Breeding New Forms in Athens
The Breeder Gallery – Athens, Greece
The name says it all: in the offbeat neighbourhood of Metaxourgio, The Breeder is cultivating a fertile space for cutting-edge contemporary art to grow. A renovated factory, the gallery was inaugurated in November 2002 with a show by Jim Lambie, after launching an international project magazine in 2000.
The past few years have been a turbulent time to be in the art market in the Greek capital. "After nine years of economic meltdown, Athens' art market is almost destroyed now,” gallerists Stathis Panagoulis and George Vamvakidis say. “Most of the galleries of our generation closed their doors.”
“In this hostile environment it was difficult but we continued to produce big shows to promote our program with clarity, credibility and relevance, and to try for the largest impact in society, to continue to engage supporters, partners and collectors and create fruitful collaborations.
However, this resilient pair are still keeping up their regular residency programme, as well as expanding their sights to beyond the gallery’ walls, looking at collaboration with public swimming pools, parks and schools in the future. In addition, the Breeder still participates in a selection of important art fairs, such as Frieze in London and New York and LISTE in Basel.
Of course, the current art context in Athens has been immeasurably affected by the arrival of documenta 14, bringing a much-needed international art world focus to Athens. “Adam's curatorial approach has both been genius and generous as unveiled in both cities, enabling a dialogue and an intellectual discourse in a very emotionally charged and dramatic time setting,” say Panagoulis and Vamvakidis. But like any visiting art event, it’s not just about the temporary lift that the art scene is given. What’s more important is the knock-on effect it lends to Athens’s art institutions and organisations in the future, say The Breeder’s directors. “All this will seem very little compared to the enormous influence that Documenta 14 will have upon future generations of thinkers and to the artistic production coming from Athens in the next years.
The current show at The Breeder, “SI SEDES NON IS”, is a case in point. A group exhibition, curated by Milovan Farronato, director and curator of the Fiorucci Art Trust in London, it features both Greek and international artists (Camille Henrot, Karl Holmqvist and Gosha Macuga, among others) and turns the gallery space into an “alchemical squat”. For this show, a neon talisman sits above the entrance to protect against internet malfunctions. Extropic Optimisms by the Greek artist Angelo Plessas comprises a glowing orange eye, surrounded by a red arrow, a green infinity symbol, a purple hand. It’s part of the gallery’s “skin project”, recently established to bring the artwork outside the white cube and into the space of the city. “The owner of the cafe across the street that was never inside the gallery before had some critical comments on the work...and even some ideas for the next project!” the gallerists say. “Suddenly, it was a work that belonged not only in the gallery but also to the community.” With documenta’s effect on the city still to be seen, it’s locally engaged institutions like this that can make the difference.
Josie Thaddeus-Johns is a writer and editor based in Berlin, covering art, music, film and more. She writes for the Guardian, Broadly, Creators Project, and others. She is currently working on her first novel.
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