New World Art Capital: Athens

If you are interested in art, then Athens should be the place to go to next. The art scene in Athens is booming. New cultural spaces open almost daily. Studios and apartments are turned into galleries. For artists, living in Athens is cheaper than elsewhere. Artist have moved their studios from London and Berlin to Athens. And art is seen in Athens, not only bought.

When artist Sofia Stevi moved to London ten years ago, she thought it was forever. Then came the London real estate boom rocketing house prices and rents into stratospheric regions. The cost of living in London has become unsustainable for young artists today. Sofia Stevi lived and worked in the trendy district of Peckham in South London. Now, this district has become gentrified with dire consequences for the rental market.

In 2013, she packed her bags and moved to Athens lock, stock, and barrel. Money wasn't the only reason, though. In the wake of the financial crisis with a lot of help from Germany, Greece has become the epicentre of changing Europe. In Athens, you can witness how Europe is about to change. In Greece, so many things are currently that artists are naturally attracted. There is space for artists and their art in the city. Space to live, space to work, space to exhibit, space to be free. London is the exact opposite of Athens, little space to live, little space work, little space to exhibit, and no freedom of expression. Everything produced in London has to conform to an art market that wants to control art, rather than help it. The London art market is a capitalist's dream come true.

Greece, however, is currently dissolving under the pressure from capitalist governments. This makes it a fertile breeding ground for avant-garde artists and their art. London is all about the artist, his social status, his career, his success. Sofia Stevi spent more time hunting for a gallery to host an exhibition than making art happen. Athens may be in flux, but at the same time it is calmer and more laid back. Artists are given time to think about their work instead of worrying about where the money for the next rent comes from.

Artist Bobby Dowler is Sofia Stevi's partner and moved with her. In their Athenian apartment, they  have hosted two exhibitions in the past few months to come into contact with the local art scene. The low living costs as compared to London allows artists to work without making any concessions to self-appointed art critics as in London. In order to survive in London, Bobby Dowler had been constrained to make more and more market oriented crap instead of art.

Andreas Sell moved from Berlin to Athens. He, too, just housed an exhibition in his home. He presented his sculptures made of material collected from the street as etudes to his next art project. For Andreas Sell, Athens, is only an intermediate stop. Heplans to continue his work on the Aegean island of Lesbos. That choice has more to do with his artistic development than with developments in Greece.

Berlin like London is totally overrated and overpriced. The Berlin art scene is finished. The London art scene died from an acute case of capitalism, the Berlin art scene succumbed to gluttony. In Athens, however, people come to look at art because they want to look at art, not because they are looking for their next investment. While the arty farty crowds in Berlin and London discuss the latest art auction results, the arts aficionados in Athens discuss art.It is this last fact that makes Athens incomparably more valuable to artists than London or Berlin.

Further reading
Blowing up the Acropolis
The Athenian Navy Revisited
Is It All Greek to You?