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Art does not (yet) sell houses. A German review on Athens’ ReMap4

by Rebecca Hoffmann // source: the naked / in english

Small, tiny houses are placed along the road. Some streets have all their entrances painted in pink. Men of all ages quicken their pace and disappear in the entrances’ red lights. One punter still wears his crash helmet on his head. During the day, Pakistani children play in the streets, after dawn it the place for the city’s junkies. And in between one can see young people with neon green and white maps labeled as »ReMap4«.

What was meant to be remapped in September was Kerameikos, an ancient pottery district north-west of the Acropolis.

It was a strange and disconcerting scenery in which »ReMap«, a contemporary art platform, took place for the fourth time. For almost a month, international galleries and independent projects moved into abandoned apartments from the sixties and neoclassicist buildings.

Berlin based gallery Peres Projects showed large-format, psychedelic paintings of Jeff Elrod.

Besides there were a German-Greek project called Gallery Utopia Athens/Berlin and the German frontviewsgallery, an independent collective of artists and theorists.

Frontviews showed a group exhibition named »Idiopolis — Dialectics between Subject and Society« curated by Stephan Köhler. Idiot, in this case, is not meant as swear word, but refers to the ancient Greek word ἰδιώτης/idiot, which describes a person without a political office. In ancient Greek a person without a political office was a private person. Back then as well as today the public sphere has to organize and provide spaces allowing one to be private.

The works shown in the exhibition »Idiopolis – Dialectics between Subject and Society« tackled the relation between public and private sphere and seemed to raise a virulent question in Kerameikos: Where do the lines between private and public run? Who is responsible for public space?

The Greek investor and art collector Iasson Tsakonas bought a lot of the houses ReMap 4 was taking place in. His firm OLIAROS has been responsible for the organization since 2007. He gives young and underrepresented artists the opportunity to show their work in remarkable spaces and also supports independent projects. Participants are only requested to pay for marketing and organizational costs in case their budget allows it.

Still, one could have the impression that someone there did not want to wait until Kerameikos changes like many other districts in Europe’s capitals today. In Kerameikos, gentrification got a rocket propulsion. With a lot of money an important space has been given to art. And it looks like art has to sell properties in return. Around the galleries’ White Cubes, the first skeletons of change have already been built: Apartment houses made out of steel and glass in a modern style which OLIAROS successfully sells to VIPs like Madonna and Tom Hanks on Antiparos Island. Here in Kerameikos they look like beings from another planet. KM Properties, Tsakonas Athens’ project, is currently less successful. The crisis has temporarily stopped it.

At this year’s opening, Athens’ major Giorgos Kaminis was present for the first time. Politics is called to account for what is happening in Kerameikos. The district has to change if the city wants to stop its decay.

But unfortunately change, like other public tasks, has been handed over to investors. Only what does it mean for the community when not merely islands but whole districts are sold to rich private investors who turn them into luxury enclaves? The Greek crisis got Kerameikos a pause for breath which should be used for a negotiation about participation in the city’s spaces and the nature of living together. It is not only a Greek but a European question raised at the foot of the Acropolis.

Rebecca Hoffmann

Rebecca Hoffmann studied German Literature at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, she currently works on Sigmund Freud’s unpublished notebooks. She works for the Berlin based art platform “frontviews”, for which she lately curated an exhibition in Berlin, focused on Greece.

The Naked