“This particular moment in history takes us through a ‘portal’,” says Elina Kountouri, the director of the pioneering Greek non-profit art foundation NEON.
“When we emerge on the other side, we will need to reaffirm - for the sake of future generations - our commitment to certain values: the rule of law, human rights and democracy.”
One of 2021’s biggest art exhibitions – Portals – will encompass the two epochs uppermost in the Greek psyche this year: pandemic and revolution. As Greece celebrates the bicentenary of its War of Independence from Ottoman rule, Portals will address today’s international political and societal upheavals with new works by 40 influential Greek artists and numerous pieces from global heavy hitters including Michael Rakowitz, Glenn Ligon and Danh Vo.
The exhibition – to run from June to December – will be co-curated by NEON and Madeleine Grynsztejn, director of the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, in partnership with the Hellenic Parliament.
As an added bonus, visitors will have the chance to enjoy a remodelled 1930s Athenian landmark. The bicentennial-inspired show has prompted the transformation of the old Tobacco Factory on Lenorman Street into a new urban hub of contemporary culture. NEON will reboot half of the listed monument – once an emblem of Greece’s industrialisation and progress. The other half remains home to the Hellenic Parliament Library and Printing House.
The full artist programme for this eagerly-awaited exhibition will be announced shortly. But we’ve been primed to expect diverse artworks ranging from installations, painting, sculpture, photography and performance – exploring topics such as Movement, the Communal, Connection and Home.
The exhibition was inspired by the words of acclaimed novelist Arundhati Roy, who sees the pandemic as a “portal, a gateway between one world and the next”.
According to Roy: “we can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world”.