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Aldi in Greece February 14, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Business & Economy.
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Europe’s biggest discount grocery retail chain, Aldi, is planning to invest about 700 million euros in Greece to create a network of 350 stores, its officials stated in the Austrian press.

The German firm owns more than 6,600 stores in Europe and its 2005 turnover came to 32.3 billion euros. It is not clear yet whether it will develop in Greece under the name Aldi or opt for its other brand name, Hofer.

With Aldi entering the Greek market, all major players in discount food retailing will have a presence in this country after the penetration of Dia, Lidl and Plus. They total 550 stores and more than 800 million euros in turnover.

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Cyprus applies for euro February 14, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Business & Economy, Cyprus News.
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Cyprus applied yesterday to join Europe’s common currency, the euro, the European Commission confirmed.

“Cyprus has indeed sent in a request for us to look at whether they are ready to join the eurozone,” said EU spokeswoman Amelia Torres.

If Cyprus wins the EU all-clear to join next year, it would become the 14th of the EU’s 27 nations to start using the currency.

Torres said the EU executive body and the European Central Bank would report whether Cyprus met EU rules for euro economies by mid-May. A final decision from EU leaders could be made in June, she said.

Nicosia said yesterday that it fully meets euro standards, since its inflation at 2.2 percent in 2006 is close to the euro average.

EU economists last month praised Cyprus for its efforts to slash government debt, while advising it to carry out more pension and healthcare reforms because it could face serious problems from the cost of an aging population.

Cyprus joined the EU in May 2004. Only one other country that joined the EU at the same time, Slovenia, has also adopted the euro. High inflation in Latvia and Lithuania, which joined the EU at the same time, forced those two Baltic states to delay plans to join the currency zone.

The tiny island nation of Malta also plans to adopt the euro next year, while Estonia is likely to delay membership as its growing economy sees inflation surge. Slovakia is scheduled to join in 2009. Target dates for the larger recent EU members, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland,  are still up in the air.

Seventy rare oil lamps February 14, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Archaeology Greece.
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oil_lamps.jpg  Among the outstanding finds from the Brexiza site are 70 large lamps, the only ones of their kind.

As Dekoulakou points out, “it is their size, 40 centimeters wide from the handle to the wick and 12 centimeters high, that makes them unusual. On them are relief busts of Serapis and Isis.”

What are they doing at Nea Makri? “It is not a question of the area but of the cult. We have evidence from a 4th century BC inscription that a temple to Isis was founded in Piraeus. The cult of Isis and the Egyptian gods gradually spread throughout the Roman world. In Greece, it was linked to Demeter and Aphrodite, because the goddess possesses features that can be adapted to the cult of the Greek deities. She was the protector of agriculture in Egypt, the god of love and marriage, the protector of women.”

Isis and Osiris in Attica February 14, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Archaeology Greece.
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Project to rescue ancient Egyptian temple at Brexiza is saved

isis_statue.jpg  A 2.1-meter statue of Isis, holding roses. The rose was Aphrodite’s flower and a sacred plant in Egypt.

It was one of the Culture Ministry’s grandest plans for the Athens 2004 Olympics, but was never implemented. Highlighting the Egyptian temple at Brexiza as part of an archaeological and tourist itinerary that would have included the site of Rhamnus, the Marathon Museum, Tymbos and the Tsepi cemetery would have been an interesting project for an archaeological site in Attica that is significant both for its size and the finds that have been unearthed there.

That was the theory, but in practice the prefecture rejected the project. Now it has been saved at the last minute at the initiative of Culture Ministry General Secretary Christos Zachopoulos, who has found a way to include it as a sub-project to technical work on the Lavrion mines, thus securing the sum of 400,000 euros, which will come from Third and Fourth Community Support Framework funds.

Iphigenia Dekoulakou, excavator of the Egyptian temple and an archaeologist with 35 years in the field, sounded the alarm. “The walls must be stabilized or the temple will collapse. Fragile materials and damp are the temple’s basic problems.”

A visit to Mikro Elos in Brexiza on the borders of the Marathon and Nea Makri municipalities is revealing. Partly underwater, partly overgrown with weeds and separated from the sea by a road, the site is eye-catching. Dotted about are statues of Osiris and Isis, copies of course, as the originals are in the Marathon Museum. The excavation is barely complete and the need for stabilization and conservation work is urgent.

One of the most recent finds was a bronze head and hand that were taken for restoration to the Piraeus Museum, which is the only place that has the appropriate workshop. The pool, which is half inside, half outside the fence “was something common in villas on the outskirts of Rome,” explained Dekoulakou. They were used mainly to raise fish and were always close to the villa. “They were common there, but here it is a unique find.”

Since 2001, when she began exploring the site, Dekoulakou observed that the temple surrounds a four-sided court, with sides of unequal length ranging from 60.5 to 64.6 meters, onto which opened four grand portals, one on each side. “The entrances had marble steps, thresholds, pilaster strips and lintels, on the exterior of which is a relief of a solar disk with a tail. To the right and left of each of the entrances were four marble pedestals for statues, two inside and two outside the gates.”

The entrances were like bastions and emulate the style of Egyptian portals. Since the discovery of the first two Egyptian-style statues on the site in 1968, six statues have been found, including an intact marble sphinx, a gray stone sphinx in two pieces and a portrait of Polydeuces.

Dekoulakou said how, when she first went to the site in 2001, she saw what looked like little mounds, as if antiquity thieves had been at work. “We started there to see what they had taken. But we discovered the south portal. We realized there were four and we found them all.” In fact the site had not been raided: “They had dug a hole but luckily that hadn’t found the two large statues of Isis and Osiris; they missed them by half a meter.”

What more does the excavator expect from the dig? “Sculptures and the rest of the architectural shape of the temple. But the stabilization work has to come first.”

Joyeux anniversaire to the IFA February 14, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Greece, Arts Exhibitions Greece.
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A large exhibition on the Fluxus art movement is one of several events being organized by the French Institute of Athens for its centennial anniversary as one of the most esteemed foreign cultural centers in Greece.

On July 27, 1907, the Greek Ministry of Culture gave permission for the capital’s Municipal French Language School to open in a building at 21 Sina Street in Kolonaki. The classes were aimed at “young pupils with some experience in the French language and aged at least 14 years.” This permit was the birth certificate of the French Institute of Athens (IFA), which operated under the auspices of the Archaeological School of Athens.

Celebrating its centennial this year, the French Institute has grown into much more than just a respected educational institution over the years. For many in the Greek capital, it has been and continues to be “The Institute,” the most popular foreign cultural center in Athens.

An anniversary is always a good excuse for a celebration and IFA Director Alain Fohr announced on Monday the events the institute will be organizing throughout 2007 to mark this important occasion.

One of the events is already established as an annual one: the French Film Festival, held every spring. But this year, the IFA’s program of annual events has been enriched with additional tributes to important filmmakers, conferences, lectures, competitions, exhibitions and even street theater performances.

Festivities will begin tomorrow with the first concert of a fortnight of musical evenings dedicated to Melpo Merlier, organized in collaboration with the Greek Music Workshop of the music studies department of the Ionian University in association with the Merlier Archive of the Center of Asia Minor Studies.

The IFA will also be participating with the Greek Ministry of Culture in its organization of celebrations of Nikos Kazantzakis Year with a conference running from March 13-25 on translations of and by the Cretan writer and a series of events in October including film screenings, an exhibition and round-table discussion.

October will also see an expansive exhibition on the Fluxus movement at the Benaki Museum’s Pireos Street annex. Before that date, we can also expect a tribute exhibition to Jean Cocteau as well as a meeting with the famed French actor Jean-Claude Brialy.

Out on the streets, the IFA will be taking the party to Ermou Street on May 19 with an open-air fashion show and bringing the air of Montmartre to Sina Street for the Fete de la Musique on June 21.

Halepas, a tormented genius February 14, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Greece, Arts Exhibitions Greece.
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National Sculpture Gallery retrospective on the Greek sculptor reveals the work of an original artist

The great Greek sculptor Yiannoulis Halepas (1851-1938) lived to be 87 years old, and yet was artistically creative for a relatively short period in his life. He produced some of his most renowned works as a young artist but his work came to an abrupt end when at 27 years old, he was admitted to Corfu’s psychiatric clinic, where he remained for more that a decade. Although there is some evidence to suggest that he never quit working entirely, there are no surviving works from that time, not even from the first 15 years after his release. It is believed that either he or his mother, who blamed his art for her son’s mental illness, destroyed his sculptures. It was not until Halepas reached 65 years of age that he is known to have invoked his creative forces to the fullest and resumed working systematically.

Even for an artist, Halepas had an unusual life and produced an oeuvre filled with time lapses and missing evidence. Were it not for his rare talent and insight, he might have been marginalized in the history of Greek sculpture. But his unique creativity has placed him in the highest ranks of Greek art and, along with the tragedy that he suffered in life, made him a legendary figure.

“Yiannoulis Halepas: A Retrospective Exhibition,” which opened a week ago at the National Sculpture Gallery, brings together 95 of his sculptures, of the surviving 115, and more than 100 drawings by the artist. The exhibition is curated by a professor of art history at Aristotle University, Alexandra Goulaki-Voutira, with the assistance of National Gallery curator Artemis Zervou. A catalog with numerous essays on his work is also available and is a welcome addition to a rich bibliography on Halepas. The study by Marinos Kalligas from the early 1970s is the most significant.

Halepas is usually referred to as a “modern” artist who defied the academic canon, yet his training was based on a classical tradition which he obtained first from Leonidas Drosis and then at the Munich Academy alongside his teacher Max Ritter Von Windmann. A great admirer of ancient Greek sculpture, he also had an unusual understanding of it. He visited the National Archaeological Museum and could tell the original and later parts of a sculpture, often correcting archaeological data.

Like many artists of his generation, he was inspired by classical Greek mythology, examples include “Oedipus and Antigone,” “Hermes” or “Medea”, and throughout his life worked a single theme in many different versions. “Satyr and Eros,” one of his earliest works which stands in the permanent exhibition hall of the National Sculpture Gallery, is firmly set in the classical tradition. Along with “Reclining Woman,” a funerary sculpture in Athens’s First Cemetery, “Satyr and Eros” is the most famous work of the artist’s early period. It is remarkable for the ways it captures movement, an aspect that is not as highlighted in the later works, and for how the facial expression changes according to the angle from which the work is approached.

A young artist back then, Halepas worked in the family business. His father, a contractor who received commissions for sculptures, owned a large, profitable workshop on Tinos, a center for marble sculpture and the island where Halepas was born, raised and spent most of his life, and, later in Athens. Although Tinos was an island with an artistic tradition, painter Nikiforos Lytras, who was Halepas’s teacher, sculptors Dimitris Philippotis, Antonios and Lazaros Sohos, Giorgios and Lazaros Fitalis and Loukas Doukas were all from there, the senior Halepas hadn’t wanted his son to become an artist and his constant objections are said to have been one of the reasons behind Halepas’s mental illness.

Financial problems led to bankruptcy. When Halepas was released from the institution, his father had already died and Halepas moved back to his family home on Tinos. He now faced poverty and isolation as well as an oppressing mother who smothered his talent. According to a psychoanalytic approach to Halepas’s work, it was not until his mother’s death in 1916 that Halepas could unleash his creativity.

It was roughly at that time that artists and intellectuals began to raise public awareness of his work. Costis Palamas wrote a moving essay on the artist and, a few years later, Thomas Thomopoulos, then a sculptor and professor at the Athens School of Fine Arts, made an official proposal to the state that Halepas’s clay models be made into plaster and moved to Athens for an exhibition. Part of the project was realized and an exhibition on Halepas was organized at the Athens Academy in 1925.

In a public speech, Thomopoulos presented Halepas as a modern, unconventional artist who, like all the modern artists of the time, was inspired by the abstract shapes of primitive art and the simplicity of archaic art. True, there is some resemblance to the archaic in the rough surfaces of Halepas’s sculptures, the lack of openings and the sense of solidity and mass. There is little of the idealization and sense of symmetrical proportion that one finds in classical sculpture.

Yet, as Marinos Kalligas pointed out in his study, had Halepas finished his sculpture in marble, the sense of detail would have been more pronounced and roughness would seem less important. When appraising the work of Halepas, it is vital to keep in mind that most of his works were preparatory models that the artist intended for larger bronze or marble works. Also, one should remember that the plaster models are an interim stage and do not have the directness of the original clay models, of which a few only survive, nor the finishing of a marble work.

But even in those plaster models, one can detect a rare talent and artistic vision. A unique case in the history of Greek sculpture, with no followers or predecessors, Halepas is an artist whose work cannot be easily classified along artistic movements. He is a single case, as unique as his life, his unhappy and troubled existence.

At the National Sculpture Gallery, Military Park, Goudi, Athens, tel 210 7709855, to June 13.

Al Foster set to drum up a jazz storm in Athens February 14, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Music Life Live Gigs.
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Al Foster set to drum up a jazz storm at Half Note in Athens
Close friend and collaborator of Miles Davis to perform Friday through Feb 22

A drummer with a long history, he has collaborated with true giants: Dexter Gordon, Sonny Rollins, Stan Getz, Joe Henderson and Herbie Hancock, to name but a few.

A dominant factor throughout Foster’s career has been his long friendship and collaboration with Miles Davis, in his autobiography, the late jazzman dedicated a few interesting and tender words to the drummer. Born in Richmond, Virginia, in 1943, Foster began his career with Hugh Masekela in 1960. 

Foster is due for appearances at the Half Note Jazz Club which begin on Friday and run to February 22.