Greek art has undergone its ups and downs throughout history, starting from the golden era of ancient Greece, evolving towards the byzantine period, marked by early Christianity, taking a dive into traditional craftsmanship during the medieval era and re- emerging in the last century to claim its place in the international art scene.
Apart from the visual art, Greece is well known for its contemporary dance productions.
It is worth seeking out the seasonal performances of small companies. Many can be found around Gazi and Thiseio.
The best known branch of authentically greek art is theater. Why not take a photo just below Acropolis, in front of the legendary Herod Atticus Odeon, to hear the whispers of past generations?
The first graffiti artist that made it out of the underground circles goes by the name of TAKI 183. Coincidentally, his origin is quite Greek and he grew up in an immigrant neighborhood in Manhattan. His signature (know as “tag” in graffiti slang) could be found all around Manhattan and made it to the papers. The wave of tag competition he created was the predecessor of modern graffiti culture.
The spirit of street art, with its revolutionary, non – conformist aspect is very much in tune with the athenian restlessness. A densely populated city of many cultures, of considerable social differences and one that goes through tough times is the dream of any creative with a voice that needs to be heard. If you take into account the number of unused buildings and the greyness of the cityscape, it adds up to an inviting canvas.
You don’t have to chase graffiti in Athens. It will find you itself. However, a few areas embellished by great works are the rebellious Exarchia neighborhood, the industrial Gazi area and the labyrinth of Psiri. Here, you don’t merely get to see some random drawings made by local aficionados, but works of art by names worldwide known: iNO, WD, Alekos Skoutariotis, Vaggelis Chrousoglou, Stamatis, Achilles Skitsofrenis have all made their contribution to vivify the walls of the city.
Graffiti in Athens makes it to the news quite often: mostly to start a debate about the appropriateness of some spaces versus others (graffiti regularly appears on historical buildings, reinventing their facade). Although we can eternally argue about what art is “real” art, one thing is for sure: an outlet of expression that is alive and beating, that is contemporary and moving has a right to be represented. An art form free and accessible that aims to humanize the concrete jungle is one to be reckoned with. A message screaming from the wall is worth listening to. What do you think?
Some of the most distinctive works have been graduation projects by students of the Higher School of Fine Arts. Pavlos Tsakonas for example, made an impressive Durer inspired drawing on the number 20 of Pireos street to make the passer-by question the meaning of praying.
Some of the graffiti tell whole stories: if you turn to Sarri street, in Psiri, you may find a pair of adorable dog eyes staring at you. This would be “Loukanikos”, the legendary stray DOG who accompanied protestors in every demonstration and fought the policemen.
Make a game out of admiring the art. Try to identify an artist’s personal style and look for his works in different areas of the city. Collect as many as you can with your camera.
If you want a guaranteed background for an urban picture, choose to pose at the end of Ermou boulevard in front of the old bus depot in Gazi. Send the photo at “[email protected]”.
The street show
Even in this city of theaters and music venues, there aren’t enough walls to contain all the performances. The center is buzzing with the sounds of diverse musical instruments, DIY stages welcome solo performers of all trades and b-boys jam in the middle of a walking crowd. In this circus of genres and arts, who will be the lucky one to lure you?
Will it be the musical ensemble on Ermou playing famous classical compositions? Or the african band entrancing you on Monastiraki square with their drums? Maybe the lone rock busker on Thiseio? Or the traditional rebetiko by a group of young alternative musicians on Dionysiou Areopagitou boulevard? Are you per chance a fan of exotic, handmade instruments and otherworldly voices that can be heard on Apostolou Pavlou? Still not quite to your taste? Probably you are more of a street theater fan. Then you will be charmed by living statues and mimes, jugglers and clowns, populating the city center once the evening settles in.
These contemporary bards and troubadours perform in the old way, when there is nothing dividing actors and audience. Their backdrop is their city and their fee is your attention. It’s up to you to decide whether their art is worth it. It is a fair trade, based on honest feelings. They choose to perform for you. You choose whether to watch or not. Whether to applaud or not. Whether to pay or not. No strings attached. Except for those of the street puppeteers with their dancing dolls on Aiolou street.
The street spectacle never stops. Even when the midday heat drives away the big crowds and the aspiring artists, the performance continues. The proverbial torch is passed on to the dance of shadows and light between the rooftops, the singing cats in front of tavernas and the juggling act of waiters. All you have to do now is find a great seat and enjoy, since the show will go on, as it always must.
Don’t miss the opportunity to listen to the traditional greek laterna, a kind of push-trolley with a music box heavily adorned with flowers and playing popular greek retro songs.
As you enjoy a performance, please stay aware of your belongings. Pickpockets choose crowds and distracted travelLers to conduct their business.
Probably the most famous street musicians were a native american band, complete with costumes and traditional instruments. Their atmospheric songs came to be associated with any walk on Monastiraki.
On Mondays, at the little park at the end of Ermou street near Gazi, tangueros of the city gather for a night milonga, known in the social media as “Milonga Dromou”. If you love the sound of tango music and especially if you dance, this is a must.
A different kind of art can be found on Pittaki street, in Psiri. A local installation featuring dozens of lampshades and lights has become a popular photo spot. Be quick! After 6 years of operation, the project may be uninstalled in July 2018 and never return again.