Iliana Fokianaki talks about Greek contemporary art scene
07 mar 2014 by Myrto Katsimicha
Iliana Fokianaki is an art critic and curator based in Athens where I first met her last summer. Drawing inspiration from Iliana’s latest project "State of Concept", the first non-profit gallery in Athens of which she is the founder, Myrto Katsimicha asked her to reflect on the Greek contemporary art scene.
MK: Iliana, you were one of our first contributors to take part in our Curated by project. Recently the term “curated by” is used more and more to describe a vast number of activities that range from art to the fields of fashion, music, publications while it also frequently appears in social media and websites of various content. Would you consider this a regeneration or rather a weakening point of the role of the curator?
IF: It is a really interesting question, and I have been asking it to myself. I think I am more leaning towards the opinion that simply the word "curate" is trendy now, and the assimilation of things and “your” opinion is also a manifestation of contemporary society therefore it is logical. I wouldn't say it is a weakening point since a good curator will always be a good curator, no matter his background.
State of Concept, Image courtesy of State of Concept and Iliana Fokianaki.
MK: During your Curated by project you made an interesting selection and showcased a number of Greek artists, thus giving an insight into the Greek contemporary art scene. What is the current state of artistic practice in Athens?
IF: It is a very vibrant scene, many artists are producing very interesting works and the crisis has helped to formulate a more dense art scene, if I may use this word. New collaborations, new directions to the interests and works being produced, fresh ideas. It is as if the economic crisis just jolted us to keep doing what we were doing (we never had help from the state) but more vigorously and with much more focus.
State of Concept, image courtesy of State of Concept and Iliana Fokianaki.
MK: With your experience of the art scene abroad do you think there is a certain artistic quality that signifies the Greek contemporary art scene and if so in what sense?
IF: In general I don't believe at all in the national identity of works, but however I can say that I have seen several artists using elements of Greek history in their work, in subtle or non-subtle ways.
MK: Having lived in London for quite a long time in the past, is it more difficult to be a curator in Athens, where the state fails to support art production and the art market operates in a smaller scale?
IF: Yes it is certainly more difficult, but it is also more liberating and challenging. And I love the challenge.
Greek artist Dimitra Vamiali, Posters, 2006-2013. Image courtesy of the artist.
MK: You have recently founded your own gallery called State of Concept. It is actually the first non-profit gallery in Athens. Would you like to tell me a bit more about this initiative?
IF: Well, in every trip abroad I used to find all these great artists and I always said to myself, oh it would be so nice if they exhibited in Athens. And I have realised there wasn't a space where the Greek audience could actually see in depth the work of an international artist that has not had already great exposure. I mean we have the museums and they are showing established international artists like Shirin Neshat, Sarah Lucas, Louise Bourgeois, Martin Kippenberger, Andro Wekua etc. But not younger artists. So that is how the idea of State of Concept formulated. It started as ArtHub in 2011, and I was very timid in how to approach what I wanted to do. It took me about two years. The crisis also confused me. I thought maybe I should leave again for another city, but truth be told, Athens is great for projects like this, and these two years helped me formulate exactly the purpose of the gallery. So we started in May 2013 and now we are inaugurating our new space on the 20th of March.
MK: Your last show was called “Nostalgia Nevrosa”. Can we embrace our nostalgic feelings and still be looking at the future?
IF: Yes. Absolutely yes. With the fear of becoming corny and a cliché, I will quote Plato and say that “if there is memory, ideas for things emerge”.
Basim Magdy, Time Laughs Back to You Like a Sunken Ship, 2012. Image courtesy of the artist and Gypsum Gallery, Cairo.
MK: What are your plans for State of Concept in 2014?
IF: We thought it would be best to open our new space with a Greek artist and we are inaugurating with Greek artist Aliki Panagiotopoulou, with which we have collaborated in the past and we really love her work. Furthermore, next solo show is Basim Magdy in June, then Keren Cytter in September and then a group exhibition curated by Tom Morton in November. For 2015, we are still confirming months with artists.