Beyond documenta 14: Navigating Athens’ Art Scene

Natalie Hegert, MutualArt, 04/2017

One of the difficulties presented by the global scope of an international biennial-style exhibition is the tendency for the local art scene to become somewhat lost in the shuffle. Some have accused the organizers of documenta 14 of not engaging enough with the local Greek art scene, while those with more pessimistic outlooks have gone further and implicated them as perpetrators of a kind of “cultural imperialism.” Mostly, however, it appears to be a problem of sheer quantity and geographic dispersion. Documenta’s program in Athens, which opened to the public on April 8 and will continue until July 16, spreads the works of over 150 artists across 47 different venues, from the Agricultural University of Athens to the Yannis Tsarouchis Foundation. Most of the exhibition’s works are centralized in four main venues—the Athens Conservatoire (Odeion), the Athens School of Fine Arts (ASFA), the Benaki Museum, and the National Museum of Contemporary Art (EMST)—but range from ephemeral performances enacted on the southern coastline, to public interventions in the middle of the city, from large-scale installations in museum spaces, to immaterial musical scores and radio broadcasts.

Documenta 14 is so vast, dispersed, and enigmatic, that it is literally impossible to experience all of it (not to mention that the other half of the quinquennial exhibition has yet to take place, in Kassel, Germany). Yet the earnest visitor should make the effort, while in Athens, not only to take in what he or she can of the international offerings of documenta, but to wander off the beaten path of the biennial map, and sample what the local art scene of Athens has to offer. Particularly during this inaugural week, Athens expects thousands of international visitors, and Athenian art spaces are rolling out exhibitions responding to the biennial and taking advantage of the influx of international art tourists. Those coming to “learn from Athens” should also look beyond what the curators of documenta have prepared for them, and to engage directly with the city’s artists and art spaces.


Read the full online article here.