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A heretical view of the world at the Benaki Museum June 20, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Exhibitions Greece, Arts Museums.
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A retrospective exhibition on the work of Antonis Kyriakoulis at the Benaki Museum’s Pireos Annex

It resembles a parade of human vanity, a carnival of mores and human figures: The exhibition “Antonis Kyriakoulis: A Heretical World,” currently on at the Pireos Street annex of the Benaki Museum and curated by Fani-Maria Tsigakou, is a dense and piercing study of the foibles of human character as seen through the imagination of the renowned Greek cartoonist and illustrator Antonis Kyriakoulis. It is a dissecting and humorous view of the world that amuses but also brings about a certain melancholy, a comical, yet in one way dark, depiction of man.

Hundreds of drawings placed in double-faced plexiglass structures suspended from the ceiling occupy the entire exhibition room. Beautifully designed by Lili Pezanou, the display evokes the airy quality of Kyriakoulis’s drawings. Seen all together, the drawings resemble a crowd and evoke human presence. The same is true of “Orchestra,” a large installation that has been placed at the very end of the hall. Plexiglass structures that resemble cupboards and contain a collection of drawings have been placed along the walls. The inclusion of chairs designed by Kyriakoulis show the broad range of his work which, besides drawings, includes theater set design, costume design and illustration.

The art of Kyriakoulis speaks of the ordinary, of things we recognize and relate to. However, to fully grasp its depth and appreciate its intellectual humor one must be equipped with a knowledge of history and culture. This is because one of the most distinctive features of his work is the way it weaves associations between the past and present. Interestingly, Kyriakoulis does not depict individuals, the way a political caricaturist would, but uses attributes taken from different historical periods to portray different human types. In his amusing and insightful two-page “autobiographical” note that is included in the wonderful album on his work, published to coincide with the exhibition, Kyriakoulis writes that when observing people on the street, he often associates them with portraits that he has seen in history books. “On the nearby trolley, I recognize the son of Lorenzo de Medici and a woman in Monastiraki may remind me of the infamous figure who poisoned people in Victorian London. I discover the model of a figure after I have painted it…” he writes.

The titles chosen for many of the works illustrate this constant journey among different cultures and periods in history. They are filled with satire. “Soula Tutanchamon and Sofia Rampses out Shopping for Gauze” and “The Empress Zoe Karvounopsina” are some examples.

However, his work is rooted in Greek society and its development from the beginning of the 20th century to today. It offers a penetrating image of Greece’s social structure and a portrayal of passing trends. “Personas of the Mass Media,” “The Trendy,” “Art Lovers,” “Ambassadors of Goodwill”, all titles of drawings, are the types of contemporary Greek reality that the artist satirizes. Usually painted in profile, his cartoon figures have long pointed noses that resemble those of birds or of masks. They carry a vapid, almost stupid expression and in many cases wear feathered hats. Kyriakoulis exposes the ludicrous aspects of human behavior, ridicules people’s self-importance and role-playing, their megalomania and self-involvement. He derides with equal force the Greek nouveaux riches and the offspring of the more traditional Greek bourgeoisie.

Nearing the age of 70, Kyriakoulis has lived through various transformations in Greek society. He was bred in the intellectual Athens milieu of the 1960s; a feeling of old Athens that is so characteristic of his work harks back to those early days.

After studying graphic arts alongside the well-known Greek engraver Tassos, he lived in London for several years. During the 1970s, his work appeared in some of the most important Greek magazines. This is also when he started working as a set and costume designer for the theater. A few years later, he collaborated with film directors Manousos Manousakis and Michael Cacoyannis. Kyriakoulis is also a writer of limericks and of strange paraodies of opera librettos. He also worked with Manos Hadjidakis.

In his autobiographical note in the exhibition catalog, Kyriakoulis mentions what he regards as his two greatest accomplishments in life: “The first is that I never took myself seriously and the second that I observed people around me with great attention…” he writes, which, in the end, explains the humor and inventiveness in the work of this unusual artist.

“Antonis Kyriakoulis: A Heretical World” at the the Benaki’s Pireos Street Annex, 108 Pireos Street, Athens, tel 210 3453338, to July 29.

A Yimou masterpiece on stage June 20, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Hellenic Athens Festival, Stage & Theater.
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Award-winning Chinese phantasmagoria ‘Raise the Red Lantern’ at the Athens Festival

One of the National Ballet of China’s greatest stars, Meng Ningning, plays the concubine who defies her master and takes his torch from him, thus sealing her fate. ‘Raise the Red Lantern’ will be on stage at the Athens Concert Hall tonight through Friday.

While the title “Raise the Red Lantern” may sound romantic, the history the story tells of is harsh and ruthless. The concubine who dares snatch her master’s torch, a symbol of power and authority, in order to light the red lantern in the courtyard, pays for this act of disobedience with her life.

Stage and screen director Zhang Yimou has a profound understanding of the mechanisms of melodrama and he never underestimates the genre. On the contrary, he fills it to bursting point with grand passion, hatred and tension. “My main objective is to make movies people understand,” he says. “I am not a philosopher. I don’t think the job of a director is to spout theories, to do abstract things no one understands. Movies should tell simple stories. In China, we believe that profound philosophical meanings are found in simple things. If a film touches an audience, then the audience will search for its deeper meaning.”

Yimou’s presence is testimony enough to his stellar reputation. Today, tomorrow and Friday, the master Chinese director will be in Athens to present the stage version of his award-winning film “Raise the Red Lantern,” within the framework of the Athens Festival, at the Athens Concert Hall with the Chinese National Ballet.

A tale of love, rivalry and dramatic conflicts set against the backdrop of feudal China, the film version of “Raise the Red Lantern” (1991) earned Yimou an Oscar nomination for best foreign-language film and took the filmmaker out of China, where the film was banned. The central theme of the drama is the affair between a concubine and a man other than her master. When the affair is revealed, by the first-ranking concubine, the master orders the death of all three parties.

Critics at the time approached the film from a Confucian, feminist perspective, which the filmmaker himself has used to highlight the ineffectiveness of the feudal regime. He shows the weaknesses of a rigid patriarchal society that is focused on a strict traditional code and bound by rites and rituals, in which daughters have no worth and are treated as expendable objects. Marriages were often driven by financial interest.

Yimou asserts his deepest respect for the past, yet he casts the ethos and perceptions of that era in a ruthless light. Whether using absolute minimalism (“The Road Home,” 1999) or launching himself to grand heights (“Hero,” 2002), Yimou has proven that he is not afraid to challenge the political establishment. The eroticism of his first feature film “Red Sorghum” (1987) had already put him on an uneasy footing with the regime in China. “Ju Dou,” which came out in 1990, deepened the rift.

Crowning it all was his tempestuous affair with Gong Li, his muse and leading lady, which led to Yimou’s divorce from his wife and a first-rate scandal in conservative Chinese society. His magnitude as an artist, however, smoothed the situation over.

In “Raise the Red Lantern,” presented by the National Ballet of China, Chinese and Western European art have been united in an “ongoing, fertile dialogue of form and content,” according to critiques of the production.

Founded in the 1950s, the National Ballet of China is well rehearsed in phantasmagoria, incorporating into its technique the traditions of the Russian school and influences of modern Western dance. The result is an amalgam of Chinese opera and classical ballet, based on Yimou’s grand, visually enticing aesthetic.

For tickets, call the Athens Festival on tel 210 3272000 or visit http://www.greekfestival.gr/athens_fest/

Departing heads of archaeological schools honored June 20, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Archaeology Greece.
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The Culture Ministry on Wednesday held an event in honour of six departing directors of foreign schools and archaeological institutes in Athens who will soon be leaving Greece.

The event, during which Culture Minister George Voulgarakis and Ministry General Secretary Christos Zachopoulos presented commemorative plaques to the departing heads of the US, British and Swiss archaeological schools and the heads of the Norwegian, Dutch and Finnish Institutes in Athens, took place at the Stoa of Attalos at Athens’ Agora.

According to Voulgarakis, the work of the six institutes had left its stamp on research and archaeological excavations throughout Greece since the middle of the 19th century, when the French Archaeological School first opened.

The director of the Swiss School, Pierre Ducrey, was the longest-serving of the six directors, having first arrived in Greece in 1982, while Victor Tracy of the US school and James Whitley of the British school both arrived in 2002.

The departing head of the Dutch Institute, Getr Jan Winjgaarden, took over in 2001; Norwegian institute director Knut Odegard arrived in 2003 and the head of the newest of the institutes, the Finnish institute established in 1985, over in 2004.

Back in the Euroleague June 20, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Basketball.
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Aris thumps Panionios for berth in Europe’s top club-level competition

Spurred on by a frenzied capacity home crowd in Thessaloniki, Aris powered its way to a comfortable 73-60 win against Panionios in last night’s best-of-five series decider for third place in the Greek basketball league and a berth in next season’s Euroleague.

The Thessaloniki club will compete in Europe’s leading club-level basketball competition for the second successive season after a lengthy absence. The home team never seemed threatened in last night’s encounter, as highlighted by its increasing lead at the end of the first three periods. Aris enjoyed leads of 21-11, 42-26 and 60-42 before slowing down, slightly, for the 73-60 final score.

The game had all but been determined by the end of the third period. Sensing that its chances of recovery were slim after a poor first half, Panionios showed some improvement in its defensive play in the third term. The Athens club’s shooting accuracy also improved. It all brought Panionios to within 13 points in the 25th minute.

But the home side did not let Panionios reduce the deficit any further. A 7-0 run from Aris helped it to re-establish a commanding 20-point lead a little before the third-quarter break. Guard Dimitris Tsaldaris, who was instrumental in Aris’s explosive start for an early advantage, led his team’s scoring with 18 points. Kennedy Winston, one of Panionios’s few consistent performers last night, was the game’s top scorer with 21 points.

Tonight, defending champion Panathinaikos hosts Olympiakos in their best-of-five title series decider.

Police have taken strict security measures. Concerns are high following fatal brawling earlier this year between fans of the two clubs on the sidelines of a women’s volleyball game involving the two teams.

Panathinaikos’s 17,000-capacity OAKA Stadium will remain half-empty. Large sections of the stands will not be used to keep rival fans at a distance. Panathinaikos was allotted 6,500 match tickets and Olympiakos, as the guest, received 2,500.

UPDATE >

European champion Panathinaikos beat rival Olympiakos 89-76 Wednesday to win its fifth straight Greek league basketball title. The Athens club, which has won nine titles in the last 10 years, won the best-of-five playoff series 3-2.

Last month, Panathinaikos won its fourth European championship, beating defending champion CSKA Moscow in Athens. Panathinaikos also won the Greek Cup this year. The Athens club, Olympiakos and third-place Aris will participate in next season’s Euroleague. Olympiakos last won the Greek title in 1997.

Olympiakos sets out for Final Four tournament June 20, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Aquatics.
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The Olympiakos water polo team flies to Milan today to prepare for the Euroleague’s Final Four tournament on Friday and Saturday.

The Greek team, winner of the European title in 2002, takes on Italy’s Pro Recco in Friday’s semifinals. Players and officials agree that the targets for this season, all domestic titles and a Final Four appearance, have been reached. In the other semifinal, Jug Croatia Osiguranje meets Partizan Belgrade.

Olympiakos won the Greek league title last weekend after beating Ethnikos for a 3-1 triumph in their best-of-five title series.

Marcos Baghdatis pulls out of the Ordina Open June 20, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Tennis Squash.
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Marcos Baghdatis has pulled out of the Ordina Open in Holland due to tiredness after last week’s Gerry Weber Open where he was defeated in the final match against Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic.

Baghdatis, who was the fourth seed for the Hertogenbosch event, was drawn against Kristian Pless of Denmark, but his place has now been given to the lucky loser Yves Allegro of Switzerland. Allegro was previously defeated by the top seeded qualifier German Michael Berrer in straight sets, 6-4 6-2.

Meanwhile, the Cyprus Tennis Federation announced that preparations for the upcoming Davis Cup Europe/Africa Zone Group II 2007 playoff match between Cyprus and Bulgaria are in full swing. The tie will take place from the 20th to 22nd of July at the National Tennis Centre courts in Nicosia.

Tickets for the event are available at the venue and at the Cyprus Tennis Federation’s offices. Due to great interest in the event the Cyprus Tennis Federation penned an agreement with Sigma TV to have a live broadcast of all of the matches.

Cyprus failed to defeat Bulgaria in all three of their previous meeting and will have to break this tradition in order to remain in the Europe/Africa Zone Group II for another season.

Cyprus hikes minimum wage to 700 euros June 20, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Business & Economy, Living.
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The Council of Ministers decided to increase the minimum wage in Cyprus from CYP 384 monthly to CYP 409 or EUR 699 effective April 2007 and after a period of six months, that is from 1 October to CYP 434 or EUR 742.

Cyprus Government Spokesman Vasilis Palmas said the directive on the minimum wage refers to about 45.000 persons of all ages employed in most sectors of the economy. He said that it was further decided that from July 1, 2008, the minimum wage legislation will also cover those employed as security guards at clinics, private hospitals and elderly rest homes.

The increase in the minimum wage in Cyprus places the country between the first and second group of top EU countries with the highest minimum wage among the EU27. According to a study by Eurostat, in the twenty Member States of the European Union, Belgium, Bulgaria, Spain, Estonia, Greece, France, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Czech Republic and the United Kingdom, collective bargaining is subject to a statutory national minimum wage. The other Member States do not have a statutory national minimum wage.

Among the Member States, the gross minimum wage varied from 92 euro in Bulgaria to 1570 euro in Luxembourg. The countries can be divided into three groups based on the level of minimum wage. The first group includes 9 of the 20 Member States, Bulgaria, Romania, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Estonia, Poland, Hungary and Czech Republic. The minimum wage in this group was between 92 and 298 euro on 1 January 2007. The second group comprises five Member States, Portugal, Slovenia, Malta, Spain and Greece, with a minimum wage between 470 and 668 euro. The third group comprises 6 Member States, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Ireland and Luxembourg, in which the minimum wage is above 1250 euro. In the USA the Federal minimum wage is 676 euro.