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A different approach to Byzantine religious art November 8, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Greece, Arts Exhibitions Greece.
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An ecclesiastical museum presents icons in a new context

An icon of the Virgin Mary holding her child (Panaghia Glykophiloussa) dates from the 13th century and is one of the rare icons displayed at the Ecclesiastical Museum of the Metropolitan Church of Thessaloniki, which opened recently.

Like most religious art of the past, Byzantine icons are appreciated by the contemporary public principally for their stylistic merit and art historical value. Only a handful of people have the knowledge that allows them to interpret the content of those images and grasp the full range of the religious message which the icons were originally intended to convey.

The Ecclesiastical Museum of the Metropolitan Church of Thessaloniki, which was inaugurated recently, presents Byzantine religious icons in a way that reveals the connections between the contents of the icons and the dogma of the Greek Orthodox Church. According to Matoula Scaltsa, a professor of museology at the Aristotle University in Thessaloniki, who, along with professor of architecture Panos Tzonos, designed the museum, this is the first and only museum in Greece to place Byzantine icons within the context of Greek Orthodox dogma.

Explanatory panels, written by Byzantinologist Athanassios Semoglou in collaboration with theologian Dimitris Tseleggidis, as well as excerpts from the gospels have been used to make the connections. High-tech museological standards have been applied to provide a sophisticated, modern effect, while the lighting reproduces an ambience of devoutness and mysticism.

The museum’s holdings belong to the bishopric (they were formerly exhibited in one of the bishopric’s rooms and have never before been shown to the public) but also come from donations by other churches. According to Scaltsa, rare pieces include an icon of the Virgin Mary from the 13th-14th century, a 13th century depiction of Saint Thomas and several unusual 17th century icons, among them an icon showing Saint Demetrios in medieval armor.

The driving force behind the museum is Metropolitan Bishop Anthimos, the bishop in the area of Alexandroupolis for 30 years and now the bishop in Thessaloniki. In Alexandroupolis, the bishop initiated important charity work – an example includes the establishment of a shelter for people suffering from chronic ailments – and also founded an ecclesiastical museum. (In the museum in Alexandroupolis, which was also designed by Scaltsa and Tzonos, the displays focused on showing the techniques and materials employed in the making of Byzantine icons.)

A man with a low profile, Bishop Anthimos has never publicized his work and led a modest life, often putting his earnings in the service of his charity work. Scaltsa says that his plans for Thessaloniki include the foundation of a dwelling with nursing facilities for the poor. She also says that Bishop Anthimos is known for his accessibility to the public and makes a point of providing the liturgy at various churches and not just the Metropolitan Church.

The museum, which is the bishop’s most recent project, has a primarily educational role. It offers a new approach to Byzantine religious icons that is likely to foster a better understanding of the dogma of the Greek Orthodox Church and cultivate a deeper, more specialized understanding of Byzantine art.

The Ecclesiastical Museum of the Metropolitan Church of Thessaloniki (Mitropoleos & 7 Vogatsikou street, Thessaloniki, tel 2310 250140), open Tuesdays-Sundays 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Admission is free. The Heracles cement company and Lafarge Beton are the sponsors of the bilingual catalog and educational program.

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New fest hopes to stay November 8, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Music Life Greek.
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Thessaloniki Song Festival looks to offer emerging acts expanse of fertile ground

The organizers of the recently launched or, rather, revived Greek Song Festival in Thessaloniki departed from this year’s event intending to develop it into an institution that cultivates Greek music.

These thoughts were reiterated by the festival’s jury during the awards ceremony at the Thessaloniki event, held for the second successive year since its relaunch from an older version.

“Emerging artists must commit their inspiration and talent with faith to a competition that aims to forge new ways and offer support,” noted the seasoned artist Dimitra Galani, a member of the competition’s panel.

The results of this year’s festival were more or less what had been anticipated. Television viewers and the panel, which had an equal share of the voting rights, selected Stavros Siolas as the festival’s winner. His song, “Tis Arnis To Nero,” for which Siolas wrote both the music and lyrics, was awarded the the first prize. He also picked up an additional prize, awarded by the jury, for Best Interpretation.

The festival’s winning song, a ballad carrying elements of Greek folk tradition which Siolas penned on the basis of a musical and theatrical past, won over the 6,000-strong audience.

The second prize went to Thodoros Manolidis for a number titled “Ex-airesis.” Third prize was awarded to Myronas Stratis for “Ti Zitas.”

The jury’s prize for Best Composition went to a song titled “To Tragoudi Ton Psychon”. The Best Lyrics award went to the number “Poso Melancholise Aftos O Topos,” performed by Freedom of Speech and Eftychia Raftopoulou and written by Constantinos Pisimisis.

The festival, which took place over two days last Thursday and Saturday at Thessaloniki’s Pylaia Stadium, opened with 16 contestants who were narrowed down to 10 for the final.

The entertainment included additional performances by the popular singers Dimitris Mitropanos and Michalis Hadziyiannis.

Sotheby’s Greek sale in London November 8, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Auctions.
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Classic paintings on auction

More paintings by the masters of late 19th and early 20th century Greek art will be offered at another of Sotheby’s established Greek sales. Scheduled for November 15, the auction will include three works by Nikolaos Gyzis which Sotheby’s experts consider among the artist’s most important paintings.

“Enough for All” and “The New Arrival” date from the early 1880s, the period of Gyzis’s artistic maturity. They are genre scenes and are estimated at 443,000-738,000 and 290,000-443,000 euros respectively.

Another highlight of the sale is a still life by Constantinos Parthenis, the early 20th century Greek artist who prepared the ground for modern art. The painting, which is estimated at 147,000-221,000 euros, belongs to a still-life series that the artist painted under the influence of cubism. Most of the paintings now belong to the National Gallery. The painting offered for sale is one of the few that have remained in private hands.

The Sotheby’s sale will also include four paintings by Nikiforos Lytras and 10 works by Thodoros Rallis, the early 20th century artist who was a student of Jean-Leon Gerome.

Paintings by other classic names in Greek art, works that range from the period of the 19th century School of Munich to postwar Greek art (Constantinos Volanakis, Nikiforos Lytras, Constantinos Maleas, Spyros Papaloukas, Thanos Tsiggos or Nikos Hatzikyriakos-Ghikas), will also be available at the Sotheby’s sale.

The works can be previewed at Sotheby’s London offices (34-35 New Bond Street) from November 10-14.

A fresh splash of choreography November 8, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Greece.
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Smack, a promising new dance troupe, debuts in Athens tomorrow

Smack, a newly established dance company, made its debut just days ago in Thessaloniki with “Under Cinderella’s Skirt” a production inspired by the star of a video game. The group, which launched its activity with two performances in the northern port, has also planned a further five shows for Athens, tomorrow through November 13, at the Hytirio Theater (44 Iera Odos street, tel 210 3412313).

Smack was formed in August with the aim of taking its contemporary dance projects to various parts of Greece and abroad.

“Under Cinderella’s Skirt” is the first choreography for Stella Zanou. Zanou is part of the performing team along with five other dancers.

“Stories of the Body #2,” another promising production which opens tonight in Athens at the Anoixis Theater (see “What’s On” list) by Slovenian choreographer Snjezana Premus, presents a series that explores the potential of revealing, through choreography, what words often conceal. This project is the follow-up to “Stories of the Body #1,” a cycle based on conflict within the body.

Two rounds of performances have been scheduled, the first from tonight through Sunday, and the second between November 15 and 19.

“Stories of the Body #2” is performed by Melina Yiordanidou and Anastassia Chrysanthakopoulou. The production’s music was written by Natry X and the visuals are by Petra Veber. Premus, who began her studies in Maribor, Slovenia, and continued with a postgraduate degree in choreography at the London Contemporary Dance School, has worked in Europe and Japan.

Schools go to the cinema November 8, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Movies Life Greek.
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Maths, chemistry, Ancient Greek and now cinema. A typical school day turns into something quite different through the “Cinema in the First Period” program of the Premiere Nights Athens International Film Festival.

The new educational program kicked off earlier this week with a screening of Penny Panayotopoulou’s “Hard Goodbyes: My Father,” followed by a discussion with the director and the film’s lead actor, Giorgos Karayiannis.

The ambitious program continues with the screenings of 40 films, chosen by actress Themis Bazaka, director Tassos Boulmetis and film critics Orestes Andreadakis, also the artistic director of Premiere Nights, Robbie Eksiel and Christos Mitsis.

The films are divided into six sections: Greek cinema, cinema and society, cinema and puberty, masterpieces of the cinema world, documentaries, and animation. About 100 screenings are scheduled to take place all around the country until the end of the school year. The program aims to help the country’s youth become conscious cinephiles, with the ability to decode the films they see.

“Cinema in the First Period” enjoys the support of the General Secretariat for Youth, the Greek Film Center and Wyeth.

A visitor shops traditional in Athens November 8, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece Athens.
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In Plaka and Monasteraki, the shopping square of Athens, rows and rows of boutique stores sit side by side with family owned tavernas alongside a cobbled walkway. Here, a visitor can dwindled his time and burned his pockets to find traditional folk art objects for the travel back in his homeland. Here is a short list of what you can buy:

Sponges > In the Olympics held in Athens during 2004 summer, sponges were given as tokens to guests. Greek sponges go as low as .50 cents to 20 Euro depending on quality and size. Soft, spongy and springy, not exactly eye candy with its demented shape and dark shade of brown but they absorbed so much water and feels gentle on the skin.

The natural sponge is a dark chocolate brown while the yellow ones are already bleached.  Greek Sponges have become so popular and in demand that the country is in the brink of running out of supply. 

Worry beads > Sort of like a mini rosary, worry beads are twirled around to relieve stress and anxiety. Although no prayer is chanted, it has religious origins. They come in all sizes and designs, the most popular being the one with the “evil eye”.

The beady blue eye are said to be protection from evil. Quite a common practice,  storekeepers whirling it in unmindful motion on lazy afternoons.

Olive Oil > The most abundant production of olives is in Greece, where olive trees flourish in the country. In fact, the first Olive press was found in the island of Crete. Olive oil is a basic ingredient in the Greek diet and one can find olive oil of different varieties here. Not only that, but a thousand and one different products from soaps to perfumes are sold.

Greek Leather Sandals > Imagine yourself in King Ceasar’s shoes…literally! The leather sandals come in ancient or modern designs. Priced at around 10 euro and up, personally I do find the quality of leather to be tough and uncomfortable for the feet. Buy for aesthetic reasons only.

Greek Statues > What is Ancient Greece without the drama of beloved Zeus and family? Statues and carvings in honor of ancient gods and goddesses are sold in little curio shops of any sort. Personally I find them perfect for decorating the garden or the swimming pool.

Cubans in Greece celebrate anniversary November 8, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece News.
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With a cultural gala, the Cuban nationals living in the Greek capital started Wednesday activities for the 50th anniversary of the landing of Granma Yacht on which Fidel Castro arrived in Cuba on December 2, 1956.

The activity also includes the launching of the book translated into Greek “Cuba and Africa: the Cuban Contribution to African Liberation” edited by Dientes Vima publishing house, and the documentary “Sons from Namibia” by Cuban filmmaker Rigoberto Lopez Pego.

Granma members who began the war of liberation in the Sierra Maestra mountain range are Che Guevara, Raul Castro and other heroes of the Cuban Revolution.