Greek Art Dealers Tell Us How to Run a Gallery in Athens On 60 Euros A Day (artnet news)

by Rozalia Jovanovic and Eileen Kinsella, Friday, July 10, 2015 original article here.


Rebecca Camhi. Photo: via Madame Figaro.

A little over a week ago at the Athens art gallery of Rebecca Camhi, a new client walked into the space and selected two works to purchase: one was a photograph by Nan Goldin and the other was a work by British artist Clare Woods. Soon after, Camhi called the client with a price quote: $14,000 for the Goldin, 15,000 pounds sterling for the Woods. It didn’t matter. The next day, June 29, the banks were shuttered and Camhi’s client disappeared.

“This literally broke the deal,” said Camhi. “She never got back to us.”

Even if she had wanted to buy the works, Camhi said, given the circumstances—holders of Greek bank cards continue to have a 60-euro daily limit on ATM withdrawals and restrictions on moving money abroad—proper transactions were all but impossible.

“Even if she deposited the money in our account,” said Camhi, “we wouldn’t be able to pay our artists abroad. Maybe later I would be able to, but who wants to take that risk?”

Opened in 1995, Camhi’s gallery is housed in a neoclassical structure in the hip downtown Athens neighborhood of Metaxourgeio. She represents important contemporary artists including Rita Ackermann, Karen Kilimnik, and Sean Landers. Like many art dealers in Athens, she’s feeling the effects of the most recent economic crisis that has befallen Greece, especially since June 29, when banks were shuttered and limits were placed on the amount of cash that Greeks were allowed to access.

Installation view of a show at Rebecca Camhi Gallery.

Installation view of a show at Rebecca Camhi Gallery. Photo: Courtesy of Rebecca Camhi.

“What’s been happening in the past few weeks is completely crazy,” said Camhi. “You can’t do any business. It’s not like people are just having financial problems. This is like you’re paralyzed. You can’t get paid, you can’t pay people.”

In the face of the economic instability, collectors are staying safe and angling for more established artists. “[Collectors] are interested in spending money but on internationally established art,” said Camhi. “I suppose there is a sense of safety—as opposed to lesser known artists. If it’s an established artist they would feel that if they have to sell, they could sell it on an international market.”

Other galleries, like Ileana Tounta’s Contemporary Art Center, which opened in 1988 and consists of two exhibition spaces and an art shop, have amended their hours. Tounta’s has shifted from full days to being open only in the afternoons, from 3-8pm. As for paying employees, “We’re trying,” Ileana Tounta told artnet News during a phone call, “but it’s hard.”

While there has been a reported fervor in stocking up on luxury goods like watches and handbags (things that could later be sold abroad), there hasn’t been a similar interest in stocking up on art. In fact, according to Sofia Vamiali of Vamiali’s, traffic to galleries is waning. “People have other priorities and are less interested to visit galleries and exhibitions in general,” Vamiali told artnet News over email.

Installation view of Athanasios Argianas's 2011 solo show. Photo: Courtesy of the Breeder.

Installation view of Athanasios Argianas’s 2011 solo show. Photo: Courtesy of the Breeder.

stablished in 2004, Vamiali’s was the first contemporary art gallery in the Metaxourgio district, which is home to many galleries, museums, and cafes. But now it’s struggling, and it has had to postpone some of the more ambitious projects of the kind it had organized in the past.

“The art market is basically dead right now in Athens,” said George Vamvakidis in a telephone interview. Vamvakidis is a co-founder of The Breeder, a successful gallery that specialized in Greek contemporary artists and is known on the international art fair circuit. “The state is unable to fund the arts and the private collectors, the biggest ones, choose not to support the local market. So as a result almost every single commercial gallery of our generation has closed its doors.”

George Vamvakidis and Stathis Panagoulis of the Breeder, Athens.

George Vamvakidis and Stathis Panagoulis of The Breeder, Athens. Photo: via

Despite the galleries of his generation—roughly 8-9, which, like The Breeder, opened in the early 2000s—having closed, The Breeder has just launched a new artist residency program. The artist—LA-based Ben Wolf Noam—arrived just as the crisis struck.

“The day he landed,” Vamvakidis, a co-founder of the gallery, said, “was the first day of capital controls.”

Yet, despite the odd timing of the residency, it seems the setbacks for The Breeder were mostly logistical. “We had to pay for the production of the work that he’s doing. Everybody here wants to be paid with cash. You can’t take cash out of the bank, the businesses won’t accept credit because they’re insecure.”

Installation view of site specific graffiti project at Vamiali's. Photo: via Vamiali's website

Installation view of site specific graffiti project at Vamiali’s. Photo: via Vamiali’s website

For example, something as simple as the purchase of an air compressor (to create airbrush art) for Noam, whose show will open next at the gallery, was a nightmare. “You can’t pay through PayPal or iTunes. You can’t use your credit card to buy from a foreign company. You can’t buy something online.”

A number of galleries also noted that as a result of the crisis, they’re unable to participate in art fairs.

“It has been hard for the last two years I have to say,” said Ileana Tounta whose gallery’s roster is heavy on Greek artists and who regularly participated in international fairs including Art Basel, Art Frankfurt, ARCO, and Art Cologne. “We’re trying to keep the gallery open and at least we try to bring people in to exhibitions.”

Though The Breeder specializes in Greek contemporary artists—like Jannis Varelas and Andreas Angelidakis (whose work took over the gallery’s booth at this past iteration of Frieze New York)—it has managed to stay afloat, because of its international collectors. In October, the gallery will go ahead with plans to attend Frieze London.

Installation view of the current solo show of Dimitra Vamiali "The Fine Qualities of Distressed Paper."Photo: via Ileana Tounta's website.

Installation view of Dimitra Vamiali’s solo show “The Fine Qualities of Distressed Paper” at Ileana Tounta. Photo: via Ileana Tounta’s website.

The upshot of the crisis, according to some of the dealers, is that it has caused something of a renaissance in the country. Vamiali said the crisis became “an inspirational turning point for many artists.” Vamvakidis said that artists are “liberated from the forces of the market” and for this reason Athens has become something of a creative hub because of the resultant creative energy and the low cost of living. “Artists that are working under those circumstances—who have the balls to produce work that is totally unconventional,” said Vamvakidis, “are producing really brave work.”

Camhi says it’s not the end of the gallery business in Greece. Her gallery continues to be up and running despite the financial pressures. Currently on view is “Ormiale,” a group show with “works and objects” by Fabrice DomercqJasper Morrison and Marc Newson that runs through July 25. The opening included the presentation of wine from the vineyard that the three designers own in Bordeaux.

“It’s not like galleries have collapsed or anything,” she said. “We have opening hours. We continue our emails.”

Greek Artist Demolishes His Own Work to Avoid Bizarre Government Fine (artnet news)

By Christie Chu, Tuesday, August 25, 2015 original article here.

Photo: via

Photo: via

A statue of a mermaid by Greek artist Dionysis Karipidis, which was created in 1997 on the Portokali beach in Chalkidiki, Greece, has been destroyed by the hands of its own maker.

The artist took to his statue with a sledgehammer when he was asked by the area’s tourist authorities to pay a fine for “destroying the natural landscape,” according to the Greek Reporter.

Chalkidiki is known for its three peninsulas that stick out into the Aegean sea like Poseidon’s trident. Famous as a tourist spot, the Greek peninsula is also known as the birthplace of Greek philosopher Aristotle.

The mermaid, which is carved from the natural limestone on the beach, has been a tourist attraction for almost a decade. The issue arose a little over a year ago when the artist, who has largely remained anonymous, received a letter from the local municipality leveling a 533 euro fine for the work. In March 2014, Karipidis responded with his own letter stating that if he was forced to pay the fine, he would destroy his work.

Photo: via

Photo: via

According to the town’s mayor Yiannis Tzitzios, the fine was imposed by the tourist authorities even though the municipality did not want the sculpture to be destroyed. Why did the authorities wait almost two decades to level the fine? Perhaps it has something to do with the country’s economic crisis.

“The fine has not been attested by the municipality, but since the offense took place in our area, we were forced to collect it. Once we received Karipidis’ letter we sought every legal way to delete the fine or pay it with municipality expenses,” said the mayor. “However, we found this to be illegal. Therefore, the city council chairman proposed that we pay the fine ourselves, as individuals, and not with the municipality’s money. Unfortunately, due to a misunderstanding, we did not have enough time to sort out the issue.”

10 Must-Read Art Essays From June 2015 (artnet news)

Ben Davis, Tuesday, July 7, 2015 original article here.

 John Liebenberg, <em>South African withdrawal from Angola</em>(1988)

John Liebenberg, South African withdrawal from Angola (1988). Photo: © John Liebenberg via

1. “A Failure of Memory” by Ingrid Sinclair, Guernica
In the shadow of the recent wave of anti-immigrant violence in South Africa, a photo show at the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory in Johannesburg gathers still images documenting the country’s own role in destabilizing its neighboring states. Sinclair, a documentary filmmaker, brings together testimony from the photographers who bore witness to the conflict.

Miriam Schapiro in 1977.  Photo:

Miriam Schapiro in 1977. Photo: via

2. “An Inquiry Into What Women Saved and Assembled — Femmage” by Miriam Schapiro and Melissa Meyer, ArtCritical
Schapiro, a foundational figure for feminist art, passed away last month. ArtCritical reprints her classic text from Heresies on women and collage, with a short, heartfelt remembrance from her co-author, Melissa Meyer, as an introduction.

Installation view of Robert Motherwell, "Opens," at Andre Rosen Gallery

Installation view of Robert Motherwell, “Opens,” at Andrea Rosen Gallery. Photo: Courtesy of Andrea Rosen Gallery.

3. “Another Look at Robert Motherwell” by John Yau, Hyperallergic
Yau’s piece is a characteristically assured consideration of the themes of late Motherwell, framing his baffling “Opens” series, recently shown at Andrea Rosen, as a subtle exploration of what Abstract Expressionist painting could do after Minimalism and the other movements of the 1960s.

4. “Belaboring the Fringe: In Lieu of an Artists Statement” by Gelare Khoshgozaran, Temporary Art Review
Passing through her own experience both in Iran and as a grad student at USC’s Roski School of Art, Khoshgozaran offers a glimpse of alternative, politically engaged conversations about the stakes of art growing up on the borders and between the lines of the official scene.

Still from <em>The Yes Men Are Revolting</em><br>

Still from The Yes Men Are Revolting. Photo: via

5. “Beyond Clicktivism: Why Political Change Requires Risk” by the Yes Men, Creative Time Reports
The Yes Men are originals of the Internet art-and-activist scene. So it means something that, in this piece, they forcefully remind their many followers that you really have to get out into the world if you want to change it.

6. “Same as It Ever Was: A Conference on Art Criticism in the Digital Age” by William S. Smith, Art in America
Last month, I spoke at the Walker Art Center’s “Superscript” conference. Here, Smith gives a smart, critical overview of what was at stake in the many conversations that came out of that weekend of art critics talking about being art critics.

Ben Heine's <em>She Is My Mona Lisa</em>(2010), an illustration from "Styles and Customs in the 2020s"

Ben Heine’s She Is My Mona Lisa (2010), an illustration from “Styles and Customs in the 2020s.” Photo: via

7. “Styles and Customs of the 2020s” by DIS Magazine, Supercommunity/e-Flux
The brains of e-Flux went to Venice in May to curate a sprawling publishing initiative for the city’s Biennale, bringing together a variety of writers into something called the “Supercommunity.” Any number of Supercommunity texts are worth your time; I pick DIS Magazine’s sassy exercise in futurology simply because it is the most fun.

8. “Taking the Measure of Sexism: Facts, Figures, and Fixes” by Maura Reilly, ARTnews
By far the most-talked-about text of June (see my own Why Are There Still So Few Successful Female Artists?), Reilly’s well-researched piece serves as the State-of-Sexism-in-the-Art-World address required to keep the issue in the spotlight.

Michelangelo Pistoletto in the Havana Biennial

Michelangelo Pistoletto in the Havana Biennial. Photo: via the Havana Biennial website.

9. “The 12th Havana Biennial’s Neoliberal Turn” by Mostafa Heddaya, Artinfo
Scrutinizing the presences and absences in the current art spectacular for indications of the shifting cultural politics of the Cuban thaw.

El Chaco meteorite in Argentina, seen in Documenta (13)

El Chaco meteorite in Argentina, as seen in Documenta (13). Photo: via

10. “Those Obscure Objects of Desire” by Andrew Cole, Artforum
Remember when Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev framed her Documenta by musing aloud about the needs and desires of a meteorite? Cole offers a righteous, scholarly takedown of the vogue for “Object-Oriented Ontology” in contemporary art theory, exposing it as the vaguely goofy animism that it is.

Artenol, the new art journal

The first issue of Artenol.

This month, Russian jokester Alexander Melamid launched Artenol, an art publication aiming to be “for spectators written by spectators in prose that is both readable and literary.” The inaugural issue is actually die-cut to resemble the thickly mustached profile of “death of god” philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. Its website doesn’t look so bad either.

Top 10 Documentaries Every Art Lover Should Watch (artnet news)

by Henri Neuendorf, Wednesday, July 29, 2015 original article here.

Hiroshi Sugimoto, <i>Theaters</i>, 1978 <br> Photo: © Hiroshi Sugimoto

Hiroshi Sugimoto, Theaters, 1978 Photo: © Hiroshi Sugimoto

Are you the kind of person who gets bored on vacation? Do you flick through Netflix not knowing what to watch? Why not check out one of our top 10 art documentaries?

Compiled in a convenient list we’ve put together the best movies that art lovers can’t miss out on. Watch Pablo Picasso or Gerhard Richter at work or get up close and personal with camera-shy photographer Cindy Sherman. On this list, there’s something for everyone.

Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child (2010) Photo:

Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child (2010) Photo:

1. Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child (2010)

A fantastic documentary that explores the life and art of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Directed by the artist’s close friend Tamra Davis, this movie features rare footage and interviews with Basquiat’s contemporaries of 1980s downtown New York.

The Art of the Steal (2009) Photo: imdb

The Art of the Steal (2009) Photo: imdb

2. The Art of the Steal (2009)

The documentary tells the story of the struggle for control of the Barnes Foundation, one of the world’s best collections of modern and impressionist art, valued at an estimated $25 billion. Politicians controversially moved the collection from Merion, Pennsylvania to downtown Philadelphia, contravening the will and testament of its founder, Albert C. Barnes.

Le Mystère Picasso (1956) Photo:

Le Mystère Picasso (1956) Photo:

3. Le mystère Picasso (1956)

This sensational film documents Pablo Picasso‘s creative process. Using specially designed transparent canvas, the camera traces the master’s every move, giving viewers insight into the painting technique of one of the most renowned artists of the 20th century.

Eames: The Architect And The Painter (2011) Photo:

Eames: The Architect And The Painter (2011) Photo:

4. Eames: The Architect & The Painter (2011)

Architect and designer Charles Eames and his wife Ray, an artist, were two of America’s most influential tastemakers. The couple made hugely significant contributions to modern architecture, furniture and art. Using archival material and new interviews with friends, collaborators, and experts, this superb film tells their story.

The Cool School (2008)  Photo:

The Cool School (2008) Photo:

5. The Cool School (2008)

Narrated by Jeff bridges, the film examines the rise of the Los Angeles art scene which developed as a counterculture rebelling against the Abstract Expressionist art movement championed in New York. It profiles the influential Ferus Gallery and its owners Walter Hopps and Irving Blum and tells the story of how a small group of artists such as Ed Kienholz, Larry Bell, Ed Ruscha, John Altoon, and Billy Al Bengston transformed American art.

Gerhard Richter - Painting (2012) Photo:

Gerhard Richter – Painting (2012) Photo:

6. Gerhard Richter: Painting (2012)

Providing a behind-the-scenes view of the studio of one of the world’s best (-selling) living painters, this film documents Gerhard Richter‘s creative process, showing the artist at work. A series of interviews with Richter, as well as some of his critics and contemporaries adds context to the artist’s oeuvre.

Tim's Vermeer (2014)  Photo:

Tim’s Vermeer (2014) Photo:

7. Tim’s Vermeer (2014)

American inventor Tim Jenison analyzes the revolutionary painting technique of the 17th century Dutch master Johannes Vermeer. Jenison sets out to find out how the painter was able to create photo-realistic works over a century before the invention of the camera.

Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present Photo:

Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present Photo:

8. Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present (2012)

The documentary follows the renowned performance artist Marina Abramovic as she prepares for her retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. The film explores how the Serbian national redefined the understanding of what art is.

Guest Of Cindy Sherman (2008) Photo: imdb

Guest Of Cindy Sherman (2008) Photo: imdb

9. Guest of Cindy Sherman (2008)

Filmmaker Paul Hasegawa-Overacker, known for his Gallery Beat reviews of New York art shows in the 1990s, was invited to interview the reclusive photographer Cindy Sherman in her studio. After several interviews the filmmaker and the photographer fall in love and embark on a romantic relationship. This film offers viewers remarkably intimate, one-of-a-kind insight into the life of a notoriously camera-shy artist from the perspective of Hasegawa-Overacker, who struggles to come to terms with Sherman’s celebrity.

National Gallery (2014) Photo:

National Gallery (2014) Photo:

10. National Gallery (2014)

A fly-on-the-wall account of the National Gallery, London, one of the world’s most renowned museums with a stunning collection of canvasses by Da Vinci, Rembrandt, Turner and others. Filmmaker Frederick Wiseman explores the inner workings of modern cultural institutions, documenting the National Gallery’s administrative meetings, conservation, restoration and educational functions.