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A bygone era go on display at Benaki Museum February 28, 2008

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Panayiotis Fatseas’s portraits from bygone era go on display at Benaki Museum’s Pireos Street Annex presents selection of images taken by ‘recently discovered’ Kythera photographer

In the first decades of the 20th century, the families of Kythera that wanted to have photographic portraits taken would most likely have gone to the studio of Panayiotis Fatseas, a self-taught photographer gifted with a talent for capturing his sitter’s gaze and personality in lively, non-academic portraits. The photographs that Fatseas took on this island off the eastern tip of the Peloponnese documented the most important moments in the lives of the local inhabitants: the weddings, formal events, the birth of a new child, both happiness and grief. His clients also included the families that had emigrated to either the United States or Australia; their request was to have photographs of their relatives, still back home, sent to them.

From 1920 until his untimely death in 1938 – he was only 50 – Fatseas produced a substantial body of work, only recently discovered and now appraised as an important chapter in the history of early Greek photography. This is thanks to Yiannis Stathatos, a photographer, curator and writer on photography (and the person behind the Kythera Photographic Encounters), the person who located and undertook the study and conservation of the Panayiotis Fatseas archive (around 2,200 glass negative plates) and brought it to the attention of both specialists and the general public.

A selection of Fatseas’s photographs were first presented during one of the Kythera Photographic Encounter events a few years ago. “Panayiotis Fatseas, Faces of Kythera, 1920-1938,” an exhibition that recently opened at the Pireos Annex of the Benaki Museum, now makes his work known to the Athenian public. The exhibition is organized by the Kythera Photographic Encounters and the Photography Archive of the Cultural Society of Kythera to which the Fatseas archive was donated in 2002 in collaboration with the Photographic Archives of the Benaki Museum. It is supplemented with a catalog on the artist’s work.

Stathatos, curator of the exhibition, notes that one of the unique aspects in the photography of Fatseas is its lack of rigidity, the ease and naturalness in the poses and the vividness in the expressions of the sitters. Fatseas did not photograph frozen postures or void expressions but had a rare capacity for bringing out the distinctive personality of each person. Portraiture comprises the majority of his work; however there were also some pictures of landscapes and outings.

Most of the photographs were taken in his studio, which was set up around 1920; the building is still preserved. It is most probable that Fatseas was the first inhabitant on Kythera to own a photographic camera. He had purchased it in New York where he emigrated to at the age of 23 and lived for two years, working as a waiter. He returned to Greece in 1912 in order to fight in the Balkan wars. The huge demand for portraits made him turn to photography, yet Fatseas also worked in agriculture and commerce for a short period.

Two of his sons took up the trade and ran their father’s photographic studio for another four decades after the photographer’s death. They also expanded its activities by incorporating a summer cinema. However, the archive of Fatseas remained hidden for years. Aided by Fatseas’s grandson, Stathatos has saved the archive from destruction and made a new valuable addition to the history of Greek photography.

“Panayiotis Fatseas, Faces of Kythera, 1920-1938” at the Pireos Annex of the Benaki Museum, 138 Pireos Street, Athens, tel 210 3453111. Through March 23.

Famed Brazilian artist currently on show in Athens October 25, 2007

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Vik Muniz: ‘I never wanted to make works for the cultural elite’ > Famed Brazilian artist, whose work is currently on show in Athens, on his construction of illusionary images

Describing himself as a producer of low-tech illusions, Brazilian artist Vik Muniz creates images using ketchup, wire, diamonds, powder, chocolate syrup, plasticine or caviar, and then photographs the result. Well-known works of art and portraits lose their character as a result of the unorthodox choice of components. Muniz’s work not only conveys a childlike mood but also seeks to teach us how to see things in a different fashion. He believes that besides absorbing images it is also important to think about their creation and the message they convey. An exhibition featuring work by Muniz, currently one of the most established photographers around, is now on display at the Xippas Gallery in Athens.

For this show, he has put aside the more disparate materials and opted to use color pigments for complete reproductions of some of Pablo Picasso’s best-known paintings. The Brazilian, who has spent decades living in New York City, never ceases in his innovation, but he contends that this is not the objective.

“Using color pigments, I wanted to make a statement about the importance of color. Because of it, even reproductions of celebrated works in the history of art can change from one print run to another. If you place the pages side by side, you think that they’re different works. All is relative and dubious in art. Not even the artists themselves know exactly what they’re producing,” Muniz explained at a recent press interview.

“Every time you take a snapshot with a camera, the image you’re immortalizing vanishes for a moment from in front of you. Isn’t that ironical? The history of photography is connected with momentary blindness. For a fraction of a second, the photographer is left in the dark in exchange for the image he will obtain later on, which, however, he or she has not seen yet… In this respect, colors, in painting, end up having an entirely different texture when they’re dry. So, I’d say that painters, also, don’t know about the final result. They must go by faith.”

Muniz describes himself as a director of images. He locks himself into his studio and gets lost in the unlikeliest of creative methods, using the oddest of raw materials in the process. Then, when he has photographed the outcome of his efforts, such as, for example, a portrait of Marilyn Monroe, he destroys it and keeps the photograph.

“The creation of images in our era is essentially a process of cutting up and mixing. The artist of today is one whose role it is to choose and mix certain elements that make make a image, give it meaning. In photography especially, ever since the advent of photoshop, it’s become far easier and more charming to tell a lie than it is to tell the truth,” said Muniz. “Billions of dollars are spent each year just to update image-manipulating software. By contrast, users don’t keep up with the pace to understand the essence of the change and avoid being fooled.”

Muniz’s work is not just a case of putting bright ideas into practice. The process requires old-fashioned ability in painting, sculpture and handicraft to get the desired results. He considers himself to be a conceptual artist.

“In the past, the conceptual artist created works of art that didn’t necessarily have a material basis or a predetermined form. Nowadays you can create work that can be called conceptual without it being closely connected with the materials you’re using. My work is a bridge between materials and an idea. An intelligent thought alone can be catastrophic for an artist. It’s best to not use it immediately but rather let it go for a while and allow it to mature, like wine in a barrel. The idea will either become more complete or will be forgotten. So, in this way, things get sorted out well. I don’t like art that’s based totally on smart ideas, or missing the feeling of the material element, body, craft.”

Muniz considers it essential, these days, to learn to look with a critical eye. “I construct illusionary images but don’t use high-end technology, just simple means. My objective is to help the viewer think about exactly how the image came to being,” said Muniz.

“An artist must respect his or her audience and understand that it is not only composed of critics, art historians, collectors and curators. An artist must create things that even interest a child, an old man, a person without a specialized education who knows nothing about the history of art. The public is not an oligarchy of curators but a heterogeneous group that’s made up democratically. I never wanted to make works for the cultural elite. That’s the reason I use materials that are common to all, from ketchup to wire. The artist is a messenger. The message is conveyed easier when the receiver understands the language you speak.”

Until November 24 at the Xippas Gallery, 53D Sophocleous Street, Athens, tel 210 3319333. Nearest metro station “Omonia”. 

Scavullo’s celebrity shots October 14, 2007

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sting.jpg  Sting photographed by Francesco Scavullo in 1984

Aa a child, late fashion photographer Francesco Scavullo took joy in photographing his sisters. Looking at fashion magazines and window-shopping with his mother along Fifth Avenue were two more of his pastimes. Little did he know at the time that he would become one of the world’s top celebrity photographers.

For over five decades, Scavullo, credited by fashion circles for changing the face of beauty in the 20th century, built his reputation by immortalising established stars from the realms of fashion, beauty, music, theatre and film. His rise to fame began in 1948 when he produced his first cover photo for Seventeen. In the years to come, his portraits would grace the covers of prestigious fashion and lifestyle magazines such as Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Harper’s Bazaar and Glamour.

Three years after Scavullo’s death and as part of the 14th International Month of Photography, the Herakleidon Experience in Visual Arts Museum in collaboration with the Francesco Scavullo Foundation is hosting an exhibition of 90 Scavullo photos, highlights of a career immersed in mostly black-and-white film. Mick Jagger, Janis Joplin, Luciano Pavarotti, Sting, Barbra Streisand, Anthony Hopkins, Isabella Rosselini and Charlotte Rampling are just few of the super stars captured by Scavullo’s lens. He preferred photographing dynamic female actresses but also singers and dancers.

“Each photo has a story to tell,” stylist Sean M Byrnes said at a recent press meeting. Byrnes, who worked with Scavullo at Cosmopolitan beginning in 1973 and was also his life partner for 33 years, outlined his companion’s portrait: “He not only was a photographer but also a painter, an incredible entertainer and an actor, he was featured in Lamont Johnson’s 1976 drama Lipstick, starring Margaux and Mariel Hemingway. He was also a bipolar manic depressive.”

Scavullo did not hesitate to talk publicly about his disease in an attempt to help his co-sufferers. As proof of his charitable nature, he stood by supermodel Gia Carangi, whose career he helped to launch, until her death from Aids-related complications.

Never out of demand, Scavullo owed a great deal of his artistry to an innovative lighting technique that involved using muslin filters or bouncing light off a white umbrella to come up with the most becoming pictures possible. “His lighting was so wonderful,” actress Susan Sarandon once pointed out, “that the pictures always were so much flattering than I’d ever experienced”.

Francesco Scavullo’s Celebrity Portraits (1929-2004) is on at the Herakleidon Experience in Visual Arts Museum, 16 Herakleidon Street, Thissio, Athens, tel 210 3461981, through to December 2.

In between memories and the future October 12, 2007

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Stanko Abadzic’s photos of Prague are exhibited at the Artower until October 18

Originally a biennial festival, the Month of Photography was launched in 1987 by the Hellenic Centre of Photography. Its main goal was to promote Greek photography, as well as the art galleries that supported the event by offering their space free of charge. At the event’s prime, over 50 exhibitions would be hosted in public spaces such as the Zappeion Mansion and the Athens Municipality’s Cultural Centre.

But financial problems dogged the Month of Photography’s development, and after a modest appearance in 1991 it ceased its operation altogether, only to make a comeback as an annual event six years later. As of November 2008, the Month of Photography will take the form of an international biennale.

between_memories_and_future.jpg  This transition is implied in Between Memories and the Future, the title of the 14th International Month of Photography, already underway with over 30 shows around Athens. The choice of title by the Hellenic Centre of Photography’s Director, Stavros Moressopoulos, also suggests an encounter between old and new, tradition and innovation, the past and the future.

The nostalgic mood that every end, and new beginning, brings is captured in two shows: the Voyage in Greece exhibition, at Ersis Gallery, until October 2, which pays tribute to the Camera International photo publication of 1989 by bringing together the work of 15 contemporary and 5 older photographers; and New Greek Photographers- The Early Years, at Ios Arts Space, until October 9, which revisits photos that were first displayed in the 1987, 1989 and 1991 Months of Photography.

A crash course to this year’s show, Welcome, at the Athens “Eleftherios Venizelos” International Airport, until December 31, features 35 photos from all the 25 galleries hosting exhibitions. Late US photographer Francesco Scavullo has immortalised established stars from the realms of fashion, beauty, music, theatre and film, at the Herakleidon Museum, until December 2, while British photographer Aravella Plouviez’s Deviant Women, at the Mavromichali 55, until November 2, questions stereotypes and social norms. Liberty Polyzou’s Portraits, at the Artower Erato Gallery, until October 18, combines the photographer’s pictures of distinguished 20th century artists with her own portraits taken by her models.

Another portraitist, French photographer Didier Ben Loupou, at the Cats & Marbles, until November 10, presents pictures of the old Jerusalem city’s residents,- their faces reflecting the violence and pain that come with war.

Architecture, topography and city life are recurrent themes in several shows. In his epic work Nights on Beyoglu at the Artower-Clio Gallery, until October 18, Turkish photographer Timurtas Onan has come up with nocturnal snapshots of city life in the Istanbul neighbourhood of Beyoglu. Atmospheric photos of Prague, taken in black-and-white by Croatia’s Stanko Abadzic between 1998 and 2002, are displayed in the Artower’s Laboratory until October 18, while Nikos Pilos takes a walk through 15th century hammams in Cairo and Istanbul, at Lili Frangaki Art and Design, until October 10.

Other highlights include the photo shows that focus on the historic landmarks of New York City, at the Hellenic American Union Galleries, until November 3, the crumbling buildings of the Belleville neighbourhood in Paris, at the French Institute Bistrot, until October 22, and the war-torn Darfur in western Sudan, at the Artower Ourania Gallery, until October 18.

Parallel events include an all-day commemorative celebrations, at the French Institute, October 10, complete with educational programmes, lectures, screenings and happenings, and A Photographer’s Ethics, at the French Institute Auditorium, October 31, a joint event of screenings and discussions led by photographers Yannis Behrakis (Reuters), Nikos Pilos (Zuma Press) and Lefteris Pitarakis (Associated Press).

The 14th International Month of Photography’s full programme is available from the Hellenic Centre of Photography, 15 Tsami Karatassou Street, tel 210 9210545, or on the net at > www.hcp.gr

This Week in Greece > Conferences October 8, 2007

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Monday

  • The US Embassy in Athens and its consular section will be closed today in observance of Columbus Day, a US national holiday.
  • The National Observatory of Athens in cooperation with the Eugenides Foundation hosts a conference on “Communicating Astronomy to the Public 2007,” at 9 a.m. at the premises of the Eugenides Foundation on Syngrou Avenue. To Friday. For information call 210 6597511 or visit > www.communicatingastronomy.org

Thursday

  • The University of Athens in co-operation with the Greek Institute of Administrative Sciences hosts the second conference of Greek Administrative Scientists on “New Directions in Administrative Science: New Public Management, Corporate Social Responsibility and Citizens’ Society,” at the Department of Business Administration, University of the Aegean on Chios. To Saturday. For information call 22710 35120 or visit > www.ba.aegean.gr
  • The Aristotle University of Thessaloniki hosts the “Aristotle Vascular Experts’ Meeting,” at the Macedonia Palace Hotel in Thessaloniki. To Saturday. For details, visit > www.avem-meeting.gr
  • The Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in collaboration with the Thessaloniki Museum of Photography hosts an exhibition titled “The Image of the Scientist in Greece, 1900-1980,” at the Museum of Byzantine Culture in Thessaloniki. The exhibition will run through November 18. For information call 2310 566716 or visit > www.thmphoto.gr
  • The Ionian University is hosting the second international conference on “Metadata and Semantics Research,” at its facilities on Corfu island. To tomorrow. For information call 26610 87422 or visit > www.mtsr.ionio.gr
  • The Fulbright Foundation hosts the 13th US University Fair starting at 2 p.m. at the Athens Holiday Inn Hotel. For information call 210 7241811 or visit > www.fulbright.gr
  • The Embassy of Canada in Athens hosts a conference on “Studies in Canada,” at 7 p.m. at the Athenaeum Hilton Hotel. For information call 210 7273206 or visit > www.athns.qc.ca

Saturday

  • Aglaia Kyriakou Children’s Hospital hosts a conference on “Current Developments and Opposing Opinions in Paediatrics,” at 9 a.m. at the King George Palace Hotel. For information call 210 7210001 or visit > www.congressworld.gr

What’s On in Athens > exhibitions, seminars and auditions September 25, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Exhibitions, Arts Events Greece, Arts Exhibitions Greece, Arts Museums, Ballet Dance Opera, Music Life Greek.
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GothicMed > Athens > Opens tonight
An exhibition recording how the Gothic architectural style spread and influenced monuments across the Mediterranean, with photographs and other material, will go on display at the Byzantine and Christian Museum tonight. The exhibition is part of the European program “Mediterranean Gothic Architecture” and will run to October 21. It will be open 8 a.m. to 7.30 p.m. Tuesdays to Sundays.
Byzantine and Christian Museum, 22 Vasilissis Sofias Avenue, Kolonaki, Athens, tel 210 7211027.

Mikis Theodorakis Tribute > Athens > Opens tonight
An exhibition-tribute to the childhood and early years of much-loved composer Mikis Theodorakis, with works by Nikolas Klironomos, will open at the Ekfrasi – Yianna Grammatopoulou Gallery tonight and run to October 6. The gallery will be open 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesdays to Fridays as well as 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays.
Ekfrasi Gallery, 9A Valaoritou Street, Kolonaki, Athens, tel 210 3607598.

Photography Seminars > Athens > Starts October 4
Platon Rivellis will conduct a series of two-hour seminars exploring the similarities and differences between the visual approaches to photography and cinema for five consecutive weeks at the Hellenic American Union, starting October 4. There will be weekly sessions starting at 8.30 p.m. and the cost is 15 euros for the entire series or 5 euros per individual seminar. Registration is already under way. The seminars will delve into photography and cinema in the 1920s and examine the work of acclaimed filmmakers such as Buster Keaton, Fritz Lang and others.
Hellenic American Union, 22 Massalias Street, Athens, tel 210 3680052.

Greek National Opera > Athens > Saturday
The Greek National Opera will hold auditions to hire five permanent choir members, in the positions of soprano, mezzo, tenor and basso, on Saturday at 10 a.m. Contestants will be asked to perform an aria of Mozart as well as an aria of Donizetti, Bellini, Verdi or Puccini, an aria by a Greek composer in Greek, prima vista choral extracts and another aria in a different language. The deadline for applications is 2 p.m. on Friday.
For information > National Opera Offices, 18A Harilaou Trikoupi Street, 5th Floor, Athens, tel 210 3614433.