Almost forty years after the fall of the dictatorship Greece is a blossoming democratic state, member of the EU, has already experienced his first immigration wave and now tries to find his new role on the map of the world. Also the contemporary art has profited from this situation and blossoms for about twenty years increasingly. The absence of an intelligent and well structured policy for the promotion of contemporary art, the financially poor public promotion, the lack of institutions and of necessarily infrastructure for contemporary art has isolated living culture of Greece and artists long time from the international mainstream. Still before a very short time one understood the visual arts (and culture generally) as a kind of tradition. It was, however, closed in itself and ethnocentric and in which academic axioms like “Hellenism” and the admiration of the antiquity took a high value.
Against it one saw “advanced” Greek art almost only abroad (from artists like Kounellis, Samara or Takis), at home hold it an edge existence. Only in the very last time the knowledge asserts itself with difficulty that art is a must for cultures identity, exactly in relation while it based on experiences which itself will get to know directly.
The today’s Greek society has assimilated mediterrane and oriental influence as well as western lifestyle and western consumer behaviour. In spite of traditional traditions, more narrowly family connections and a conservative mighty orthodox church Greece is already a country oriented absolutely to the west. During the last years a lot has done, in particular thanks to private initiative and privately financial support. New showrooms, galleries and artist’s initiatives, and two state museums in Athens and Thessaloniki, the two biggest Greek cities in which all most the artistic activities concentrate for contemporary art, were established. The growing cultural scene is determined, above all, by the big collectors, private museums and a germinating gallery scene and is anew animated. Even the artfair of Athens (Art Athina), the yearly shop-window of local art trade with increasing international participation, was brought to life in 1994 from a private initiative of engaged gallery owners.
Another leading figure in the art scene was his former multi-billionaire’s colleague Dimitris Pieridis also coming from Cyprus, his activities, nevertheless, reach from the antiquity up to rather less supported contemporary Greek art. Vlassis Frissiras is one of the 10 most significant art collectors of the world and a profilic promoter of contemporary art. His museum shows important works of Greek art and more than 3000 examples of international contemporary art like of Peter Blake, Frank Auerbach, David Hockney, to Paola Rego, Jean Rustin, Pat Andrea, Valerio Adami, Mimo Paladino, Antonio Segui u.v.a. Farther significant collections and private institutes are the Lambrakis Research Foundation and the Basil and Elis Goulandris Foundation.
In comparison to Athens the artscene of Thessaloniki is less spectacularly, without a jet set character. But on the other side, here in the centre of the South-east European cultures and economic movements the people are related more to substance and look more to their own cultural identity. This was maybe one reason, why the incomparable collection with works of Russian avant-garde artists of the Greek George Costakis (1913-1990), formerly resident of Moscow and one of the most significant collectors of the 20th century, came to Thessaloniki. Artforum Culture Foundation is hosted since 1996 in Thessaloniki as well. The Museum of Modern art, inside the fair ground of Helexpo, holds a huge collection of international and Greek art, supported from the private collection of Alexander Iolas.
Just in spider of the Southeast, in Thessaloniki, the resumption of cultural priority and a suitable promotion can carry on not only the economic development, but also be a guarantor for an international common language. Outgoing from the knowledge that blossoming cultures and growing national economies cause itself mutually, the missing or otherwise used official support is of course still a not satisfactory brake moment.
There exists some fine collections with international and Greek contemporary art. Thus the Thessaloniki Museum of Photography is just the only museum devoted to this prospering medium in Greece – and one of just a few of its kind in Europe. From determining influence in this region and further on is also the gallery-conglomerate Tsatsis Projects / Artforum, one of the most significant Galleries generally in Greece. The narrow co-operation to Artforum Culture Foundation enables in common strain to be involved in central area of contemporary culture. Pantelis Tsatsis founded as well 2016 the now leading artfair of Greece: Art Thessaloniki.
Also the audience grows bit by bit for contemporary art, however, the market for such works is still small. It corresponds to an order of logic that on the opening to contemporary culture in the country itself, in the end, will follow also the interest abroad. Besides, the extension of the art understanding will contribute to the self-esteem also of the Greeks and the people of the greater area all over the world. Besides, stylistic questions are, actually, of secondary nature, it is determining which contents are transported. It would be to be thought absurd that an equalised art that means an art calls to western measurements would have future. Forms and colours may pass in a global world without shade, but spiritual penetration of life can arise always only from the own culture and landscape and will develop in confrontation to the unknown.
Jannis Kounellis formulated it in his charta, published 1995 in Milan, with these words: … then you find a language with which to construct an image, every age identifies with a new image, that nevertheless contains the past as imaginary and as language, albeit essentially reformed.