Art visits

Stanley Kubrick : The exhibition review

The starting point of Stanley Kubrick’s show, the UK’s first blockbuster show about a film-maker, was an one-point perspective corridor at the Design Museum’s which by no means did it reveal the treasures you were about to be confronted with.

A quite densely-filled show, with over 900 objects, Kubrick’s exhibition ,which moved two years ago from a cramped space at Shad Thames, was an absolute paradise to the film-maker’s fans.

The show put emphasis on the director’s links to the UK and highlighted the design element of his work ;

 His collaboration with designers such as Saul Bass in Spartacus, 

Or The Shining

to Ken Adam in Dr Strangelove,

or costume designer Milena Canonaro (Barry Lyndon). 


It also highlighted his working practices.  We could see detailed plans for the reconstruction of Hue, Vietnam, at Bexton Gas Works for the the Full Metal Jacket, for example.

Or the forensic details about the incorporation of the brand-new steadycam in The Shining  room, to name just a few.

The various rooms were grouped thematically . For example , war films all together. Or those designed by Ken Adam.

And, of course, films with censorship issues, like A Clockwork Orange .

Not to mention the famous Adams Probe 16, whose polite driver stopped to let me pass in front of him!!! Woohoo!!!

The grand finale was then dedicated to 2001: A Space Odyssey.

What stands out was his physical presence in every note, supervising every little detail in his films with an obsessive attention to detail proving what a relentless perfectionist Kubrick was and how he aimed at having total control of his films. Or ,in fact, rather than perfectionist, a ‘pain in the ass’, as Pollack called him once!

Nan Goldin at the TATE

My work comes from empathy and love’ Nan Goldin (2019)

Some of Nan Goldin’s photos are currently on show at TATE Modern, a small number of them in fact, but all of them representative of her work.

Known for her intimate portraiture that at at times is also self-referential,

she has documented people of the LGBT community she belongs to

portraying youthful abandonment and putting forward vulnerability as an asset.

On show is also her famous slideshow ‘The ballad of sexual dependency‘ ( 1980-1986) where she obsessively recorded moments of the people who became her ‘surrogate family’ at the time, after she left home.

Her work has moved to new territories lately, photographing moments of domesticity.

Her work will be on display at the TATE until 27 October 2019 (NATALIE BELL BUILDING LEVEL 3 EAST) .

TAKIS at TATE Modern


Takis,  described as a “tireless worker of the magnetic fields …”, a master of ‘electromagnetism’, and a successor of Marcel Duchamp, is this year celebrated in London with a large exhibition at TATE Modern, the largest, in fact,  of the artist’s work ever held in the UK. The exhibition, showing works from the 1950s to the early 2000s, including a rarely seen kinetic pendulum sculpture, has received quite a lot of publicity and it has been much expected. 


Magnetic Field 9 (Red) , 1961. Acrylic paint on canvas, magnets, metal, cloth, nylon thread180 × 220 × 10 cm. Centre Pompidou, Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle, Paris © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2019

Takis (or Panagiotis Vassilakis), a self-taught, by conviction,  Greek artist is known for creating some of the most innovative artworks of the 20th century,  after moving to Paris in the 50s and quicky being involved with the international artistic circles of the time. Aiming to reinvent sculpture, he started exploring electromagnetism as a new element creating thus, an inextricable link between art and science through the combination of elements of nature and physics in sculpture.

1. Various ‘telemagnetic installations’ (early 60s) 2. Electro-magnetic music (1966)

In the current show over 70 works can be seen. The works are not exhibited chronologically but rather thematically : Μagnetism and metal, Sound and Silence, Light and darkness. These have actually been his areas of interest and experimentation over his 70 year career.

Takis’ first sculptures are influenced by Giacometti and Picasso. When he moves to France, though, and impressed as he is by the buzz of the big cities  and the technological creations that surround them, the radars for example, he starts creating his first Signals.


Various Signals chronologically ranging from 1954 – 2000

The train station in Calais, where he had to wait for hours en route from Paris to London (in his frequent trips there) became his source of inspiration and it was seen by him as a forest of ‘monster eyes’ flashed on and off in a jungle of ‘iron’.

Takis used to collect materials from flea markets and military second-hand shops (salvaged airplane gauges, the radio antennas of US army jeeps, etc.), from which in the 60s he made several wall reliefs from instrument panels and salvaged aeroplane gauges. Through his intervention, the panels ,which originally showed pilots the invisible forces affecting their flight (e.g. the wind speed), change purpose. Now their rhythms verge toward visual mysic.

You can watch the video below :

Black Panel Dials (1968)

Takis started experimenting with how to use energy and movement in his quest for a new live force in sculpture. Marcel Duchamp (whom he met in 1961) once described him as the ‘happy ploughman of the magnetic fields’. In the video below a large grouping of flower-like sculptures are brought to life by the magnetic pendulums that swing overhead. This is the first time this installation has been exhibited since 1970 and it is the first one the visitors see once entering the exhibition!

(Solomon R. Guggenheim, N.York. Partial gift, Robert Spitzer, by exchange 1970).

Magnetic Fields (1969).

To him, there seems to exist an invisible force that is created by magnetic fields that surround us and diffuse in space.

‘My intention was to make nature’s phenomena emerge from my work… nature everything is dound : the wind, the sea, the humming of insects.’

Takis, throughout his career,  explores the boundaries between artistic and scientific perception, experimenting with various mediums, one of which is music, or rather the combination/interchange of sound and silence.  The show features musical devices made by Takis from 1965 onward. In one of the rooms the visitors can enjoy his series «Musicales’, in which magnets pulling metal rods against instrument strings, electricity playing its role too in combination with the physical presence of the viewer,  all result to producing the sound of cosmos. A sound or sounds that are not fully controlled by the artist though, allowing the materials , thus, to determine the musical score to a certain extent.


Musicales (1985-2004). Electromagnets, iron, metal string, nylon thread, paint, steel needles, wood.    Foundation Louis Vuitton, Paris.

You can watch a video here :  Musicales (1985-2004)

The journey through this pioneering artist culminates and completes with his Silver Musical Sphere (1985) and his Gong (1978), made from the rusted wall of a tanker . For Takis, sound has a spiritual component relating to the idea of cosmic harmony.

Video below :

Gong (1978)

In the mid 80s, in Parnetha (Athens) he established the Takis Foundation – Research Center for the Art and the Sciences which opened in 1993 and it has since hosted artists and scientists. It also houses the artists’s studio, library and archive.

Last, it has to be mentioned that alongside his aesthetic experimentations, the prominent artist was also politically active  as a true radical and suversive professional, through the Art Workers’ Coalition of which he was a co-founder with the aim of defending artists’ rights against exploitation by galleries, curators and museums.

Takis will be on display at the Tate Modern from 3 July until 27 October 2019, and then it will be on view at the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona from 21 November 2019, and finally, it will travel to the Museum of Cycladic Art, Athens, where it will open on 20 May 2020.

Anatomy of Political Melancholy by Virginia Spanaki

In the column Art visits from time to time I am going to welcome reviews by other friends/curators. The first one to write is Virginia Spanaki, a friend and colleague. Below the review in English follows its translation in Greek.


Anatomy of Political Melancholy


February 28th – April 13th, 2019

Curator: Katerina Gregos

Athens Conservatory, event hall Ω2

Organized by Schwarz Foundation

Visiting date: April 12th – 13th, 2019

Anatomy of Political Melancholy: a title whose meaning we can only vaguely grasp with the mind. Political Melancholy: a feeling that seems to mean something to us, but would most likely mean nothing during a precedent era. I associatively ended up thinking that it might have something to do with the disappointment, the resignation and the resulting apathy experienced by many people, in front of a – phenomenally? – incontrollable situation, and was confirmed right from the first artwork of this exhibition. I unconsciously smiled in front of a series of pre-election poster photographs of Marine Le Pen (Tom Malloy, Candidate), most of which bore pernicious interventions by citizens, reflecting «a strange confluence between nationalism, misogyny, iconoclasm and political division in a landscape which has become increasingly polarised… in the whole of Europe»[1].


I then stood awkwardly in front of the seven screens of Adrian Melis (Ovation), where the temporary residents of various parliaments applauded themselves infinitely, with a look of success on their face, as if they managed to save the world for one more day. While sinking in the video loop, I tried to remember just this one time that all these politicians received their citizens’ applause for making a decision in their favor.


In Impotence of Ariane Loze, four diverse characters, of divergent beliefs, discuss and develop their views on the stress that every day life applies on young people: work, social media, politics. Loze, mainly a video performer with studies in filmmaking, degrades cinematography in its core components: she directs, records and edits the characters she interprets herself. Scenography and costumes are plain and the only way for the viewer to distinguish the diversity of the characters, is to watch the movie.


The most impressive work for me was Nestori Syrjälä’s Raimo S video, in which an actor portrays former Finnish Minister of the Interior Raimo Sailas at an advanced age, making an account of his life – work. Gradually, this introspection stresses him more and more, and as the uncomfortable moments of silence augment, he ends up questioning himself: the motives and intentions that have rendered him complicit in a galloping ecological crisis (rather) without return.


The Ω2 space of the Athens Conservatory itself fully served the purpose of the exhibition. Visitors walked freely through dark and sometimes narrow passages from one space to the next, to discover the artworks and listen to the stories of their protagonists. The walls that leave visible the building material (sometimes cement and sometimes brick), the pylons of the basement, the rotation of small and larger spaces, give some sense of hesitation to the traffic flow, as if moving through the narrow alleys at the rear of the buildings of some world capital, which often contradict their imposing facades. The gloomy lighting (with the exception of the altering natural light from the patio, and the quietness in the room increased the sense of stagnation caused by the recurring sounds of the video-installations.) This stagnation is the product of the political disappointment of the present historical moment, that the exhibition has attempted to capture and demonstrate, and, if possible, to awaken visitors towards social activation and active citizenship.


The following day, the last of the exhibition, I attended the tour of curator Katerina Gregos, who talked both about the political dimension she seeks to attribute to her work, as well as the source of inspiration for the current title[2]. She then presented the majority of the artworks through the perspective that led her to include them in this exhibition. At the reception, Katerina Zacharopoulou, responsible for the exhibition’s educational program, welcomed the visitors surrounded by postcards, ready to be sent by post to the political personality of the visitor’s choice, along with his message (message of disappointment? request? demand?), thus encouraging visitors to share their socio-political concerns – and their often contradictory views, as inspired by the works of art.




Katerina Apostolidou, If you only keep your eyes open… (2017), video-installation

Marc Bauer, Prologue, Last days of February 2019, Athens (2019), wall-mounted design installation, drawings

Sara Sejin Chang (Sara van der Heide), Brussels (2016), short film

Marianna Christofidou, It exhausts my elbow (2018 – ongoing), 16mm film, slides, rhizographic prints

Depression Era, Tourists (2015 – 2018), posters, vinyl letters

Eirene Efstathiou, How things are made (2017), mixed media

Eirene Efstathiou, Artifacts (for the Revolution), mixed media

Marina Gioti, The Invisible Hands (2017), documentary

Jan Peter Hammer, Jungle Book (2013 – 2015), video

Sven Johne, Dear Vladimir Putin (2017), video

Yorgos Karailias, EstrangeR (2013 – 2014), photography

Spiros Kokkonis, Müdigkeitsgesellschaft (2017), video

Ariane Loze, Impotence (2017), movie

Adrian Melis, Ovation (2013 – ongoing), video

Tom Malloy, Motto (2016), video slide show

Tom Malloy, Poster (2016), woodcutting matrix

Tom Malloy, Candidate (2012), 47 color photographs

Dimitris Mitas, Mauve (2015 – 2019), inject print on aluminium

Jennifer Nelson, Untitled (Mesogheia) (2016), paper sculpture

Jennifer Nelson, Democracy is a party (2018), video

Yorgos Prinos, Prosaic (2009 – ongoing), photography

Chrysa Romanos, Luna Park International (1965), collage on canvas

Hans Rosenström, Shells within Shells (2012/2019), ηsound installation

Georges Salameh, Cavafy (1999), photography

Nestori Syrjälä, Raimo S (2014), video

Nestori Syrjälä, Stele (2016), sculpture installation

Thu Van Tran, Instant Happiness (2009/2018), mixed media

Dimitris Tsoumplekas, Texas – the problem with our current situation (2010 – 2013), photo book and double 35mm slide projection

Bram Van Meervelde, Untitled (2015), mixed media on metallic and ceramic plates

Bram van Meervelde, Union of Individualists, sculpture in vitrine

[1] Exhibition Catalogue, p.67

[2] According to K. Gregos’ introduction in the exhibition’s catalog: «Philosopher Lieven de Cauter calls this sense of disillusionment ‘political melancholy’: a sinking feeling borne from frustration, anger, despair, mistrust, sadness and hopelessness. This exhibition is inspired by his text Small Anatomy of Political Melancholy”.

23915591_1535248349891793_2110630364598549536_nVirginia Spanaki is a young and active Historian of Art. Completing her BA in History and Art Theory at the Department of Plastic Arts and Sciences of the University of Ioannina, she was awarded her MA in History of Art at the Department of History and Archeology of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. From 2011 to 2013, she taught art in Thessaloniki (Teloglion Foundation of Arts of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki) and from 2014 until 2015 she lived and worked in London (British Museum, Tower Bridge Exhibition, Buckingham Palace) mainly as a guide to periodical and permanent exhibitions.
She lives and works in Thessaloniki, while at the same time she is attending the MPC Museology – Culture Management at the Department of Architecture of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, as a scholar of the Nikos Daskalandonakis Foundation – NDF. Her research interests focus on issues of museological design of accessible and comprehensible reports able to attract the general public and make artistic creation a means of communication and reflection.

Ανατομία Πολιτικής Μελαγχολίας

28 Φεβρουαρίου – 13 Απριλίου 2019

Επιμέλεια: Κατερίνα Γρέγου

Ωδείο Αθηνών, πολυχώρος εκδηλώσεων Ω2

Διοργάνωση: Ίδρυμα Schwarz

Ημερομηνία επίσκεψης: 12 και 13 Απριλίου, 2019

Ανατομία Πολιτικής Μελαγχολίας: ένας τίτλος το νόημα του οποίου μπορούμε να συλλάβουμε αμυδρά με το μυαλό μας. Πολιτική μελαγχολία: ένα συναίσθημα που για μας κάτι φαίνεται να σημαίνει αλλά που πιθανόν να μην σήμαινε τίποτα σε μια προηγούμενη εποχή. Συνειρμικά κατέληξα ότι σχετίζεται με την απογοήτευση, την παραίτηση και συνεπαγόμενη απάθεια που βιώνει πολύς κόσμος μπροστά σε μια – φαινομενικά; – ανεξέλεγκτη κατάσταση, και επιβεβαιώθηκα ήδη από το πρώτο έργο της έκθεσης. Χαμογέλασα ασυναίσθητα μπροστά σε μια σειρά από φωτογραφίες προεκλογικών αφισών της Μαρίν Λεπέν (Tom Malloy, Candidate),  οι περισσότερες με αλλοιωτικές παρεμβάσεις από πολίτες, οι οποίες αντανακλούν «μια περίεργη σύμπλευση εθνικισμού, μισογυνισμού, εικονοκλασίας και πολιτικής διαίρεσης σε ένα αυξανόμενα πολωμένο τοπίο, …σε όλη την Ευρώπη»[1].

Στάθηκα αμήχανα μπροστά στις επτά οθόνες του Adrian Melis (Ovation), όπου οι προσωρινοί κάτοικοι διαφόρων κοινοβουλίων αυτό-χειροκροτούνταν αέναα, με ένα μειδίαμα επιτυχίας στα πρόσωπά τους, σα να κατάφεραν για άλλη μια μέρα να σώσουν τον κόσμο. Όσο βυθιζόμουν στη λούπα των βίντεο, προσπαθούσα να θυμηθώ έστω μια φορά που όλοι αυτοί οι πολιτικοί να έλαβαν το χειροκρότημα των πολιτών επειδή πήραν κάποια απόφαση υπέρ τους.

Στο Impotence της Ariane Loze, τέσσερις διαφορετικοί χαρακτήρες, με αποκλίνουσες πεποιθήσεις, συζητούν και αναπτύσσουν την άποψή τους για την πίεση που ασκεί η καθημερινότητα στους νέους: εργασία, social media, πολιτική. Η ίδια η Loze, video performer κατά κύριο λόγο με σπουδές στη σκηνοθεσία, αποδομεί τον κινηματογράφο στα βασικά του συστατικά: η ίδια σκηνοθετεί, βιντεοσκοπεί  και μοντάρει τους χαρακτήρες που η ίδια ερμηνεύει. Τα σκηνικά και τα κοστούμια είναι λιτά και ο μόνος τρόπος για τον θεατή να αντιληφθεί τη διαφορετικότητα των χαρακτήρων, είναι να παρακολουθήσει την ταινία.

Το πιο επιβλητικό έργο για μένα στάθηκε το βίντεο Raimo S του Nestori Syrjälä, στο οποίο ένας ηθοποιός υποδύεται τον πρώην Υπουργό Εσωτερικών της Φινλανδίας Raimo Sailas σε προχωρημένη ηλικία, να πραγματοποιεί έναν απολογισμό του έργου του. Σταδιακά αυτή η ενδοσκόπηση τον προβληματίζει και τον βαραίνει όλο και περισσότερο, ενώ, καθώς οι πνιγηρές στιγμές σιωπής του αυξάνονται, καταλήγει στην αμφισβήτηση του ίδιου του εαυτού του: των κινήτρων και των προθέσεων που τον κατέστησαν συνένοχο μιας καλπάζουσας οικολογικής κρίσης, (μάλλον) χωρίς επιστροφή.

Ο ίδιος ο χώρος Ω2 του Ωδείου Αθηνών εξυπηρέτησε στο έπακρο το σκοπό της έκθεσης. Οι επισκέπτες κινούνταν ελεύθερα μέσα από σκοτεινά και στενά – κάποιες φορές – περάσματα από τον ένα χώρο στον άλλο, για να ανακαλύψουν τα έργα και να ακούσουν τις ιστορίες των πρωταγωνιστών τους. Οι τοίχοι που αφήνουν ορατό το οικοδομικό υλικό (άλλοτε τσιμέντο και άλλοτε τούβλο), οι πυλώνες του υπογείου, η εναλλαγή μικρών και μεγάλων χώρων, προσδίδουν κάποιο δισταγμό στη ροή της κίνησης, σα να κινείται κανείς στα στενά σοκάκια στο πίσω μέρος των κτιρίων κάποιας μεγαλούπολης που συχνά έρχονται σε αντίθεση με τις επιβλητικές προσόψεις τους. Ο χαμηλός φωτισμός (με εξαίρεση το μεταβαλλόμενο φυσικό φως από το αίθριο, και η ησυχία στο χώρο ενέτεινε την αίσθηση της στασιμότητας που προκαλούν οι επαναλαμβανόμενοι ήχοι των βίντεο – εγκαταστάσεων. Αυτή ακριβώς η στασιμότητα είναι το προϊόν της πολιτικής απογοήτευσης της παρούσας στιγμής που η έκθεση επιχείρησε να συλλάβει και να καταδείξει, και – ει δυνατόν – να αφυπνίσει στην κατεύθυνση της κοινωνικής δραστηριοποίησης και ενεργής συμμετοχής των πολιτών.

Την επόμενη μέρα, τελευταία της έκθεσης, παρακολούθησα την ξενάγηση της επιμελήτριας Κατερίνας Γρέγου, η οποία μίλησε τόσο για την πολιτική διάσταση που επιδιώκει να δίνει στη δουλειά της, όσο και για την πηγή έμπνευσης του τίτλου της παρούσας[2]. Κατόπιν, παρουσίασε το σύνολο σχεδόν των έργων μέσα από την οπτική εκείνη που την οδήγησαν να τα συμπεριλάβει στην έκθεση αυτή. Στην υποδοχή, η Κατερίνα Ζαχαροπούλου, υπεύθυνη για το εκπαιδευτικό πρόγραμμα της έκθεσης, υποδεχόταν τον κόσμο περιτριγυρισμένη από καρτ ποστάλ, έτοιμες να σταλούν ταχυδρομικά στο πολιτικό πρόσωπο της επιλογής του επισκέπτη, μαζί με το μήνυμά του (μήνυμα απογοήτευσης; αίτημα; απαίτηση; συμβουλή;) ενθαρρύνοντας έτσι τους επισκέπτες να μοιραστούν τις κοινωνικοπολιτικές τους ανησυχίες – και τις συχνά αντιφατικές απόψεις τους, εμπνεόμενοι από τα έργα τέχνης.

Κατάλογος έργων:

Κατερίνα Αποστολίδου, Μη ξεχνάς ποτέ να κοιτάς γύρω σου… (2017), βίντεο-εγκατάσταση

Marc Bauer, Prologue, Last days of February 2019, Athens (2019), επιτοίχια σχεδιαστική εγκατάσταση, σχέδια

Sara Sejin Chang (Sara van der Heide), Brussels (2016), ταινία μικρού μήκους

Μαριάννα Χριστοφίδου, It exhausts my elbow (2018 – σε εξέλιξη), φιλμ 16mm, διαφάνειες, ριζογραφικές εκτυπώσεις

Depression Era, Τουρίστες (2015 – 2018), αφίσες, γράμματα βινυλίου

Ειρήνη Ευσταθίου, How things are made (2017), μικτή τεχνική

Ειρήνη Ευσταθίου, Artifacts (for the Revolution), μικτή τεχνική

Μαρίνα Γιώτη, The Invisible Hands (2017), ντοκιμαντέρ

Jan Peter Hammer, Jungle Book (2013 – 2015), βίντεο

Sven Johne, Dear Vladimir Putin (2017), βίντεο

Γιώργος Καραηλίας, EstrangeR (2013 – 2014), φωτογραφίες

Σπύρος Κοκκώνης, Müdigkeitsgesellschaft (2017), βίντεο

Ariane Loze, Impotence (2017), ταινία

Adrian Melis, Ovation (2013 – σε εξέλιξη), βίντεο

Tom Malloy, Motto (2016), video slide show

Tom Malloy, Poster (2016), μήτρα ξυλογραφίας

Tom Malloy, Candidate (2012), 47 έγχρωμες φωτογραφίες

Δημήτρης Μύτας, Μωβ (2015 – 2019), φωτογραφία σε αλουμίνιο

Jennifer Nelson, Untitled (Mesogheia) (2016), κατασκευή από χαρτί

Jennifer Nelson, Democracy is a party (2018), βίντεο

Γιώργος Πρίνος, Prosaic (2009 – σε εξέλιξη), φωτογραφία

Χρύσα Ρωμανού, Luna Park International (1965), κολάζ σε μουσαμά

Hans Rosenström, Shells within Shells (2012/2019), ηχητική εγκατάσταση

Γιώργος Σαλαμέ, Cavafy (1999), φωτογραφία

Nestori Syrjälä, Raimo S (2014), βίντεο

Nestori Syrjälä, Stele (2016), γλυπτική εγκατάσταση

Thu Van Tran, Instant Happiness (2009/2018), μικτή τεχνική

Δημήτρης Τσουμπλέκας, Τέξας – το πρόβλημα με τη δική μας κατάσταση τώρα (2010 – 2013), βιβλίο και διπλή προβολή slide 35mm

Bram Van Meervelde, Untitled (2015), μικτή τεχνική σε μεταλλικά και κεραμικά πιάτα

Bram van Meervelde, Union of Individualists, γλυπτό σε βιτρίνα

[1] Κατάλογος έκθεσης, σ.67

[2] Σύμφωνα με τον πρόλογο της Κ. Γρέγου στον κατάλογο της έκθεσης: «Ο φιλόσοφος Lieven de Cauter ονομάζει ‘πολιτική μελαγχολία’ το αίσθημα ψυχολογικής βύθισης: ένα μίγμα ενόχλησης, θυμού, απελπισίας, δυσπιστίας, λύπης και εγκλωβισμού. Η έκθεση έχει εμπνευστεί από το κείμενό του Μικρή Ανατομία της Πολιτικής Μελαγχολίας».

Α visit to Haus der Kunst (Munich) : El Anatsui


I arrived in Munich last Monday, 25th March for the LMU Conference of the University of Munich. As soon as I arrived,  off I was to stroll a bit around the city and then straight to the famous Haus der Kunst. Currently on show is the ‘El Anatsui : Triumphant Scale’ show and it was an once in a lifetime opportunity to see this. The exhibition is organized by Haus der Kunst, Munich, in cooperation with Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha; Kunstmuseum Bern; and Guggenheim Museum Bilbao.


The key works from five decades of the artist’s career are included here. The exhibition focuses on the triumphant and monumental nature of El Anatsui’s groundbreaking oeuvre. These are the bottle-cap works from the last two decades. Their presence is imposing as they stand hanging on the walls like woven textiles of a tremendous scale.


Who is El Anatsui?

El Anatsui, a sculptor from Ghana currently living and working in Nigeria, is famous for transforming simple, everyday materials into large – scale installations.

A famous series of wall-mounted installations and assemblages are hosted in this show.


His materials


His materials : bottle caps,  old milk tins, iron nails and printing plates. His use of materials is symbolic. As he admits himself, he uses recycled African materials highlighting the fact that the artist has to use materials that are in his proximity like ancient or the first artists used to do. Also, for the fact that in some places in the world  people have to re-use materials out of necessity, rather than as a choice.


His purpose is not to turn something previously discarded into something beautiful. These materials also hint at concepts such as consumerism and its connection to slavery. For example, the bottle caps come from hard liquors introduced by Europeans as currency. They remind us, therefore, of the era of transatlantic slavery and colonialisation. The bottle caps symbolize a kind of subjugation.


Approaching closer to the works, what can be observed is how a huge number of these bottle caps are woven together with copper wire to create these unique ‘fabrics’ bringing together smaller sections that form a single work, reminding the making of human communities that are formed by individual subjectivities connected together.


It is quite interesting to look closer and observe the process of cutting, flattening, squeezing, twisting, folding and joining of thousands of these bottle caps.

His work raises questions about ethnic identity by combining traditional African techniques and imagery with abstraction (which arguably is rooted within Western art). His interest in African craft led him to be associated with the 1970s art movement Nsukka group.



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One additional reason why I could not miss out on this opportunity was that it was curated by Okwui Enwezor, former director of Haus der Kunst who passed away only a short time ago (as well as by Chika Okeke-Agulu, Professor at the department of Archaeology and Art History at the University of Princeton, and Assistant Damian Lentini, Curator at Haus der Kunst ). His work had made a huge difference in curating and he is dearly missed.


The Benaki Museum collection of Islamic art


Last november, while in Athens, I visited for the first time the Museum of Islamic art with a dear friend. Today I am sharing some of the artworks I very much enjoyed seeing.


Ceramic ware from Iran, 12th- early 13th century

The Benaki Museum collection of Islamic art  includes examples of all its local variations from as far as India, Persia, Mesopotamia, Asia Minor, the Middle East, Arabia, Egypt, North Africa, Sicily and Spain.

You can see more than 8,000 works of art, including ceramics, gold, metalwork, textiles and glass, smaller groupings of bone objects, inscribed funerary steles and weaponry, as well as the marble-faced interior of a reception room from a 17th-century Cairo mansion. The aim of the permanent collection is to show the evolution of Islamic civilisation from the first appearance of Islam up to the Ottoman period and the corresponding development of Islamic art up to the 19th century.


Knives and jewellery

Antonis Benakis initially started collecting in Egypt at the beginning of the 20th century. At the same time many similar collections were created in Europe and America, which, in many cases, complement the Benaki Museum collection.

Arabic manuscript containing instructions for hunters of animals and birds decorated with a miniature of a later date

Ceramic ware

The two carved wooden memorial door panels from 8th century Mesopotamia, which you can see below, for example,  rank amongst the more important objects in the collection.

Woodcarving,  Iraq, 8th – 9th c.

The Islamic Art collections are exhibited in the Museum of Islamic Art, housed in the neo-classical building complex that was donated by Lambros Eftaxias. It is located in the historic centre of Athens, near the ancient Kerameikos cemetery.

Ceramic tiles.

Plaquette bearing the footiprints of the prophet Muhammad. Iznik, 1706

November 2018

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