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Greek, Italian sculpture galore July 17, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Exhibitions Greece.

Modern Greek sculpture in the 19th and 20th centuries and a retrospective exhibition of Italian artist Marino Marini await visitors to the National Glyptotheque.

Mostly known for its promotion of painting, the National Gallery also has a keen eye for sculpture. As part of its undertaking to familiarise the Greek public with modern sculpture, two formerly royal stables at Goudi were turned two years ago into the country’s National Glyptotheque.

The sculpture gallery opened on an experimental basis in 2004 with a Henry Moore retrospective and an exhibition of Christos Kapralos’ totem-like wooden sculptures, which was followed in 2005 by Spanish/French sculptor Julio Gonzales’ exhibition. The Moore exhibit ran parallel to the National Gallery’s show Six Leading Sculptors Converse With Man, featuring works by Rodin, Bourdelle, Maillol, Brancusi, Giacometti and Moore.

On June 27 the National Glyptotheque officially opened its doors to the public with two shows: a permanent display of its collection of Greek sculpture and a retrospective exhibition of Italian sculptor Marino Marini.

In classical Greece, sculpture was considered the ultimate artform in the battle against death and the conquering of eternity. In recent history, sculpture would find fertile ground for its development in the last two centuries from when Greece gained independence onwards.

Featuring some 150 works from its holdings, the display is structured by theme, highlighting different phases in the history of Greek sculpture. The collection starts with the lintels created by the marble craftsmen of the island of Tinos, moves to neoclassical works of the early 20th century, records the influence of the French in the middle of the century and finally culminates in abstract pieces from the turn of the 21st century.

On permanent loan, Takis’ colourful Wind Signals are displayed in plein air next to a small-scale bronze cast of Yiorgos Zongolopoulos’ Zalogo Monument in marble and Thodoros’ wheel on a tight rope, reminiscent of Duchamp’s wheel. These are but a few works that fill the 6,000sqm open-air plot.

Thanassis Apartis’ classically rendered dog at the venue’s entrance finds its modern equivalent in Pandelis Handris’ Hunter, where the man-dog-bird triptych alludes to Freudian theories on the unconscious. Antonios Sohos’ wooden female figure mirrors the elegance and posture of the Louvre’s Lady of Auxerre; Bella Raftopoulou’s Couple bears striking resemblance to Brancusi’s Kiss; and Costas Dimitriadis’ Discus Thrower is executed in the style of Rodin.

In a Yannoulis Chalepas sculpture, Satyr plays with Eros under the gaze of Pavlos Prosalendis’ stoic Plato and Yiorgos Bonanos’ sensual Nana, the Zola-inspired sculpture marking the passage from classicism to realism. A whole section is dedicated to Tinos artist Yannoulis Chalepas, giving a taste of his upcoming retrospective show. Also on display are Magritte’s Le Therapeute, donated by Alexandre Iolas, Santiago Calatrava’s Flight and a recent acquisition – Antoine Bourdelle’s Apollo the Fighter.

Man, horse and rider take centre stage in the work of Marino Marini (1901-1980), whose sculptures are exhibited in the hall opposite the gallery’s permanent display. Born in Tuscany, Marini was originally a painter and printmaker before he turned to sculpture in 1922. He stayed often in Paris, where he became associated with Picasso, Braque, De Chirico and Kandinsky among others. In 1935, also the year of his first and only visit to Greece, he started working on two themes – his pomonas and his riders – which would stay with him throughout his life.

Marini’s sensual female figures were inspired by the Etruscans’ voluptuous goddesses, who were synonymous with fertility, prosperity and the succession of the seasons. Arranged in semi-circles, they stand for a period of bliss that is violently disrupted by the atrocities of war. Characteristically, Marini’s later pomonas are beheaded or armless, nevertheless still carrying a message of hope for humanity. Yet, unlike with classical figures, Marini’s horses and riders are no hymn to heroism, glory and immortality. In his work, the relationship between the animal and its rider undergoes constant transformation. The sense of balance in the sculptor’s early studies of the same theme is overturned in the difficult years of war with the staggering horse struggling to sustain its balance as the rider is about to fall off the animal’s back (in the Miracles series), the bodies of the two often forming a cross. Again there is a gradual transition from a classical depiction to an abstract, expressionistic one. Marini also turns to the world of the circus, capturing dancers and jugglers (giocoleri) and immortalising the moment before or after they perform their tricks.

Also on show are busts by Chagall, Kokoschka, Moore, Arp and Stravinsky among others, which strike the viewer with the way they bring out the model’s inner world. A handful of Marini’s paintings testify to the artist’s fundamental relationship with colour – he would not start working on a sculpture before registering it in colour.

Marino Marini’s retrospective is on at the National Glyptotheque in Goudi (off Katehaki Avenue, tel 210 7709855) through to October 30. Admission at 6,5 euro (students 3 euro).

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