akademie der bildenden Künste in Munich became the main reference for Greek artists in the 19th century. G. Iakovides, Nicephoros Lytras (not to be confused with his son Nicolaos) and N. Gyzis, arguably the most prominent Greek artists of the period, are coined the “Painters of the School of Munich” in Greek art historiography.
3. Some of the theoretical background was set by a journal entitled To Trito Mati (The Third Eye, 1935-1937) published by D. Pikionis and N. Hadjikyriacos-Ghika.
4. The “Generation of the 1930s’ also argued for a redefinition of Modern Greek culture as the culture of Romioi, that is as the Christian subjects of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire would identify themselves even after the fall of Constantinople, rather than Greeks (Hellenes). In the overall level, the Byzantine and not the ancient past of the Greeks was (and maybe still is) a central identity issue which this generation of artists and writers was the first to place it in the center of its preoccupations.
5. In Greece there are actually 3 museums of contemporary art, a quite surprising number for the scale of the country. The Macedonian Museum for Contemporary Art opened its doors in Thessaloniki in 1999 with a large donation from the Iolas Collection. The State Museum for Contemporary Art opened in 2001 and hosts among other the Kostakis Collection on Russian constructivism. The major museum is the National Museum for Contemporary Art in Athens was founded in 2000, but is at the moment without an official site or substantial collections. After 15 years of temporary exhibitions and changing locations, the museum is supposed to open its doors in its permanent site in downtown Athens in 2014. Before 1999, the only official museum with contemporary art was the corresponding (yet small) section in the National Gallery (founded in 1900, yet it opened as a permanent museum site in 1976).
6. This is to be correlated with the greater role that ‘culture’ plays on the overall current transformation of the city of Athens. For example, the Niarchos Foundation (a private institution set by a heritage of a prominent family of ship-owners) has been funding the construction of the new national library and opera by Renzo Piano. “Rethink Athens” is also a large scale project for the urban transformation of central Athenian avenues (notably Panepistimiou avenue) which will create the ‘theatre of a 1000 rooms’, that is to say the conversion of a series of non-habited buildings in the Athenian center to cultural spaces (the logic of squat yet this time supported by an official government plan). All this locate contemporary art in a strategic position for its involvement in the cultural economy of the city center, which needless to say is one of the most problematic in European metropolitan spaces.


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, Economic crisis and creation, published 03 October 2016


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