Desmos Art Gallery Revisited
28 Jan — 24 Mar 2017 at AD Gallery in Athens, Greece
AD gallery opens the show entitled “Desmos Art Gallery Revisited”.
The demand for Greece’s urban modernization reappears in the 20th century after the Smyrna Catastrophe in 1922. A demand for development that would take into account, on one hand, the evolution of developed Western Europe societies and, on the other, a selective and critical consideration of historical institutions and forms that were created within the country or that the latter appropriated up to the point of regarding them as an integral part of its identity. What was therefore at stake was the demand for modernization of collective identity and social institutions which refused to rely on historical discontinuities.
Throughout the 20th century, the leading moment of its expression, through the arts and architecture, were the 30’s and then the 50’s and 60’s. In the world of the Greek galleries this demand will emerge via Desmos Art Gallery.
Desmos Art Gallery was founded in 1971 by Eppie Protonotariou (1933) and Manos Pavlidis (1921-2007). Protonotariou, having bourgeois origins from Syros and Naxos, was a graduate of the Athens School of Fine Arts (1957) from the atelier of Yannis Moralis’, where she coexisted for a period of time with Caniaris, Tsoclis, Pavlos, Kontos and Karras. Pavlidis, of Alexandrian origins, has been a pioneer in the field of advertising and public relations in Greece. P.P. (Protonotariou and Pavlidis) are inspired by the liberating power of dada and at the same time by the transcendence of Bauhaus. They envision the gallery’s space as a breath of fresh air against the suffocating conditions prevailing in the country due to the military regime and from the very beginning they distance themselves from their contemporary reality within the visual arts. More as an attitude and less as a political stance, by having as guide Eppie’s strong relationship with art and because of the fact that many of the artists with whom they chose to work (Gaitis, Kontos, Tougias, Danil, Kaloutsis, Logothetis, Tsoclis, Kessanlis etc.) were artists of the Greek diaspora, familiar with the avant-garde and participants to the new art currents, P.P. create a space where the critical attitude towards the language itself, the groundbreaking thought, the freedom for pioneering experimentation and the radical renewal of expressive tools are of primary importance.
What becomes a rule for Desmos is the highlighting of the “neglected”, far from pompous rhetorics, in order for the distance between art and real life to be abolished with the due respect to the ascetic ontology of the new form and for the work itself to be transformed in the “event” per se.
Desmos’ function will put an end to dividing classifications such as painting, sculpture, environment, performance, etc. On the other hand, the majority of its exhibitions reverse the dominant model in the relation between the work and the viewer, which is based on the consumer approach, stressing the spiritual dimension of the first. Gradually, since the very first years of the gallery and for the first time in Greece, a subcategory of Modern Greek art, which we often call contemporary art, is approached, cutting the umbilical cord with the concept of “unbroken continuity” of Greek art and the ideological assumptions “credited” to the “generation” of the 30’s. Desmos’ exhibition choices will constitute an initial base for the establishment of criteria and systems of evaluation of contemporary art production. The gallery will constitute a platform for the demand for modernization of the art institutions. Hence, since 1972, on Mondays, the musicologist Yiannis (Nanakos) Papaioannou will present and analyze the music of Skalkotas, Xenakis, Christou, and the years after 1974 the following events will be organized: presentations of the Elements for Self-knowledge by Aris Konstantinidis, Proposal for game, film projections on the Bauhaus’ ballets, of the film in search of the “pure cinema” (cinema pure) Entr'act by René Clair, presentation of Anestis Logothetis’ Score etc. Protonotariou has not dealt with modernization as an abstract idea but as matter of survival of the real world and of real life, a need to seek a synchronic identity. Both her and most of the artists that she has supported, considered as their duty the reflection on the role and the personal responsibility of the intellectual. This is, perhaps, the reason why Desmos’ function has not targeted the market sufficiently.
Desmos, finally, was more an alternative space than a gallery. Its basically modernizing orientation is also evidenced by the fact that it brought the “community” together around the view that the establishment of a contemporary art museum is an obligation of the state. It demanded the fulfillment of a key, modernizing contract for the plastic arts, while it did not face at all the possibility for smaller-scale private initiatives to function, such as
those of kunsthalles or kunstvereins. The museum for P.P. is not defined by its function but by the state’s obligation to take responsibility towards the modern requirements.
Works by the following artists are being presented: Dimitris Alithinos, Vlassis Caniaris, Dimitris Condos, Danil, Bia Davou, Nikos Kessanlis, Aris Konstantinidis, Stathis Logothetis, Rena Papaspyrou, Vassilis Skylakos, Thodoros, Costas Tsoclis.