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Cultural breath of fresh air blows through Kypseli December 20, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Greece.
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District’s former municipal market hosts 10-day pre-Christmas festival

Asians, Africans and Eastern Europeans wandered around the main hall or stood behind stalls at the former municipal market in Kypseli on Sunday evening. The building, which had been sealed off for so long, was abuzz with happenings despite its decaying interior, while the new faces in the densely populated district of Kypseli, inhabited by a large number of immigrants, blended in with the old surroundings, reflecting the atmosphere of the ever-changing capital.

Dreadlocks as well as colorful turbans and other exotic finery made their appearance in front of old shop signs that have survived time and abandonment, while a stand of the Greek branch of the United African Women’s Organization could be found in a corner.

In a city notorious for its lack of collective thinking, the residents of Kypseli had taken the initiative and stepped outside their microcosm for a look at their neighborhood: They have turned their former municipal market, which they have struggled to save from demolition, into a cultural venue for a 10-day mini-festival that kicked off on Friday and will run to Christmas Eve. Last Sunday was a day dedicated to the Kypseli immigrants who can’t get their children registered.

The market, a building of architectural interest constructed in the interwar period, has been a burning issue for quite some time now. When it stopped operating a couple of years ago, the residents of Kypseli fought hard against plans to turn it into a parking lot, and succeeded in having the Ministry of Culture declare it a listed building. But its future still has to be determined and further efforts are required to keep the old building, which is situated in a prime spot on the Fokionos Negri pedestrianized street near Kypseli’s main square, from rotting away in dereliction.

Events now in full swing range from exhibitions of paintings, photography and cartoons, to concerts, street theater and other performances, discussions, film screenings, neighborhood meetings and a variety of children’s activities: There is a special kids’ area, theater games, art workshops and fairy-tale readings by various actors, including Joyce Evidi, Stelios Mainas, Lena Frangouli, Rigas Axelos and many others. Well-known writers such as Alki Zei, Menis Koumandareas and Christos Homenidis, among others, run literature reading sessions. A selection of delicacies is available throughout the events, while small stands sell decorative items from jewelry to ceramics, as well as books.

Hopefully, the events, which are supported by Alexis Tsipras’s Anoichti Poli (Open City) ticket, will give the necessary push for the historic market to come to life once more, especially when considering that until just a few days ago the building resembled a rubbish dump, as councilor Marina Vichou pointed out at a recent press conference. “We are gathering signatures to realize the ministry’s decision for the market to remain a listed building and provide a cultural breath of fresh air to an area that has been in decline,” she added.

Every neighborhood needs a cultural venue that is open to all its residents, as municipal councilor Anna Filini pointed out. “Apart from hosting lectures, exhibitions and so on, it is important for local artists to have a meeting place, a venue where local bands and theater groups can rehearse and perform,” she added.

A promising start has definitely been made but there is a long way to go and it should be noted that some of the paintings on sale are rather expensive for a venue hoping to turn into a neighborhood culture hub.

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Numismatic unveiled December 20, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Greece, Arts Events Greece.
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Panepistimiou Street will get one of its architectural jewels back when the scaffolding comes off on the Numismatic Museum, once the home of Heinrich Schliemann.

The screens and scaffolding hiding one of the most beautiful buildings in Athens, built by Ernst Ziller in 1870 for his friend Heinrich Schliemann, will soon be a thing of the past.

Schliemann’s former residence and the current home of the Numismatic Museum on Panepistimiou Street is preparing to reveal its new face following a lengthy renovation. The museum will also be enriching its collection with the collection of Adonidos Kyros, one of the museum’s oldest benefactors.

Once completed, the museum will have a very special and complete series of 1,178 brass coins dating from the 5th century BC to AD 5 mostly from the mints of Macedonia and Thrace, as well as from other parts of the Hellenic and Roman worlds.

According to the museum’s director, Despina Evgenidou, 2006 was a year of construction work and 2007 will be the year to focus on the permanent collections.

When the screens come down, the building will once more be seen in its full glory. Statues on the facade and in the courtyard have been reproduced, a cafe will be operating in the garden and the building will also be equipped with an elevator. As an added bonus, renovation work uncovered older layers of paint on the old building, so that the gold and bronze wrought iron bars and balconies originally designed by Ziller have been reinstated.

The main hall of the museum is expected to open to the public in early summer 2007, showing Roman, Byzantine, medieval and modern coins in rearranged displays.

“We are also making an effort to help the public better understand the relationship societies have had with coins over the course of history,” Evgenidou said.

Art of intellect and emotion December 20, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Greece, Arts Exhibitions Greece.
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Retrospective exhibition on the work of Nikos Hadzikyriakos-Ghikas shows the unity in his work

If one was to name the one element that pervades the work of the distinguished Greek painter Nikos Hadzikyriakos-Ghikas (1906-1994) throughout its course, it would probably be light. Much has been written about the Cubist-inspired aspect of his work, yet the luminosity and the radiance of Mediterranean light is what will mostly strike the visitor to “Nikos Hadzikyriakos-Ghikas: The Apollonian-The Dionysian,” a large retrospective exhibition of the artist’s work which is curated by his friend art historian Dora Iliopoulou-Rogan and is being held at the Pireos annex of the Benaki Museum on the occasion of the centenary anniversary of the artist’s birth.

For an artist who perhaps more than anything else painted the Greek landscape, its essence and not its surface, this is perhaps to be expected. “Ghikas seeks light and the truth,” Henry Miller, one of the artist’s friends, wrote in his novel “The Colossus of Maroussi.” As an artist of the so-called “Thirties Generation,” Ghikas revealed the essence of “Greekness,” the archetypal notions that were believed to pervade the entire civilization of Greece. Harmony and light were two of them.

Light and its reflection are among the elements that, according to the exhibition’s curator, link the Apollonian and the Dionysiac aspects of the artist’s work, the tectonic, geometric paintings and the more expressionistic, free compositions of labyrinthine, swirling shapes.

“When they say that in my painting I have many different periods, I answer what Ingres said when he was told the same thing. ‘I have sir, many paintbrushes,’” Ghikas once said. Accordingly, instead of examining the work of Ghikas in terms of distinctive stylistic traits which lead from one to the next, Rogan examines the work of Ghikas as an undivided whole, as both Apollonian and Dionysiac, intellectual and emotional at the same time, as equally contained as it is extroverted.

This is a new approach to the work of Ghikas which the exhibition’s curator presents in a voluminous book, of the same title as the exhibition, published by Livanis. A well-designed publication, the book helps counterbalance the effect of a dense yet slightly disorderly exhibition, it is a thorough, fully illustrated book that includes earlier published texts on Ghikas’s work, essays by Kimon Friar, Henry Miller, Christian Zervos and Patrick Leigh Fermor among them. It also unfolds the work of Ghikas across different media: Painting is the focus, yet sculpture, photography and the artist’s work for theater and costume design help show what Rogan has called Huomo universalis, an artist whose work was too broad in scope to fit into a single category and an intellectual, he was also professor of freehand drawing at the National Technical University, who wrote about the art and culture of different civilizations.

Ghikas was as equally deft in line as he was in color. In the exhibition, an entire section presents just a fragment of the hundreds of drawings that Ghikas made. Among them a series of sensual nudes. There are also studies that Ghikas made for set and costume design and drawings that are the artist’s visual memoirs of his travels around the world.

Ghikas was one of the few truly cosmopolitan Greek artists, a man who not only traveled the world but who was part of an international artistic milieu from early on. The only son of Alexandros Hadzikyriakos, an officer in the Greek Royal Navy, he was educated in Paris, this included his final school years, where, at the age of 21, he had his first solo exhibition prefaced by the well-known critic Maurice Raynal. Ghikas’s involvement in the artistic and intellectual elite of Paris in the interwar period, he was friends with Henri Laurens, Fernard Leger, Georges Braque and Henri Matisse and became associated with Le Corbusier, Hans Arp and many others, helped to bring many intellectuals into contact with Greek art and culture. It was largely thanks to Ghikas that the 4th International Congress on Modern Architecture (CIAM IV) was held in Athens instead of Moscow in 1933.

In the mid-1930s Ghikas moved to Greece. Together with Dimitris Pikionis, Socratis Karantinos, Spyros Papaloukas and Stratis Doukas, he published the seminal review “To Trito Mati,” (The Third Eye) a journal on art and culture that resembled the French “Cahiers d’Art.”

During that period, Ghikas worked intensively in Hydra, the island of his family home, which was later destroyed in a fire, and became inspired by its landscape, light and architecture. In later years, Corfu, where Ghikas and his second wife Barbara Warner had a summer home, also inspired the artist.

None of those landscapes are identifiable. They are semi-abstract renditions that capture a mood and atmosphere, structure and light rather than any realistic description. In many paintings, the Greek landscape is combined with subjects taken from mythology.

Among Ghikas’s broad range of interests, poetry was one of the most pronounced. In the late 1930s, he began the illustration of Nikos Kazantzakis’s “Odyssey.” Twenty years later, in 1958, these illustrations were included in the US edition of “The Odyssey” which was translated by Ghikas’s friend Kimon Friar. Ghikas also illustrated C.P. Cavafy’s poems and Nikos Gatsos’s “Amorgos.”

The work of Ghikas is filled with the tranquility and harmony of the Mediterranean, the resonance of Greek art and history. Ghikas appreciated everything that was Greek but was also deeply curious and sensitive to other, non-Western cultures. He had the open-mindedness of a cosmopolitan, refined man and was one of the few Greek artists to have been recognized internationally.

In 1987, the same year that he was elected honorary member of the Royal Academy of Arts in London, Ghikas donated his work and home on Kriezotou Street in Kolonaki to the Benaki Museum. Held as an expression of appreciation on the part of the Benaki to Ghikas, the retrospective exhibition is also a tribute to one of the most esteemed modern Greek artists.

“Nikos Hadzikyriakos-Ghikas: The Apollonian – The Dionysian,” at the Pireos annex of the Benaki Museum, 138 Pireos street and Andronikou street, tel 210 3453111 through January 15.

Huge aquarium set for Athens December 20, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece Athens, Greece Islands, Nature.
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The Development Ministry has given the green light for the construction of a new aquarium, described as being the biggest in the Mediterranean area, to be built in Palaio Faliron, in southern Athens.

The President of the Hellenic Center for Marine Research (HCMR), Giorgos Chronis, said yesterday that the marine park will be built along the beachside district that accommodates Olympic Games venues.

“We are aiming at informing and making people more aware of the importance of the world of water, the dangers that it faces and the possibilities of protecting it. There will not only be sea organisms but we will also reproduce ecosystems from rivers and lakes,” Chronis said.

The aquarium park will cover 6,500 square meters and will include 100 tanks that will contain 4 million liters of water, three times more water than that contained in HCMR’s other aquarium in Crete, east of Iraklion, called Thalassocosmos.

Funds from the European Union’s Fourth Community Framework will pay for the Athens project, estimated to cost 27 million euros. It was not clear when construction of the aquarium will be completed. Based on approved plans, there will also be a 4,000-square-meter park which will recreate offshore, river and sea ecosystems.

Officials are optimistic about the success of the water park given the number of visitors that have attended Thalassocosmos. Figures showed that 350,000 people have visited the aquarium in Crete since it opened in December last year.

The Cretan aquarium will get a boost with the arrival in of two bull sharks, considered to be one of the most dangerous types of shark in the world.

Greeks among gloomiest in the EU December 20, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Living.
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Less than one in five Greeks expect that their incomes will improve while eight out of 10 describe the state of the economy as “bad,” according to the results of a Eurobarometer survey made public yesterday.

Just 17 percent of Greeks polled said they were hopeful for a salary rise while the French, British, Portuguese and Cypriots displayed similar pessimism.

The Dutch, Swedes and Irish were among the most positive about work and financial prospects. Also, more than half (56 percent) of Greeks rated unemployment as a major concern. And while seven out of 10 Greeks claimed to be satisfied with their daily lives, this percentage pales in comparison to satisfaction levels of up to 98 percent among Swedes, Belgians and Dutch. But while showing Greeks to be relatively grouchy compared to their EU counterparts, the survey showed them to be less pessimistic than they have been in previous years.

The poll also showed Greeks to have a greater trust in the EU than any other member state except Slovenia, with 65 percent declaring their trust in the EU’s institutions. Moreover, 74 percent of Greeks said they believed EU membership has benefited their country.

One area in which Greeks excel, according to the poll, is home ownership, with 60 percent owning their own residences as compared to an EU average of 42 percent.

The poll showed Greeks and French to be the most fearful of the social repercussions of globalization and Greeks the most distrustful of the Internet.

Habitat Nicosia shuts down December 20, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Shopping.
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Habitat, the premium furniture store in Nicosia that is part of the Greek-operated franchise, has closed down despite overall retail sales of furniture doing very well, according to recent government statistics.

A sign in the store window in Nicosia says it is closed “until further notice”.

Customers expecting a delivery before Christmas have found that no one is answering the phone in Nicosia, following the overnight closure of the three Habitat stores in Greece a week ago due to financial losses. The company, French Home Appliance Imports SA, operated by Constandinos Zaranis, filed for bankruptcy last Monday and laid off 100 employees.

Established in Greece eight years ago, Habitat’s main competition came from IKEA, the low-end furniture store that opened two outlets, Thessaloniki and Athens, and plans to open its first store in Nicosia next year. Ironically, both stores belong to the same holding company, Inka Holdings.

The company first showed signs of difficulty in 2004 with the arrival in Greece of multinational furniture and home appliance stores, according to Naftemboriki.

Sales dropped from EUR 14,44 mln in 2004 to EUR 12,85 mln in 2005 with accumulated losses of EUR 2 mln with debts rising to EUR 9,4 mln (from EUR 8,5 mln in 2004). News reports added that customers who had placed orders in Greece have lost their deposits.

Carnival of colour in Crete December 20, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece Islands Aegean, Greek Culture.
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Holidaymakers jetting off to Crete next February should stop by the town of Rethymno for its annual carnival festivities.

Running over several days, the carnival kicks off on Shrove Tuesday with numerous live performances and feasts for all out in the open air. The festivities proceed with a host of children’s activities, fancy dress parties, masquerade balls, treasure hunts, plays and dances, among other events.

Villages in the surrounding regions take to age-old celebrations and customs, while visitors to Crete will find themselves unable to resist the sumptuous local fare. But the main attraction of the carnival, the Carnival Night Parade, outdoes everything else with crowds of revellers taking to the streets in a riotous explosion of sound, colour and costumes, and makes the trip to Crete worth it for just this night.

For more details on next year’s event > http://www.carnival-in-rethymnon-crete-greece.com