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Σάββατο 12 Οκτωβρίου 2013


 "Kridemnon"* or Modern art under the watchful gaze of the Brilliant Forms

Μετάφραση - translation: Eleni Dragona

 Photo: Jerome Sessini, MAGNUM, L'Hebdo, 12/9/2013

Dimitris Merantzas, Self-portrait by stoning, 2012

Compare the two pictures and their common dramatic meaning.

Homer mentions as kridemnon the cloth given by Ino or Lefkothea, daughter of Harmony and Cadmus, to Odysseus, so that he would escape the ferocious waves. Kridemnon, finally, was the band hanging from the seagull's beak, which the ingenious hero grabbed and wrapped around his waist, in order to protect himself from Poseidon's fury. Kridemnon, thus, is an archetypal piece of cloth, a screen of salvation, the transparent passage from the human to the divine, the holy veil, the thread that brings together the irreconcilable, the one that links the past and the present. As a symbolic title for the Exhibition, it is the tribute of modern Greek artists to their ancestors, the ribbon they all offer to the Diadoumenos, which he will finally wrap around his glowing forehead, as an act of resignation, reconciliation, acquiescence, and also hope. Let kridemnon, finally, function as the yarn that will drag up from a secret well all those images for which we have an existential need today...

Takis Poulopoulos

Thodoris Chryssikos

Even though
you are handicapped, show your hands.
Judge, so that you may be judged.

Manolis Anagnostakis

Modern art is dominated by the anti-heroes of everyday life; at the same time, its divine element sheds its metaphysical shroud and becomes, once again, human. Human blood is so greedily spent, that two thousand years now, the blood of a god is not enough to redeem it. On the contrary, in ancient art man creates gods in his image, and the mortals are blessed by the divine at the exact time when they are rejoicing in their lives, crowned with their archaic smiles, or when they are woefully reflecting upon their mortality, bidding their loved ones goodbye with silent eyes. What are the kouroi and the kores? Do they represent the idealized dead, or the humanized gods? Either way, Croesus, Frasikleia, Aristion, Hegeso, Aristonaftis, the boxer Satyros and the Marathon Boy, they all gained immortality a very long time ago, balancing like fine dancers above ideas and matter, drama and elation, moderation and its excess. Perfection personified, and nothing more.

Ancient heritage is the source to which art returns each time, in order to draw inspiration and meaning. This is part of the aesthetically common phenomena that the historians have deemed "classicisms." Chaerestratus, with his statue of Themis, of the 3d century B.C., found in 1890 in the temple of the same name in Rhamnous, was making a direct reference to the famous prototype constructed by Phidias's favourite disciple, Agoracritus. A similar eclectic taste permeates the time of Augustus both in written works and the plastic arts, while from Pico della Mirandola or Michelangelo, the illustrious minds of the Renaissance, to the Classicist Johann Joachim Winckelmann, ancient Greek art is promoted as the sublime standard. Moreover, during the time of the most resistant avantgarde of the 19th and 20th centuries, from Cézanne to Picasso and from Rodin to Moore, the plastic arts of the Archaic period and the Hellenistic, Pergamene Baroque remain constant reference points.

Modern Greek artistic expression couldn't, of course, not partake in this global consignment, not only for historical reasons, but also for reasons of... proximity, to make a reference to the General Makrygiannis. I believe that Greeks today have the right to be referring to the ancient civilization above everyone else, since they live in close proximity to the brilliant forms of those who created it, sharing the same language. Whether they are worthy heirs of this treasure, or whether they have made the most of the gifts they have received, is a different matter altogether. From the Arabs of the Middle Ages to Kant, and from the Oxford University or Humboldt Universität philologists and archaeologists, who were so fond of the ancient civilization, there are hundreds of personas who brought to light, studied and interpreted the ancient Greek civilization in the eyes of the people: Nietzsche, Wilamowitz, Schliemann, Hegel, Herder, Burke, Byron, Schinkel, Klenze, Chateaubriand, Canova, Thordvaldsen, Schlegel, and Keats, to name but a few.

Back to us now. What are we doing today at the National Archaeological Museum, this vessel of ancient beauty? We are only paying our time-limited tribute, as well as asking for a blessing. There is no room here for comparisons, conflicts, or smart-aleckisms. Each era, after all, has its own cross to bear. However, I hope that modern Greek creation, symbolically expressed through this group of seventy artists, deserves to stand for a while under the watchful gaze of their ancestors, if only for a few days, next to the Daedalic sculptures or the more austere ones, next to the Dipylon amphorae and the white lekythoi. This group, both legitimate and arbitrary ‒ just like every group ‒, democratically includes various trends or contradictions, different ages and career paths, as well as two or three foreign artists, who have been assimilated, however, into our culture. That's the only thing we are asking for, as Seferis would say; to be granted that grace.

The seventy, more or less, exhibitors, arrive with humility and also pride, to show that Greece is still a place for creativity, dignity, offer, art and visualization, and that the desired dialogue is not aimed at the ancient forms receiving and welcoming them, but at the spectators of today. Those, in other words, who often serve as hasty and careless image consumers; who enter museums as if they were supermarkets, demanding that the works reveal to them immediately any secrets they might be harbouring.

That is where the great challenge lies: for the young people, the tourists, a different audience who is not familiar with this field, to become acquainted with the past through the present, and to realize that, in the end, there is an invisible thread connecting things across time, often in spite of time. It might be said that those "things" are completely different to one another; it couldn't be any other way, we would reply, but that does not detract from what contemporary creators have to offer, nor from the significance of such a manifestation of offering. Let's not forget that the seventy artists are donating two thirds of their works' proceeds towards the Museum's needs, as a symbolic gesture, flesh of their flesh.

Sculpture, painting, engraving, photography, constructions, figurative art, abstraction, neorealism, neo-expressionism, minimalism, conceptualism, naivism, surrealism, are only some of the elements comprising the exhibited works, an indication of the pluralism defining our concept. Lastly, I would like to point out the fact that every collective exhibition ‒ especially when there is one curator and one team who are making the decisions ‒ is, by necessity, the product of compromise. For any omission or misunderstanding, mea culpa. Good intentions and the desire to give reflect, however, on all those involved, especially those who, subscribing to an international museological practice, are making an effort to infuse our antiquity-oriented museums with a breath of modern air. Keeping, of course, an equal distance both from the sacrilegious cry and the fearful formalism. 

Venia Dimitrakopoulou

Manolis Anastasakos

Something has to be at stake, something must be lost in order for a work of art to be born, meaning that the absolute metaphor of the absolute human deprivation must be created. In academic art, on the other hand, a sense of security and placidness are derived from the viewing of a world that is on the one hand familiar, and on the other hand completely accessible.


Not the objects, but the people who touch them. This is what essential expression and, of course, Greek Art is interested in. This is why the invisible gods are gazing down at the visible world, delighted, competing with each other in order to resemble the statues dedicated to them by the mortals, striving to be worthy of them.

Classical art remains an ideal that is beyond reach, just like drama and philosophy; regardless of how much we admire it today, I am afraid we are partaking in only a small part of its conceptual range. Just like we can only just glimpse into the everyday life and the social dynamics of the ancient Greeks. In this way, confronted with the works they have produced, we will always feel perplexity and awe. In archaic art, man is gauging his abilities in order to express that which exceeds him. In classical art, that which exceeds him is brought down to human level. A miracle! The terror of existence is slowly turning into rational awareness, and art becomes the mortals' answer to the immortals' arrogance. Man's creations are aware of their immortality; another miracle. Our intruding into the halls of the National Archaeological Museum with modern works might be perceived as an act of insolence; it is done, however, with respect and with a sense of "offering," in order to become a blessing. It could be, also, that some will be irritated by this endeavor, and by those who dare attempt it. It is, however, only a transient situation, one which attempts to activate the "speech" of the silent monuments, old and new, a speech that is often dormant. As a possibility that also allows the present to coexist with the past under its protection. The offering of the creators is deposited here not as a challenge, but as an apprenticeship, striving to reconnect some broken bonds; to rediscover the thread that will allow us to exit the Labyrinth; to reclaim the kridemnon, the magical cloth of Ino, so that we can sail through the tempest. That cloth, on which the face of the world may once again be traced, within the limits, however, of a painting such as those you have around you. We are claiming, in other words, the thread of spiritual tradition, which we want to keep active, but at the same time away from jingoistic flourishings.

This exhibition is being held precisely at a time when we ought to rethink, as a society and as a civilization, our position in history and our role in the European Union, which is being tried today, both as a concept and as a prospect. Humanistic tradition, classical education and art are showing us the way to claim our own path as Modern Greeks. That is the point and the intention of this exhibition; not the appropriation of some standards, which are one way or the other beyond competition, but the involvement of modern drama in the processes of history, in the timeless adventure of the forms.

P.S. 1 In the hall of the Mycenaean exhibits you will find the small, incandescent "Complex of two female deities, with a young god between them" (15th century BC), which, I believe, is a forerunner of Leonardo da Vinci's composition of "The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne" (1513-5, Louvre). So, whether we like it or not, a dialogue exists. The question is how we can carry it through. Vlassis Caniaris (1928-2011) became a great proponent of it with his exhibition "Genethlion," at the Benaki Museum in 2007-8, by erecting a heartrending monument to the ephemeral. Likewise, the modern sculptor Sir Eduardo Paolozzi (1924-2005), with his exemplary discourse with the "Aeginites" at the Munich Sculpture Gallery already in 1988, at the exhibition "Unter Helden und Göttern." Following the same line, the philosopher Salvatore Settis still insists upon speaking in an imposing manner regarding "The Future of the Classical."

There are times when Art is freed from its vulgar obligations or ornamental insecurities and finds itself amidst the tempest on top of the scariest, tallest wave. This miracle can neither be constructed nor announced. It just happens. Hopefully it is happening right now...

P.S.2 The exhibition's objectives can be summarized in the relationship between the figure of Caniaris and the extraordinary Zeus of Kalamis (?). Confronted with the worn down puppet of today, perfection crowns the divine body, highlighting its virtue and prestige. Their only thing in common, a raised flag...

Manos Stefanidis
Assistant Professor at the Department of Theatre Studies
University of Athens
September 18, 2013

Angelos Papadimitriou

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