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A cultivated coming of age November 14, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Greece, Arts Exhibitions Greece, Arts Museums.
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The Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art presents a quarter of its holdings at Athens venues

Almost 30 years ago, a handful of people with a love for the visual arts decided to join forces in establishing a Contemporary Art Museum in Thessaloniki. Their enthusiasm and commitment found quick response. At first Alexandros Iolas, followed by Alexandros Xydis several years later, donated large parts of their collections to the emerging Museum, while the state provided, on a long-term loan, the building. Born of private initiative and partly state-subsidized, the Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art was the first Museum to focus on contemporary art at a time when contemporary, international art was unknown to the Greek public and long before Greece acquired other showcases for contemporary art.

Yet its permanent collection was not fully presented to the public, mainly because the Museum’s exhibition space was not large enough to hold great parts of the collection. Besides large retrospective exhibitions, there were also presentations of the collection; that held just a few years ago was of great importance, yet it also showed just a portion of the collection.

“Topoi: An Exhibition, An Approach, A Museum, A History,” is the largest presentation to date of the Museum’s collection and its first outing in Athens. Curated by Denys Zacharopoulos, the Museum’s artistic director since 2006, it is spread across different venues of the capital city. The Pireos Street annex of the Benaki Museum is where the bulk is being shown but displays are also on show at the main building of the Benaki, the School of Fine Arts, Zappeion Hall and the Alex Mylonas Museum of Contemporary Art, which recently has become part of the Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art.

The curator has succeeded in presenting a broad-ranging and diversified collection, almost 400 works by a total of almost 200 artists, in a way that flows, makes meaningful and unusual connections between the works and keeps the attention of the viewer. Part of its success is due to the choice of the artworks, some of the best in the Museum’s collection, which totals 1,600 works by both Greek and international artists.

The way the exhibition is structured is, however, its most impressive aspect. In its home Museum in Thessaloniki, the works that came from a specific donor were grouped together as separate entities. An example are the sculptures by Achilleas Apergis that the sculptor’s family donated to the Museum. The Athens exhibition does not distinguish the works in terms of their donors, although it opens with two portraits from its principal donors: Alexandros Iolas painted by Costas Tsoclis and Alexandros Xydis as painted by Yiannis Tsarouchis.

The exhibition also stays away from linear, chronological structure, the standard presentation for large collections, and does not classify the works in terms of artistic movements or the artists’ age group. A neo-Goth-style painting by young artist Alexandros Tzannis is, for example, placed near a sculpture by Dennis Oppenheim, a key figure in American conceptual art. A painting by Lila Polenaki is placed next to a sculpture by the Sixties Generation artist Vlassis Caniaris. A drawing by Nikos Gavriil Pentzikis is close to a drawing of Henry Miller.

By making such juxtapositions, the exhibition encourages the imagination of the viewer to travel freely across time and stylistic movements. It stays away from didactic, constricting categorizations and suggests that understanding art can be a far more rewarding experience if one is allowed to enjoy it through free associations. Topoi, which means “places” is also meant as mental places. This, however, does not mean that the connections made in the exhibition are haphazard. On the contrary, they stem from a penetrating analysis of art.

The juxtaposition of Andy Warhol’s “Alexander the Great” with a series of works by Theophilos, the naif Greek painter who had an impact on painters such as Yiannis Tsarouchis, is indicative of the play. An American pop artist from the 1960s has nothing in common with a naif artist from Mytilene. Interestingly, neither of them came from the high echelons of art, Warhol’s background was in advertising. However, both Warhol and Theophilos, each in a different degree and scale, became famous and developed a style that played an important part in the development of 20th century art.

Juxtapositions of this kind indicate that art can be open to various interpretations and that a Museum’s collection can be viewed from many different angles. The exhibition encourages that sense of freedom but also remains true to the core and personality of the collection. It has, however, left out the collection’s more conventional works. In general, “Topoi” highlights Greek, avant-garde art of the 1960s and 70s, which is one of the collection’s strengths. Works by artists such as Vlassis Caniaris, Stathis Logothetis, Takis, Pavlos, Yiannis Gaitis or Daniil fall into this category. Much of the art of this period contained a political subtext and was concerned with the social role of art. In the early 1970s, the so-called group of the New Realists, painters Yiannis Valavanidis, Kleopatra Diga, Kyriakos Katzourakis, Chronis Botsoglou and Yiannis Psychopedis, expressed this tendency. The exhibition includes a section that presents the works shown in the group’s first exhibition.

In “Topoi”, one will also find some impressive, open-air works. The atrium of the Pireos annex of the Benaki Museum houses “Carousel” by Alexis Akrithakis, a work that the artist dedicated to the “Children of Vietnam” in 1969.

At the Zappeion playground, Mark Hadjipateras, Marc Charpentier and Jonas Lehec have made art part of children’s play. Their work will remain in situ and is a donation by the Museum to the City of Athens. It is yet one more example of one of the exhibition’s principal notions: to show that art cannot be made to fit into strict categories but is something open to varying interpretations. As well as that it is a form of creativity that occupies a place in everyone’s thoughts and imagination, a pleasure that we can all relate to and make a natural part of our lives. “Topoi” runs to November 25.

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Camerata to perform in China November 14, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Hellenic Light Asia, Music Life Classical.
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Athens Chamber Orchestra plays in Beijing Saturday as part of ongoing Greek cultural series

Saturday’s concert at the Beijing Conservatory of Music in the Chinese capital will feature works by five contemporary Greek composers. The Cultural Year of Greece in China series is set to run until next September.

An energetic ensemble that performs extensively both at home and abroad, the Camerata – Friends of Music Orchestra, Greece’s leading chamber orchestra, will perform in China this Saturday at the capital’s Beijing Conservatory of Music.

The show, the latest event for the Cultural Year of Greece in China, a series leading to next summer’s Beijing Olympics, will present to the Chinese public works by five contemporary Greek composers.

The repertoire includes “Kitrino potami” by Giorgos Kouroupos, a composition for soprano and chamber orchestra featuring excerpts of Chinese poetry; “A une Madone,” a project by Dimitris Terzakis for violin and strings orchestra that was inspired by Charles Baudelaire’s poem of the same name; “Kouragio” a work for strings by the Greek-American composer George Tsontakis; “Zeitgeist” by Christos Hatzis; and “Slow Motion” by Thanos Mikroutsikos. The Camerata, conducted by Nikos Tsouchlos, will be joined by soprano Maria Mitsopoulou and violinist Sergiu Nastasa.

The Camerata’s concert on Saturday will be preceded by a performance this Friday by the Beijing Symphony Orchestra with its renditions of compositions by Jani Christou, Nikos Skalkottas, Iannis Xenakis and Giorgos Koumentakis, one of the country’s more gifted newer-generation composers who was commissioned for material that graced the opening ceremony of the Athens Olympics in 2004. Also, classical pianist Dimitris Sgouros will perform Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Concerto No 3.

Other upcoming events on the Cultural Year of Greece in China agenda include a performance by the Thessaloniki State Symphony Orchestra next month that will be dedicated to Nikos Kazantzakis. The concert, scheduled for December 14, will feature pieces by prominent Greek and foreign composers that were based on works by the writer. Also, the Athens State Orchestra will perform in six Chinese cities, including Beijing and Shanghai, between December 27 and January 7.

Greek moviegoers opt for local films November 14, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Movies Life Greek.
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Yiannis Smaragdis’s historical drama ‘El Greco’ is ahead in the box-office battle so far.

Recent box office figures, since the season’s “unofficial” start in late August, show that, so far, local audiences prefer to watch local productions as well as family films. Two of the three Greek films that have opened are currently in the box office top five, while the third, despite a generalized attack by the critics, made an impressive debut in the first four days of screenings.

Despite initial hesitation, Yiannis Smaragdis’s “El Greco” has been recognized for its love of the subject matter and the quality of its production. Up to now, the film has sold more than 565,000 tickets. Olga Malea’s “First Time Godfather” is also on the right ticket path. An entertaining story coupled with recent political history references, the movie has attracted 189,000 viewers. Nikos Zapatinas’s “Kiss of Life” which opened last week, is also expected to do well.

Judging from the figures, it seems that audiences are eager to watch Greek films, when the latter are aimed at movie theaters, as opposed to being screened at the Thessaloniki International Film Festival.

The second element emerging from the recent figures is that family entertainment is a sure bet. The fifth installment of Harry Potter, for instance, reached 400,000 tickets, “Ratatouille” climbed to 270,000 tickets, “Shrek the Third” reached 190,000 tickets, “The Simpsons Movie” notched 125,000 tickets, while recently released “Surf’s Up” has already surpassed 40,000 tickets.

Film genres which have traditionally attracted large audiences to movie theaters, namely action, crime, science fiction or comedy, appear to be on a downward spiral. All this points to the changing habits of moviegoers. The cinema public’s basic core, young people, are now downloading movies from the Internet or picking up counterfeit DVDs.

Top 10 >

  • El Greco : 565,000
  • Harry Potter 5 : 400,000
  • Ratatouille : 270,000
  • Shrek The Third : 190,000
  • First Time Godfather : 189,000
  • The Bourne Ultimatum : 170,000
  • Rush Hour 3 : 140,000
  • The Simpsons Movie : 125,000
  • Zodiac : 120,000

Ex-international Houtos reaches deal with Panionios November 14, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Football.
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Former Greece striker Lambros Houtos, who has been without a club since being released by Inter Milan at the end of last season, has joined Super League club Panionios.

Houtos, 28, who passed his medical yesterday and is set to begin training with his new club, will not be officially incorporated in the Panionios squad until January, when the winter’s transfer season opens for a month.

Houtos was targeted by Panionios last summer, when he looked likely to join Larissa. But he opted for neither. He began his career as a junior-level player at Panathinaikos before joining archrivals Olympiakos as well as Roma, Inter, Atalanta and Mallorca. He has represented Greece 10 times after showing promise in the Under-21 team.

Government and tourism professionals targeting higher-quality arrivals from the UK November 14, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Tourism.
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The Tourism Development Ministry wants to attract quality tourism from the British market, sharing this goal with the Greek private tourism industry, Minister Aris Spiliotopoulos said yesterday.

Spiliotopoulos is currently in London, heading the Greek delegation to World Travel Market Show, along with Hellenic Association of Tourism and Travel Agencies (HATTA) President Yiannis Evangelou. In 2005, Greece received 2.7 million British tourists, a figure that dropped to 2.6 million in 2006, while the decline is projected to continue this year.

The target of the private tourism industry is to attract high-income visitors. Evangelou said that the UK tourism market is a leader in Europe not only in terms of production but also in competitive tricks and other novel ideas. “The trick, for instance, that says, ‘Come to the airport and we will send you for a week’s vacation in Greece; we’ll tell you where only at the very last minute, for just 49.90 pounds,’ addresses the lower end of the market.”

According to Evangelou the UK has a tourism clientele with other interests and preferences, too, which Greece has not yet targeted in any methodical, systematic fashion. These people do not go to places that sell out through offers for cheap vacation. This clientele is interested in cruises, group or corporate trips, conferences, cultural visits, travel in less popular months, and certainly generates more revenue per head.

He added that in the UK, as in the rest of Europe, priority is now being given to the protection of the environment and the use of destinations renowned for their natural beauty as well as the environmental regulations that protect them from catastrophes of various types.

“It is obvious that now, more than ever, the new minister and all of us tourism professionals must proceed with a specific plan, redefining our targets in the UK market, by moving from cheap packages to specialized and quality ones,” said Evangelou.

Spiliotopoulos also met yesterday with officials from low-cost airline Ryanair who expressed their interest in Greece. “We are in a phase where this process is maturing, discussions continue, although we are not so interested in the numbers of visitors but in their quality; what they leave behind and how they go; whether they leave as ambassadors of Greece, that is what has the greatest value for us,” said the Minister.

Unilever to absorb and de-list Elais November 14, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Business & Economy.
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Olive oil industry Elais, a virtual household name of the Greek food industry, is to be de-listed from the Athens bourse after 66 years, according to the absorption plan by parent company Unilever.

The plan, part of the “One Unilever” program already applied in most other countries by the multinational group, also includes Knorr Bestfoods Hellas, Algida and Unilever Hellas, and is projected for implementation in the first half of 2008. The new company, proposed to be named Elais-Unilever, is estimated to have sales of 500 million euros, with four factories and 1,000 workers.

Beachside tram link now ready November 14, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Transport Air Sea Land.
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The Athens tram will start itineraries on its newly built extension to the southern suburb of Voula tomorrow, according to its operator.

Trams will make the trip every 7.5 minutes and the extension is expected to be used by an estimated 2,500 commuters daily in addition to the 60,000 commuters already using the tram service. Currently the tram line ends in the nearby suburb of Glyfada.

Apart from serving residents of the southern suburbs, the extension will provide a connection to local beaches and the Asclepieio Hospital. From the new terminus, at Asclepieio Voulas, the trip to Palaio Faliron will take 29 minutes, to Nea Smyrni 36 minutes and to Kallithea 39 minutes.

A total of 11 million euros was spent on building the Voula route, which has been lined with more than 150 trees and 450 bushes. An extension of the tram to Piraeus is scheduled to be built by 2010, the Ministry has said.

Ticket vending machines will be available at the Voula stop which will also have a staffed ticket booth.