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The wizards from “Merlin” street

01 May 2010 / 08:05:41  GRReporter
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Zdravka Mihaylova

Exclusive for GRReporter


Founded in 2004, the Foundation for Fine Arts and Music “Teoharakis” for years now has its authoritative presence in the cultural life of Athens. It is an expression of the multidimensional personalities of its creators - Vassilis and Marina Teoharakis who not only steer the helm of one of the most successful holdings in the auto industry, bank transactions, construction, healthcare, cosmetics, digital systems and shipping, but also contribute as patrons. Vassilis Teoharakis is a student of the famous Greek painter Spyros Papaloukas, debuts with his art works at the World Youth Festival in Moscow in 1957, his paintings were shown at exhibitions in Greece and abroad, he has purchases for private and other collections. He is awarded by the French Government with the title Knight of Honor Legion, and by the Ecumenical Patriarch with the honor title Archon; Marina Teoharaki also has assets in her exhibitions as well as artistic arrangement of a number of publications.

You can not skip (on the corner of Vassilis Sofias Blvd and Merlin Street ) - especially at night – the discretely but noticeably lighted, elegant renovated neoclassical building of the foundation, just opposite to the Parliament. In the heart of Athens, with recognizable silhouette and high aesthetics, it arises before our eyes the after the facade of the Ministry of foreign affairs and before some of the embassies of Great Powers and the Benaki Museum. It shelters the Foundation since 2005; it has been built at the end of the twenty years of the twentieth century and reflects the eclecticism of the inter war period, by combining elements of most of the European styles. In 1985 it was declared a cultural monument. During its renovation it is designed with the characteristic for a multi-functional cultural center spaces: halls for temporary and permanent exhibitions, a concert amphitheater, art souvenir shop, cafeteria and more.

As guid lines for the selection of the thematic exhibitions in the Foundation we will mention the last three of them. "Fellini in the art" (18/04-20/09/2009), reveals a less familiar side of the great Italian director through his sketches and drawings entitled "Dreams and intrusive ideas". Although known to the general public with his films, not all people know that before he started to work in the cinema industry Fellini worked in cooperation with various magazines with his sketches. Together with the “Federico Fellini” Foundation  from his hometown of Rimini, Foundation “Teoharakis” organized the first exhibition in Greece containing 80 of his original drawings.

In the exhibition "The man in the city: the color in architecture and painting (5/10/2009-7/12/2009) the famous Greek painter Alekos Fasianos and the teacher in the Athens Polytechnic Tasis Papayoanou presented 200 works - paintings, models, designs, mural paintings, photographs and drawings, discussing on the formation of modern megalopolises, seeking the answer to the question “How does the appearance of a city change?” Main axis of the exposition was the daily life of people in large urban centers where the architecture and painting are intersecting fields for creative contribution.  

The recent “Modernists era - from Monet to Yves Klein” was followed by “The faces of the Balkan Modernism: Greek, Bulgarian and Romanian Painting 1910-1940” (March 12 to May 9) wide angle look at the major Balkan artists from European caliber. Unchanging focus in the events of the non-profit foundation that supports and promotes art and music from Greece and abroad, are the emergence and evolution of modern art movements from the late nineteenth century until modern days. Among its priorities are also the interdisciplinary approach and the building partnerships relations with similar institutions. It owns one of the richest collections of paintings of the contemporary Greek artist Spyros Papaloukas, as well as of other Greek artists, a significant number of which are among the exhibits in its current event. Exhibitions there are accompanied by chamber concerts and seminars on the history, philosophy of art and music.

The project is cofinanced under the Programme for Culture 2007-2013 of the EU. Core of its concept is the exhibition “Faces of Modernism: Painting in Bulgaria, Greece and Romania, 1910-1940”. Bulgarian and Romanian paintings presented in the exhibition are from the National Museum of Art in Romania and the National Art Gallery-Museum of Visual Arts in Sofia. Greek works are from the collection of the Foundation “V & M Teoharakis”, from private collections such as the one of Alpha Bank and Foundation Yannis Tsaruhis, from the National Gallery, the “Averof” Museum in Metsovo, The Thessaloniki Municipal Gallery, the collection of Prodromos and Emfietzoglou and others. From the canvas “Open Door” by Nikos Hadzikikiakos – Gikas, may be derived the symbolic name of the entire exposition which comes to Athens after its successful presentation in Bucharest and Sofia. Curators from the three countries are Irina Genova, Takis Mavrotas and Mariana Vida.  

In his message to the visitors the authors of the project “Balkan modernism” asks the rhetorical question if this term does not contain a certain contradiction. As usually the modern art is seen as a "trademark" of the industrially developed Western nations. Maybe so, but only for those unfamiliar with the art of South and Southeastern Europe. One of the objectives of the project “Balkan modernism” is to rebut the negative load of the Balkans as a terminally backward part of Europe rather torn by political strife and “bloodletting” than committed to the creation of a progressive art region. To unbewitch these preliminary thinking attitudes, by revealing the many levels of art in these latitudes of Europe. In the early twentieth century Bulgaria, Greece and Romania are involved in a deep transformation of local aesthetic searches throuth the introduction of ideas, forms and techniques developed in the cosmopolitan metropolises of Western Europe. Views and experiences of artists, most of whom spent some time there, awakening the sensitivity to the importance of modern art as a factor forming the European identity.

With the establishment of national states in the second half of the 19th century on the Balkans starts to stand out the demand and the establishmen - the picturesque arts as well - a national cultural identity, as the stylistic and ideological trends are accompanied by an attempt to achieve a modern artistic expression. Understanding of space is a characteristic difference in each different period. Modern painting focuses on the independence of color, line and light. If until the World War One in the landscape and cityscape paintings dominate the post-impressionism coupled with elements of symbolism, in the twenties the importance has shifted to the place of the space in landscape, elements are taken from the Orthodox tradition and popular art. At the end of this decade the return to the object space is a common feature of the trends in the major art centers: the new objectivity in Germany and the subsequent neoclassical wave across Europe.

Curators inform us that in Bulgaria the charm of the memory of past, forgotten, pre-academic systems and the recognition of their reality is reflected in the movement for native art, in Greece during the Byzantine period and neoclassicism, in the program for “Romanian art”, as well as gravitate towards “Balkan expression”, characteristic of the circle “Zenith” in Belgrade and Zagreb. They all demonstrate the demand for a Balkan, authentic expression not imported from outside. The human image in modern art is also subject to changes and the human body as expression and creation of the imagination appears in several incarnations. Converted into "smoked meat" during the first war, and at the same time in a killing machine, it now requires new interpretations alienating from the simbolistic visions towards the anticipation of a nightmare and ruin. The eternal subject in the creative arts for the body as an object of desire is marked in a new way by the things lived through during the war; in the early twenties the foundations of human relationships are subject to trials and doubt and the way for new searches is opened.

Accustomed to images of Kyustendil girls with big breasts with fruit trees in the background, we see no human being, created by the hand of the Master but rather an urban landscape “A View from Constantinople” and the canvas “Turkish Cemetery”, in which, painted with the same brushstrokes, as in his portrait painting, are sprouting a forest of minarets and Muslim gravestones. They years spent abroad by a number of Bulgarian artists make their mark on their oeuvre and with the literal presence of European places in them: Ivan Penkov with "Nuremberg", Sirak Skitnik with "The “Fontanka” canal in St. Petersburg” and “Landscape from Athens”, Tseno Todorov with “Marne River in the vicinity of Paris”, the Cyril Tsonev’s canvas “Port Vigo in Spain”, "At the Bodensee Lake" by Elena Karamihailova, “Arno, Italy” by Vera Nedkova, the contrasting black and red in “Love on the beach” by Georges Papazov who lived in France. And the urban landscapes of Nikola Tanev – “The Maria Luisa Boulevard in Sofia”, Nikola Petrov – “Bansko Square in Sofia” and others. talks with the surrealism of N. Engonopoulos in “Railway station” and “The poet and his muse”, with "Landscape of Mount Pendel" and “Guided” by N. Litras, “A landscape from Lavrio” by Constantine Maleas, and “Cafe on the island Mitylene” by Spiros Papaloukas. Those who missed the big retrospective exhibition of Yannis Tsaruhis at the Museum Benaki can see here four of his exceptional examples. "The Dream of Mary Magdalene" by Goshka Datzov refers to the apocalyptic vision of religious ecstasy, while "Ave Natura" by Boris Georgiev envokes associations with the atmosphere of the pre-raphaelites. The watercolor "Dancer" by Nikola Marinov has a hypnotic beauty of the female image, and his masterful portraiture. You will also not pass unnoticed the painted by Ivan Nenov “Portrait of Vaska Emanouilova” holding in her hand as Orthodox saints models of churches, the mark of her craft - a miniature skultpura. And in the typical for the modernist searches canvas "Pub" by the same artist, the profile of the solitary woman listening to restaurant music facing a jug of wine is repeated the contour of the flowting around her musical instrument. In “Glass jar” by I. Nenov the still life is painted with the techniques of cubism and expressionism. Its due is also paid to the facial painting of Cyril Tsonev. Woodcut by Vassil Zahariev "Basilica St. Sophia” enters into a dialogue with the watercolor tones of “Th Temple of Afea of Aegina” by Spyros Papaloukas. Ivan Abrashev with “A woman infront of the mirror”, Pascal Jules with “Naked Boy” also attract the attention. Along with them the works of the Greek artists Partenis, Papaloukas, Diamandopulos, Buzianis, Litras, Vizantios, Diamandopulos, Hadzikiriakos-Gikas, Galanis, Maleas, Ikonomu alternate scattered in the room with the Romanian modernists Marcel Janko, Corneliu Mihaylesku, Victor Brauner, Max Herman Maxie with the typical for them range from Surrealism to Cubism and Expressionism.

The one hundred and twenty representative canvases by 55 artists from the three countries laid out the origin and development of modern painting in the neighborhood along the vertical axis north-south Romania, Bulgaria and Greece in the interwar period. Key figures of contemporary trends in them, who not infrequently received their education in the cultural centers of Europe, perceive effects of its vanguard. After returning home, they bring cosmopolitan experience and the ideas of artistic renewal. Typical feature of contemporary trends in the "periphery" of Europe is the desire of many artists in the Balkans to identify a recognizable national identity, while commensurable with the perceived as universal aesthetic values of the modernism, to combine a vanguard style with the traditional techniques and thematic links. Through the conversation between the masters of the brush from the three countries the similarities and differences between them have been highlighted, their parallels with their respective artistic currents in the West. During its first steps the modernism brings with it a certain elitism that along with the aestetics of the limited number of artists make improvements in the format through a “specific to them bohemian atmosphere”, says the Romanian curator of the exhibition Mariana Vida. Today, modernism is the subject of ever-growing interest both from researchers and the general public as it relates to the contemporary society and its interest in discovering its own roots.

At the beginning of the year within the same project in Bulgaria was held a conference on the subject of “The magazines of vanguard”, whose focal point was the urban culture. "The city and the magazines of the Bulgarian vanguard" discussed on the portrayal of the town in the press of the Bulgarian modernists and intellectual circles formed around them, how they shape the culture of the time. An answer to the question which are the cities of the Bulgarian vanguard gives in his lecture held in the National Museum of Visual Arts, Lora Shumkova who works in the field of literary anthropology of the city (1919-1939).

And the discussion of the literary critic Jordan Eftimov "Ours and others in the magazines of the Bulgarian vanguard" 
was focused on the role of European examples in the Bulgarian art and literature just before, during and after World War I, as well as the interpretation of the Bulgarian imagination on topics provoked by European schools of art. Eftimov is assistant professor in the subject "Theory of Literature” in the New Bulgarian University in Sofia, author of the popular writeen scientiffic issue “Modernism” (2003) and observer of the books market for Capital newspaper.

The Romanian contribution to theorizing on the topic was the conference “Modern Architecture and Bucharest in the period 1930-1940”, highlighting the connections between the architecture with other arts in the period between the wars and highlighting the complementary aspect of modern architecture.

For those who would like to take not only in “The eye of their memory”, the visual experience from "The faces of the Balkan modernism", the organizers have issued a beautifully illustrated and meaningfully written catalog in four laguages with an introductory text by Jan Figel - European Commissioner for Education, Training , Culture and Youth, theoretical text, photographs of those works, biographical notes on the artists and a comprehensive bibliography.

Coffee "Merlin" on the first floor of the Foundation “Teoharakis” with a view to the garden behind the Parliament, with its sophisticated, hospitable and unostentatious luxury, represents a miniature model of the overall concept of its founders combining the understanding of modern and classical. Visitors fall in it as in a natural projection of the experience in the showrooms on three floors above and on level -1 in perfectly equipped concert hall are waiting for him musical events and lectures. Music header of the exposition were concerts on April 15th and 16th in which compositions on the verses of K. Kavakis and Suite for Piano "Beatrice" by the world famous maestro Dimitris Mitropulos Greek were performed and The Bulgarian music vanguard of the early twentieth century was skillfully presented by pianist Lilia Boyadjieva through her marked by dramatism of the works musical technique as well as through the selection of music pieces by Bulgarian composers who graduated their education in Europe and took the spirit of Modernism: “Rhapsody Vardar” by P. Vladigerov, four fragments of “Cinema Suite” by D. Nenov, fragments of “Spring suggestions” by L. Pipkov and “Toccata” by the student of P. Vladigerov V. Kazandjiev (b. 1934).

Final touches to the months-long project will be raised by the symposium “Balkan modernisms” (23-25 April), which will bring together established art historians, art critics, curators and others. They will examine the phenomenon, pondering on the subject of the exhibition seen through the topics such as "Nationalism and universality", "Periphery and Center," “Historical vanguard”. At 18.00 on April 23rd will be held a tour of the exhibition with a "guide"-art critic, followed by a cocktail for professionals wishing to establish contact with their colleagues. Different perspectives will be shared for one of the most critical periods in the history of Southeastern Europe through the prism of the emerging modernism, in which could be distinguished ideological, cultural and political rivalries in the countries participating in the project. Simultaneously, they will be placed in the broader context of the European history of art, the local answers to issues with universal sound raised by the currents of modernism that flourished in major centers such as West Berlin, Paris, Zurich will be read. The ambition of the organizers is the result of enriching the understanding for the spread of the artistic creativity in thought as "periphery" geographical area of the Balkans, as well as understanding the importance of modernity for the crystallization of a European cultural area.

The presentations which confirmed their participation are: Stephen Mansbah, George Vida, Irina Subotich, Aphrodite Curia, Jonah Vlasiu, Beral Madre, Effie Strusa, Irina Genova and Adriana Sotropa. The working languages of the symposium are Greek and English, for which is provided simultaneous translation.
If you want to register to participate in it, click on, fill out the form and send it by e-mail to or fax No.: +30-210 3611349. Registering for the symposium is free.

The price of an entry ticket to the exhibition is € 6 and € 3 (and student discount).

Tags: Balkan modernism foundation Teoharakis art
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