In the wake of the worst heat wave in more than a decade, Athenians are decamping, as ever, to the Greek islands for the rest of the summer – and so is a good slice of the jet-setting art world. Cypriot collector Dakis Joannou pioneered a new trend by opening the DESTE Foundation space on Hydra in 2009, and since then new contemporary art projects have been popping up all around the Aegean archipelago, providing compelling reasons not to miss the boat.
That also means that last-minute visitors to ‘documenta 14’ in its closing days have plenty of options for a seaside holiday with the excuse of seeing international art exhibitions on a number of alluring isles. Here are a few of the most captivating destinations to check out if you’re in the ‘hood (or to dream about if you’re not).
PAROS AND ANTIPAROS
From Syros, a one-hour ferry ride to nearby Paros and a five-minute boat from Pounda will take you to serene Antiparos. Tom Hanks is a resident of the island, and Madonna is reported to be a fan, and yet the tiny island remains tranquil and unpretentious.
In Parikia, the port town of Paros, the Archaeological Museum will host the contemporary art exhibition ‘Orange Water 3’ curated by Apostolis Zolotakis, with works by Greek and Dutch artists Ad Arma, Angelika Vaxevanidou, Katerina Kaloudi, Eugenia Coumantaros, Jan Mulder, Gert van Oortmerssen, Apostolos Fanakidis, and Dimitra Chanioti (until 21 October).
Immortalised in Henry Miller’s travelogue The Colossus of Maroussi, Hydra has been a cosmopolitan cultural outpost since the 1950s, associated with longtime residents such as the late musician Leonard Cohen and painter Brice Marden as well as native artist Nikolaos Chatzikyriakos-Ghika, whose work is being shown in ‘documenta 14’.
Collector Pauline Karpidas has organised art shows on Hydra since 1996. This summer, the harbourside Hydra Workshop presents six vivid new paintings by American artist Jamian Juliano-Villani, in the latest of many shows organised by Sadie Coles (on view until mid-September). If you make your way uphill on the winding stone streets, you will find the Hydra School Project, a former high school where artist Dimitris Antonitsis curates international group exhibitions every summer. (This year’s show ‘Gestalt’ runs until the end of September.)
It was DESTE Foundation’s annual exhibitions – mounted around a former slaughterhouse overlooking the sea and opening with a post-Art Basel gala for art world luminaries including Jeffrey Deitch, Massimiliano Gioni, and Jeff Koons – that established the island as an international art mecca. The very first project, Matthew Barney and Elizabeth Peyton’s unforgettable ‘Blood of Two’ required a sunrise hike to watch a glass vessel full of pencil-and-blood drawings of mythical animals being dredged from underwater and carried by fisherman to the slaughterhouse in a ritual procession, where a dead shark was barbecued. This was followed up with shows by the likes of Maurizio Cattelan, Doug Aitken, Urs Fischer, Pawel Althamer, Paul Chan, and this summer Kara Walker’s Figa: the disembodied hand of the sphinx-like sculpture A Subtlety, made for Brooklyn’s Domino Sugar Factory, tellingly reformed in a pointed gesture of the thumb, to be interpreted as spiritual or provocative (until September 30).
Culturally rich Tinos, a Christian pilgrimage site next to Mykonos, was the home of late sculptor Yannoulis Chalepas, whose house is now a museum. In 2015, the artist-run Tinos Quarry Platform also opened on the eponymous island. Every summer the Platform hosts several artists in the village of Isternia to develop work related to the local context, culminating in an exhibition. This year’s ‘Reassembly’ responds to the restricted movement of our paranoid era through immaterial artworks that employ musical notation and are digitally portable. The show features works by its curators, Petros Touloudis and G Douglas Barrett, along with pieces by artists Adel Abidin, Francesco Gagliardi, Giorgos Koumendakis, Alyssa Moxley, Tao G Vrhovec Sambolec, Hong-Kai Wang, and Samson Young, among others (Cultural Foundation of Tinos until 31 October).
In the village of Loutra, the Convent of the Ursulines will host the ‘Serviam Project’ a show of Greek contemporary artists including icon painter Konstantinos Ladianos, whose works will activate the history and spaces of the complex and nearby ancient baths (until Monday 4 September).
The geologically spectacular Nisyros, a volcanic island in the Dodecanese archipelago near Turkey, is home to the Sterna Art Project, a residency program run by artist Greg Haji Ioannides. “Living in a crater provokes strong emotions, feelings, thoughts – offering great ground to create,” he says.
“I wanted to share this with artists from around the world and see how each responds to this extraordinary environment.”
This year’s project, ‘Paradoxically Paradox’ kicks off the evening of 27 July with a violin performance by Michalis Hazoglou in the medieval Castle of Emporeios. The exhibition comprises site-specific interventions by Jason Karaindros and Virginia Mastrogiannaki in the suggestive ruins of Loutra Mandrakiou – a bathhouse set for subsequent restoration – that play with perception of the unnatural triggered, or echoed, by elements of physical space (until Friday 25 August).
The islands along the Turkish coast are in fact where its at in August, when Samos’s Art Space Pythagorion will host ‘Summer of Love’ curated by Katerina Gregos to reflect on the year 1967, when love entered into politics, and how we have strayed since. The show features new work by artists including Mikhail Karikis, Marko Mäetamm, Marge Monko, and Uriel Orlow (until 15 October). Established by the Munich-based Schwarz Foundation in a retrofitted hotel on the harbour of Pythagoreio, the space inaugurated in 2012 with ‘Between Eye and Hand’ a first-rate survey of politically charged videos by Harun Farocki.
The third largest island in Greece, Lesvos (aka Mytilene) is the birthplace of the poet Sappho and, more recently, the site of Ai Weiwei’s controversial work on the refugee crisis.
At the Municipal Gallery of Mithymna on Lesvos, K-Gold Temporary Gallery, a nomadic exhibition project initiated by artist Nicolas Vamvouklis in 2014, will present ‘Body Is Victory and Defeat of Dreams.’ The show is curated by Athena Hadji with work by artists Orestis Lazouras, Alix Marie, Lito Kattou, Lydia Dambassina, Christos Mouchas, and HOPE (until 10 September). The hill town overlooking the sea is also home to the Athens Fine Art School residency, housed in an Ottoman mansion just below the castle that is worth visiting for its stunning period frescoes.
The biennial project ‘Phenomenon’, a residency and exhibition organised by Parisian collectors Piergiorgio Pepe and Iordanis Kerenidis, is well worth planning ahead for. Anafi, a remote island in the Cyclades, has evolved from a place of penance, as an exile outpost from ancient Roman to modern times, to a contemporary paradise – a rare retreat from the drudgery of daily life. With only 270 inhabitants, there is a sense of isolation and silence, with only the whoosh of the high winds through the empty streets of whitewashed dwellings, the sun so bright you can’t possibly see your electronic screen.
In its second edition this summer, the program considered the constant renegotiation of historical narratives through physical and ephemeral fragments that appear and disappear in a week of presentations – such as Christodoulos Panayiotou’s ever-evolving performance ‘Dying on Stage’, a moving consideration of tragic irony – and a surprisingly cohesive research-based show at the schoolhouse, along with site-specific installations (many produced in collaboration with residents) that will remain until they vanish naturally in the elements. If you come later in the summer you will find relics left behind or returned: Mario García Torres’s ‘Once Remembered’ is a postcard, now for sale in local shops, depicting an ancient statue taken from the island and exhibited in the Louvre. Julien Nédélec has painted a giant Z on a building as a tribute to the letter that disappeared from the Roman alphabet for two centuries.
Anafi, whose name derives from áνέφηνεν, or ‘to reveal’, is the perfect place to contemplate the wonders of life. Or nature – the island’s austere peninsular monolith, Mount Kalamos, is second largest in Europe to the Rock of Gibraltar.
If you need more convincing on where to spend the rest of your summer, I conclude with an observation from Miller’s Greek travelogue: “The light of Greece opened my eyes, penetrated my pores, expanded my whole being.”
The guide was originally published by news.artnet.com