Athens – Street art guide #1
This article was originally published on Blocal blog.
Athens, seen from above, is a white ocean of roofs meeting the Mediterranean sea somewhere at the horizon. Athens, street view, is a very colourful town: posters, installations, kiosks and a lot of street art (a lot! Really!), including several large outdoor murals.
Some of them were possible thanks to many creative projects undergone by the Athens Municipality (especially before the Olympic Games of 2004) which involved some major local street artists, often coming straight from the Athens School of Fine Arts (which runs a programme of street art studies, by the way).
If this effort of beautifying the city is the sparkle which transformed Athens’ street art from a niche subculture into something the whole town can relate to, the economical crisis is the fuel which made Athens’ street art grow and evolve.
Nowadays the scenario is that of a town full of (colour-washed) energy: graffiti hunting around Athens can reveal both large, colourful and majestically painted murals and rebellious, most spontaneous and protest-driven street art, sort of “social messages” on walls; and the most amazing thing is that often the same talented street artist could be making both.
Street art in Athens is more likely to be found downtown, especially in the neighbourhoods of Exarchia, Psyrri, Anafiotika and Gazi, the last one being very close to another area full of street art: Metaxourgeio district.
Here is part 1 of street art in Athens by Guilia Blocal.
Right from my first afternoon in town, Metaxourgeio became my favourite district of Athens: born as an industrial district at the beginning of the 19th century, after a long period of abandonment Metaxourgeio is now becoming the artsy neighbourhood of Athens. But although Metaxourgeio is currently reinventing itself, a somewhat grungy heart still beats beneath its art galleries and brand-new hip restaurants.
I’ve been discouraged to enter Metaxourgeio by many people and yes, there are some drug users around who may not like you taking pictures while they are doing their business… but apart from that, Metaxourgeio is an area full of creative energy definitely worth a visit, especially if you are into street art. An area to visit right now, before it will be eventually gentrified.
While the redevelopment of other districts of Athens -such as Psyrri and Gazi- was due to new laws encouraging the settlement of night clubs and restaurants, Metaxourgeio’s transformation owes a big deal to the efforts of many individual artists, bar owners and cultural organizations, such as The Breeder Project and the Rabbithole Theatre (both worth a visit, if only for the great street art covering their buildings).
Another great feature of the hood is the village-like atmosphere: have a coffee on Avdi Square or a walk along the cobbled pedestrian alleys and you will enjoy a relaxed atmosphere unlikely to find anywhere else in Athens. In Metaxourgeio I found a street art work by my beloved Borondo and I had my first glimpse at INO’s art, who immediately became my favorite street artist from Athens.
Psyrri area undergone a make-over before Olympics games in 2004, transitioning from a neighbourhood with a dangerous reputation and a criminal past to a gentrified district full of carefully designed bar and restaurants, maybe the most fashionable and trendy area in the centre of Athens.
But if the Municipality of Athens made it an area designated to nightlife, wandering around Psyrri during the day will make you discover authentic craftsmen stores (a testimony to a past of a working-class neighbourhood full of leather workers’ shops and small factories) and a lot of large murals. Psyrri is a very colourful neighbourhood where you can find great street art and some interesting art galleries as well (such as a.antonopoulou.art, AD gallery and Sarri12).
Look for Alexandros Vasmoulakis’ and Vangelis Hoursoglou’s art: they both are from that old school generation which brought public art into the streets of Athens for the very first time.
Nestled under the Acropolis, Anafiotika is a village-like neighborhood of few small Greek houses which will make you feel as you were on an Greek island. But the real surprise is that within Anafiotika’s maze of narrow streets and stone houses you will find a lot of street art!
Despite the fact that almost all street artists you will find in Anafiotika are from France (go figure), the first piece I found at the beginning of my hunt is a Dimitris Taxis’ poetical and melancholic character.
Few steps forward, I stopped to look at the panoramic view on Athens’ roofs and I was caught by surprise by a Gregos’ mask stuck on the corner of a building, which reminded me that the French artist spent a couple of years in Athens when he was younger and he still has a strong bound with the town.
I entered Anafiotika’s maze from a narrow hidden alley (the one connecting Prytaniou with Stratonos street) all covered by LOAF’s artworks, whose bright colors look even brighter on those Greek-white walls.
As I had the farsightedness of venturing close to the Acropolis on 1st of January morning (when everybody else was still recovering from NYE and all souvenir shops were firmly closed), I also had the opportunity to enjoy the village-like atmosphere of Anafiotika all by myself; I was amazed by the authentic charm this small area of Athens still retains, hidden somewhere within its characteristic tiny houses, and also by the fact that this very touristic and very central hood has also a lot of street art! For some reasons, this still sounds surprising to me: I’ve always found street art in suburban areas (the most far from the historic centre, the better) but Athens is definitely breaking this rule.
Watch this space for part 2.
Article written by Giulia Blocal – thanks!