- out there
documenta 14 / Athens
institutional partners & venues of the exhibition / in Athens
documenta 14 introduces institutional partners in Athens — and venues of the exhibition
documenta 14 is founded on several important institutional partnerships in Athens and Kassel. Each of these individual relationships with institutions—and the people who make them work—results in specific programming, research, and collaborative projects. Working together with partner institutions, documenta 14 points to a public sphere that is non-exclusionary and defined by encounters and possibilities—a public sphere in space and time.
Four years in the making, documenta 14 has gradually established a presence in Athens— and it now becomes visible, audible, and otherwise palpable through the multitude of voices that sustain the continuum of the exhibition during its one hundred days. Spaces and places of documenta 14 in Athens include museums, cinemas, theaters, libraries, archives, schools, television, radio, university auditoriums, public squares, streets, clubs, shops, parks and paths, and residential buildings—in short, all that comprises the great city in its density, richness, and strange beauty.
A major portion of the exhibition of documenta 14 spans the following four institutions:
- Athens Conservatoire (Odeion Athinon)
The Athens Conservatoire, commonly referred to as Odeion Athinon, is the only completed structure of an otherwise unrealized urban plan for the Athens Cultural Center designed by architect Ioannis Despotopoulos as part of a competition in 1959. The project was one of the most compelling propositions of modern Greek architecture: Despotopoulos envisioned a national theater, congress center, museum, library, and an open-air theater in close proximity in the city center. As a musical institution, the Athens Conservatoire was founded in 1871 by the Athens Music and Drama Society. Originally, instruction was given in just the flute and the guitar, in respective correspondence with Apollonian and Dionysian aesthetic principles; Despotopoulos cited the guitar neck as his inspiration for the design of the building.
In the documenta 14 exhibition at Odeion Athinon, the willfully mystic and modernist Greek composer Jani Christou plays a central role. Whereas his notion of the “continuum” provided an early experimental framework for working sessions between artists, curators, and the documenta 14 team, Christou’s idea that “music can be silent” and his methodology of “metapraxis” are relevant to a consideration of other composers like Pauline Oliveros, the Scratch Orchestra of Cornelius Cardew, and the new generation of artists presented at this venue.
Another aspect of the partnership between documenta 14 and Odeion Athinon has been the process of restoring the EMS Synthi 100, a rare analogue synthesizer built in a limited edition by Electronic Music Studios, London, in 1971 and later purchased by the Contemporary Music Research Center (KSYME). Four commissioned compositions on the instrument are being performed at Megaron for documenta 14, forming a relationship between the now “antique” machine and a new generation of Greek and international electronic musicians.
- Athens School of Fine Arts (ASFA)—Pireos Street (“Nikos Kessanlis” Exhibition Venue)
ASFA, which has its origins in the Royal School of Arts established in 1836, moved its departments of Fine Arts, Art Theory, and the History of Art into the former textile factory of the Sikiarides family in 1992.
ASFA was the first institution to partner with documenta 14 in the Greek capital, and here Learning from Athens is manifested as an exploration of creative formation and educational experimentation. Since the fall of 2016, Arnisa Zeqo of aneducation (the public education program of documenta 14) has led Elective Affinities, a seminar inviting students from various departments to engage with documenta 14 artists. The exhibition in the lofty galleries of the Nikos Kessanlis Exhibition Hall reaches beyond Athens, examining work from Ciudad Abierta, or “Open City,” founded outside Valparaiso in Chile, from Rabindranath Tagore’s Santiniketan school in the countryside of Bengal, and from Matanzas, the “Athens of Cuba”—to name just three key schools and sites of learning that documenta 14 examines.
- Benaki Museum
The Benaki Museum was founded in 1930 by the collector Antonis Benakis. Born into an important family of the Greek diaspora, Benakis donated his entire collection to the Greek state. The resulting Benaki Museum remains one of the most important museums in the country. Its collection consists of more than 500,000 objects spanning the spectrum of Greek art and culture and including works of Islamic, pre-Columbian, African, and Chinese art.
documenta 14 enters into a dialogue with four of the museum’s branches: the Benaki Museum of Islamic Art; the Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghika Gallery; the Mentis Center for the preservation of traditional textile techniques; and the Pireos Street 138 Annex, located in the once industrial Rouf area. With its inward-looking architecture and spacious inner courtyard, the 138 Pireos St. Annex offers an opportunity for investigating untold, unfinished, or otherwise overshadowed histories—and proposing novel museologies, instantiated by the newly commissioned and historical works included in this major portion of documenta 14 exhibition.
- EMST, National Museum Of Contemporary Art
The National Museum of Contemporary Art (EMST), which collects Greek and international art from the postwar period to the present, moved to its permanent home in the former Fix Brewery on Syngrou Avenue in 2014. The brewery was completed in 1961 by the visionary Greek architect Takis Zenetos in collaboration with Margaritis Apostolidis. Abandoned in 1984, the brewery was repurposed by the state metro company Attiko Metro S.A. in 1994, and the building’s northern half was demolished to make room for a metro stop, which opened in 2000. The EMST signed a fifty-year lease in 2002 and subsequently held a competition to turn the factory into a museum. 3SK Stylianidis Architects won, and in collaboration with Kalliope Kontozoglou, I. Mouzakis & Associate Architects, and Tim Ronalds Architects, they refurbished the eastern façade and interior of the building for exhibition purposes.
documenta 14 asks what (kind of citizen) can this factory still produce? The figure of Diogenes—the Cynic, cosmopolitan, and self-proclaimed citizen of the world—serves as our guide, whom we encounter on the ground floor in the copper engraving of Nicholas Poussin’s painting Landscape with Diogenes. Known for his austerity, Diogenes dispenses even with his cup after observing a youth using his bare hands to drink water.
More information for other institutions and sites that host the exhibition: documenta 14