This article was commissioned by and published in Φιλgood, a supplement to Cypriot newspaper O Fileleftheros. Date of publication: 11 December 2016. Translated from the Greek by the author.
“Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal” T.S. Eliot wrote back in 1920, repeating a well-known adage that runs the entire history of modern art to reach, more relevant than ever, our own times. In a society where everything is “shareable”, and copy-pasting has become more of a reflex when using images, texts and sources, it’s usual that many artists “steal” from elsewhere to create new work —the most ruthless of them all being the American photographer Richard Prince, who has been sued at least four times over the past few years for appropriating the work of others for his own (and high-fetching on the art market) creations.
This exact theme of appropriation in contemporary art is the subject of an unusual exhibition at The Twenty One, an “art restaurant” on the ground floor of the namesake hotel of YES! Hotels in Athens; the show was curated by Dio Horia Contemporary Art Platform and features the work of seven artists from Greece and abroad. Dio Horia was founded in 2015 by art historian Marina Vranopoulou in Mykonos, with the aim to showcase local creativity but also to redefine Greece as a source of inspiration for foreign artists. After an invitation by the Varveri brothers —the restaurant’s owners— Dio Horia organised the exhibition “The 21 Project” with select artworks that in one way or another deal with artistic appropriation, but also reflect on the ways we consume images and information today.
The exhibition includes works by international artists that are shown in Athens for the first time.
Already before we set foot in the restaurant, we are welcomed by a work by Greek artist Olga Migliaressi-Phoca, in the shape of an illuminated sign on the wall next to the entrance (Route 69, 2016), from an ongoing series by the artist that “borrows” well-known logos from American pop culture. In the same vein, the Israeli artist Nir Hod copies the work of Lucio Fontana, by referencing the Italian artist’s torn canvases with lines of white oil paint on mirrors that are also reminiscent of cocaine (The night you left, 2016). Works by Greg Bodin and Matthew Palladino are also in the same space, artist who have participated in the recent group show at Dio Horia in Mykonos and whose work is exhibited in Athens for the first time.
For the 21 Project, Dio Horia has also developed three installations that are the result of its own inquiry into what artistic appropriation means today. The appropriation in the case of these installations is that Dio Horia has “borrowed” The Twenty One hotel’s logotype (which is made of 21 red squares arranged in three lines of seven) and translated that into compositions of that many little artworks. The first of these installations is by American artist Todd James, who participates with a series of 21 gouache watercolours depicting female figures lazying in the sun or using their mobile phone. Meanwhile, Honza Zamojski provided 21 drawings with collage elements for the second, his work evoking a childlike innocence through simplicity, which at the same time conceals darker emotions such as insecurity, doubt and fear.
Created specially for the exhibition was the third installation by Greek visual artist Maria Efstathiou, who used black and white photocopies from broken spiderwebs to write in the 7-bit form of the ASCII code the characters “#21” using the binary system (the three lines of her work are translated as 0100011, 0110010, 0110001). This way, the fine architecture of spiderwebs meets the ever-expanding network of the world wide web and social media, thus expressing in the best way the exhibition’s theme and how contemporary art can (re)appropriate other structures, transforming them into something beautiful, mysterious and at the same time, essentially human.
The exhibition The 21 Project continues at The Twenty One Restaurant and Bar (Kolokotroni 21, Kefalari, Kifissia, tel. +30 210-6230621) until the end of December 2016.
Image: Maria Efstathiou, Cloud Chamber (2016). Installation view at The Twenty One Restaurant and Bar. Photo courtesy Dio Horia.