Society / Grèce
International Art Exhibition in Athens
babelmed - 18/11/2003
Untitled, by Nikos Markou
The 11,000 visitors who have ventured inside so far (the exhibition opened on the 25th October) have seen “an exhibition dominated by strong images,” according to artistic director, Christos M. Joachimides, where the monumental size of many of the works “is the outcome of an organic connection and cohesion between the size and the concept of the work, aiming at the immediacy of experience.” Outlook has no single predominant theory to unify the works displayed and as such could be criticized for lacking coherence with its often strong works pulling visitors in different directions.
Although it is host to a variety of expressive media and techniques and a range of works of painting, sculpture, video art, photography, and installations, the exhibition focuses mainly on the interconnections between the works and the overlapping areas between them. These extensions become one of the key components of the exhibition: everyday objects are transformed into sculptures, paintings turn into environments, photography becomes painting, video becomes an installation. The exhibition includes a major installation by German artist Joseph Beuys (1921-1986) together with a labyrinth of steel and coal by Jannis Kounellis (b.1936) alongside new works by last year’s Turner Prize winner Keith Tyson, Jan Fabre, William Kentridge and Raymond Pettibon amongst many other well-known contemporary artists.
Jan Fabre, ‘Searching for utopia’
The project has been criticised, not least because of its cost (2.3million Euros), which is an unprecedented sum for an art exhibition in Athens. But moving aside from the not unjustified criticism of grand projets in general a further criticism is its perceived Western focus. Alekos Fasianos, a Greek painter not showing in the exhibition says, “I would prefer Outlook to be truly global, in other words, to have more artists from China, Japan, India, Africa and Latin America. As it mainly contains artists from the Western world, it is like an imposition of a particular style of art, the supposedly avant-guarde. I believe it to be unjust for artists from countries on the periphery not to be represented in big exhibitions. Looking at a few of the works in Outlook I ask myself whether visitors will understand them.”
Installation 2003 by Maria Papadimitriou
Some works have indeed left visitors baffled or disappointed, often as a result of their failure to live up to expectations of what a work of art should be. The artistic director’s aim, however, is more ambitious, “the wager is the unreserved involvement of the visitor in a different world, both poetic and unpredictable. An ideal prospect for art and life is to feel and see – not to have what you see explained to you.”
As part of the Cultural Olympiad programme the exhibition is meant to showcase the output of the world’s leading contemporary artists in a city that has no history of large-scale projects of this kind. Indeed, as the southerly point of a cultural triangle between the enormous Venice Biennale and the more modest but regular Istanbul show, Outlook could be seen as hesitant but ambitious attempt to draw the international art circuit into the clear waters of the Aegean. Leonidas Liambey