In recent years, Athens has become a symbol of the economic and migratory crisis in Europe. Bled since 2009 by the remedies of the Eurogroup, the European Central Bank and the IMF, the country is in an untenable situation, close to a new default of payment. However, this crisis has given rise to something fascinating: an explosion of the artistic scene. Despite the economic crisis — or because of it — art thrives thanks to an extraordinary energy that emerges from the city: art galleries flourish, exhibitions multiply, a new generation of filmmakers capture the atmosphere of uncertainty, collectives proliferate, and so on. Buildings left empty by the paralyzed economy are an invitation to artists who have filled the voids with ‘do it yourself’ residency and exhibition programs, often crowdfunded. Let us add a notable influx of international artists, attracted by the Mediterranean climate and the low cost of living, with the idea that they can control their costs in the commercial market.
Setting up the first exhibition at the National Museum of Contemporary Art (EMST)
In this flourishing environment, landed one of the largest exhibitions worldwide: Documenta 14, directed by the Polish curator Adam Szymczyk. Welcomed by many with enthusiasm, others view it as a foreign mission, sent to study a civilization troubled by years of austerity. A group of young artists immediately expressed a firm skepticism on the walls of the city: “Dear Documenta: I refuse to exotisize myself to increase your cultural capital. Sincerely, the people”. Documenta, however, has the merit of drawing attention to the city, its inhabitants, their concerns, and feeding the discussions and criticisms — positive or negative.
Other intelligent happenings such as ReMap, a biannual contemporary art platform known for its participatory, collaborative and discovering nature that involves locals and artists from across the world, will also be launched later this year (ed. the June edition being cancelled). To better understand the dynamics of the city, the best way is to stroll around, stay there for a while and listen to what is happening on every street corner, in cafés, concert halls, theaters, etc. There is a strange combination of sophistication and disorder within the city that is revolutionizing the artistic world that brings the city back to life after years of austerity imposed by Brussels and the IMF. One thing is true: the capital acquires a certain character thanks to the economic and social crisis and the Athenians will not let themselves be defeated. Creativity is vital for them in order to create hope but also to fuel political change and even lead to revolution.
Cafés in the Plaka Neighborhood, Athens
Chief Editor @ Odyssee Production