Contemporary art Exhibitions News Greece

Public art, all in one place

Athens exhibition brings together contemporary works originally created for international projects including Documenta in Kassel and Artangel in London

Six bearded "father" figures from Daniel Silver's 2013 Dig installation have been installed between the white marble columns at the entrance to the Gennadius Library in Athens

Athens has become an unexpected repository for contemporary public art with an exhibition that brings together popular international projects in one city. Installed inside the Gennadius Library, the American School of Classical Studies, as well as in the courtyards and hedge-lined avenues of its grounds, “A Thousand Doors” (until 30 June) is a collaboration between London’s Whitechapel Gallery and Neon, a non-profit cultural organisation founded in the Greek capital last year by the billionaire and collector Dimitris Daskalopoulos.

Among the works on view is Daniel Silver’s Dig, a series of sculptures and fragments originally installed in an abandoned multi-storey car park in west London in September 2013. The London-based artist hopes that Dig, which was commissioned by the non-profit body, Artangel, with support from Arts Council England and the Henry Moore Foundation, will find a permanent home in Greece. “It was partly inspired by a period of time I spent in the city, looking at archaeological sites and classical sculptures, and it would be great if it could remain in Athens,” he says.

Daskalopoulos has hinted that a sale could be on the horizon. “I might donate them to the Central Archaeological Council of Greece—to shake their minds up a bit about the holiness of ancient marble fragments. We need to get rid of the burden of the past and believe more in our contemporary creativity,” the collector says.

Two works first commissioned for the 2012 edition of Documenta in Kassel are also on view. The Argentine artist Adrián Villar Rojas’s Return the World, a series of large-scale figures made from unfired clay and cement, was originally created for the vineyards of Weinberg Terraces. In Athens, a solitary figure that resembles an astronaut who has fallen from the sky has been installed under a low hanging tree. “Individual figures have become works in their own right since they were displayed in Kassel,” says Iwona Blazwick, the director of the Whitechapel Gallery. The sculpture has been loaned by the Italian collector Sandretto Re Rebaudengo.

Meanwhile, part of the American artist Michael Rakowitz’s installation, What Dust Will Rise?, 2012, has been fittingly displayed inside the library. The work comprises stone copies of books destroyed when the Fridericianum in Kassel was bombed in 1941. Carved out of Bamiyan stone, the work also refers to the Taliban’s destruction of the sixth-century Afghan Buddhas in 2001.

A hanging wooden sculpture piece by the German artist Georg Herold is the oldest work on show in Athens. First conceived for the 1997 Munster Sculpture Show, where it was installed in the forest, Bent poetry, w. up! is suspended in the library’s central reading room. Fragments of poetry in different European languages are written on the underside of each section, creating a collage of quotations for readers to contemplate.

In a bid to bolster the local scene, five Greek artists have also been commissioned to create new works for the exhibition. Kostas Ioannidis’s Dawn Chorus, 2014, is a sound installation created from recordings of bird song collected by an ornithological museum in the US. The work can be heard just before the exhibition closes every day. “At a time when Greek society is facing huge challenges, I wanted to create something that gives hope at the end of the day,” Ioannidis says.

Fragments of poetry in different European languages are written on the underside of each section, creating a collage of quotations
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