Agenor Asteriadis exhibition at the Benaki Museum (Pireos St. Annexe)

I just recently visited the retrospective exhibit on 20th century Greek painter Agenor Asteriadis (1898-1977) at the Benaki Museum, at 138 Pireos St. I had come across some of his paintings at a Theocharakis Foundation exhibit ("Masterpieces of Greek Painting") a few months ago and loved his cartoonist, map-like cityscape of the town of Larissa, as well as his vivid paintings on the earthquake that had shaken his native town in 1954.  Asteriadis, though mostly known as a landscape painter using water colours, also embraced and experimented with a number of various means, including oil and egg-tempera and worked on engravings and religious paintings. The influence of religious / byzantine painting on his style is at times obvious, although he incorporated it in his non-religious themed works in a creative, natural way. I was surprised to read, and to then recollect, that some of his works had been used as pictures in Greek school books, esp. grammar school. An interesting piece of information I read was that he had finished at the bottom of his class at the Athens School of Fine Arts...
The exibit runs till 20 November 2011.

If you can't make it to the Benaki Museum you can see a thorough web presentation of Asteriadis's works at this, Greek-only, but very well designed web gallery.

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Odysseus Elytis exhibition at the Theocharakis Foundation

The "Basil & Marina Theocharakis Foundation for the Fine Arts & Music" (in short: Theocharakis Foundation) is located right across the street from the Greek Parliament and the National Garden in a 1920's listed, 5-floor building, renovated in 2005. It is currently hosting an exhibition on Greek Nobel Prize Laureate Odysseus Elytis (1911-1996) and his relation to the fine arts. 

Elytis, received the 1979 Nobel Prize in Literature, "for his poetry, which, against the background of Greek tradition, depicts with sensuous strength and intellectual clear-sightedness modern man's struggle for freedom and creativeness", ...in the words of the Nobel Committee for Literature. 2011 marks a hundred years from his birth, thus the occasion for this exhibition, which portrays, for the first time, Elytis'  relation with the fine arts. The first part of the exhibition showcases paintings and collages by the poet himself, which, as I found out seemed to be influenced by the same themes as his writing: Greek history, religion, nature, the Aegean sea... I really liked his paintings, especially the use of color and simplicity, but I'm kind of "prejudiced" against collages in general. They remind me of Grammar or Junior High school "art classes" and, on top, I find something inherently kitschy into collage as an art form (sorry if I offend you; you can safely reject me as an ignoramus). So, collages of angel wings and Greek orthodox churches and white-washed houses and beaches didn't  cut it for me... 
The second part of the exhibit features paintings (mostly) and sculptures of artists whom Elytis admired and had either forged personal relations with or had written critiques on their work. He had spent some time in Paris  in the 1940's and 1950's and got to know Picasso, Matisse and most of the Greek artists "diaspora" in Paris. Unfortunately his texts / critiques are only in Greek. 
The third part consists of works (from paintings to installations) that modern artists created and which are influenced, in one way or another, by Elytis poems. One of them belonged to Basil Theocharakis, a Greek businessman and painter who is the founder of this museum along with his wife.

On top, I got to see the museum's permanent exhibit of paintings by Spyros Papaloukas  (Theocharakis studied painting under Papaloukas) which is housed on the 5th floor and only opens certain days and hours (Tue, Thu: 1:00pm - 5:00pm), at request. The Papaloukas paintings are hung in what seems to be an office room so, unlike the rest of the museum, they are not ideally showcased for visitors but you can get a glimpse of them from up close nonetheless. Overall, the museum hosts some very interesting exhibits and it's worth checking out when you come to Athens. Music performances are also hosted in the underground auditorium from time to time.

Address: 9 Vassilissis Sofias Ave. & 1 Merlin St., Athens [Syntagma Metro Station]
Opening Hours: Sat-Wed: 10:00-18:00, Thu-Fri: 10:00-21:00 (Jul-Aug, Fri: 10:00-18:00), Permanent Exhibit of Spyros Papaloukas' paintings only Tue, Thu: 13:00-17:00 (same ticket).
Ticket Prices: 6€. Reduced admission of 3€ for children and students w/ ID.
Photography: Not allowed.
Accessibility: You need to climb up two stairs to enter the front yard and another three to get to the entrance hall. Elevator provides access to museum's floors and the auditorium downstairs.
Website: http://www.thf.gr/ 

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Short afternoon walk in Athens city center (Update Feb. 2012)

I had to go to the city center this afternoon, to mail some urgent package at the central post office, as I missed the 1 o'clock-ish Saturday deadline of the private courier in my neighborhood. I'm usually lazy on Saturday mornings as it's my... sleeping day(!), plus their website said they were open till 3:00pm but once I got there I found out it was actually 1:00 ~ 2:00pm for receipt of packages (whenever the girl at the reception desk leaves...).
I called the Postal Service courier service number and was told that the central post office was open till 6:00pm. So, happily surprised that at least one public service is better than its private competitors, I decided to hop on a bus and head to the center, and at the same time take some photographs that I've spotted this past week.

You can imagine how frustrated I was when, upon getting there I discovered that both central post offices were closed. The one at Patission St., near Omonia Sq. was flat out closed while the one at Syntagma Sq. was also shut but had a miserly, printed paper posted outside, informing people (in Greek and English!) that their closing time on Saturdays is actually 2:00pm!

The weather was fluctuating from mostly greyish to occasionally fair and blue, perfectly matching the city center's and country's gloomy state of these days interrupted by sporadic dashes of hope every time another tranche of the bailout money is released. The picture below is from Tositsa St., the pedestrian street right next to the National Archaeological Museum, where scores of junkies hang out, bargaining for their fix, except when they're temporarily driven out for some special event... It seems like they were the only ones to keep their schedule (which is almost 24/7). [P.S.:  I just read that there are various events planned throughout this week (from 1 Oct. to 7 Oct.) at Tositsa St., but I could see no difference when I passed by yesterday afternoon. / P.S.2 (Feb. 2012): Things seems to have changed, as drug addicts have been pushed away from this street ].

Tositsa St., in Athens city centre: "Drug lane", "junkie joint" or whatever you want to call it ...when I took this picture [things seem to have changed for the better now (Feb. 2012)]

The picture below is from Omonia Square a few blocks away from the Archaeological Museum. I was surprised to see this the other day, and thought it was some kind of quirky or provocative art installation about the state of the Square and the lack of green spaces in Athens / Greece (these are cement sacks).

Cement bags with Greek flags on Omonia Sq. - The hotel in the background was recently shut down due to its owners facing financial problems
As I got close I realized something unusual. On one hand, I felt safe walking on the square, as the drug addicts I was expecting to see were not there, on the other hand I noticed a group of people with military, khaki clothes sitting at the center, which till now was taken over either by drug addicts or/and some of the -mostly illegal- immigrants that live near this area. It then dawned on me that these were probably some extreme-right wingers that had taken over (or "taken back") the square, in a symbolic act and this "art installation" was theirs: an army "bunker" with Greek flags around it!
I've heard it said that people often resort to art in times of crisis and this is probably the ultimate attestation to this truth. A far right art installation! What's next?
[I'm not trying to make light of the fact that immigrants have been injured and/or killed in attacks in recent years, some of them attributed to racist motives, nor of the rise of criminality in Athens, partly attributed to immigrants]

Further down, at 20 Pireos St., a giant mural adorns the side-wall of Vienna Hotel. The mural was commissioned by the Ministry of Environment and the Athens School of Fine Arts as part of an effort to beautify central Athens and was revealed a few days ago (Artist: Pavlos Tsakonas, Execution: Kretsis Bros. and Manolis Anastasakos).

Vienna Hotel, Athens: Mural wall (artwork idea by Pavlos Tsakonas)
Titled "praying for us" with the giant hands upside-down, as if God is praying for people, it perfectly captures the mood of these days (but also many Greeks' fatalist mentality). It's no wonder that both of Athens' major free presses ("Athens Voice" and "Lifo") had it as a cover this week!

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