The exhibition will bring together for the first time work by many of the internationally renowned artists who have lived and worked in Greece during the twentieth century. Looking at Greece as a site of inspiration over the past sixty years, works to be included reflect the various ways in which the country, its long cultural history and geographic characteristics have continued to be a source for artistic innovation. Concentrating only on those artists who have invested a lengthy stay in Greece or in some cases established second homes there, the exhibition will bring to light both well-known visitors as well as those who have quietly been present over the last decades.
From the elegiac meditations of British artists John Craxton and Ben Nicholson in the 1950s whose paintings and drawings respond to the landscape, light and mythology of the Greek islands, to the painterly approach of Brice Marden whose series of works on marble from 1981 appear like fragments of ancient structures transformed into abstract painting, the exhibition will include a variety of response to the country.
Cy Twombly’s ‘Delian Odes’ a series of drawings made on his first visit to the Cycladic Islands in 1961 will represent the artist’s ongoing fascination with Greek culture and mythology, also to be included is the work of Lynda Benglis whose pleated and gilded sculptures recall the fabric drapery of the Caryatid. A central work in the exhibition, the series of sculptures ‘Magie à la noix,’ 1966-67 by Daniel Spoerri made on the island of Symi as well as extracts from his book “Mythology and Meatballs’ written on his return in 1968 represent the artist’s quintessential commingling of food and culture.
The Greek-born Lucas Samaras, Iannis Xenakis and Jannis Kounellis, each of whom left the country in their youth but continued to make works intimately connected to its history and culture, will be represented by key works that reveal their often complex relationship to their homeland. Shown for the first time in Greece, Martin Kippenberger’s legendary project MoMAS (the Museum of Modern Art Syros)—the lengthy and typically humorous project that used one of the many half built structures in the country as the starting point for a fanciful museum of modern art staffed by the artist’s friends and acquaintances—and ‘Metro Net’ the fantastical world-wide subway system (also initiated on Syros with the first metro entrance built there in 1993) will be presented through models, paintings, drawings and ephemera. Markus Lüpertz’ dithyrambic first paintings from the early 1960s (the title of which refers to the ecstatic songs and rituals honouring Dionysus) and Helmut Middendorf’s abstract paintings that dwell on the concrete surfaces that dominate Athens will also be on view. The youngest artists in the exhibition, Manfred Pernice and Juergen Teller offer a Kippenberger-like ironic perspective on the contemporary position of classical heritage.
Among the questions that the exhibition will raise are how has the role of ancient culture changed in contemporary art and at what point did artists cease to travel to Greece for extended periods of time. The exhibition brings to light the striking shift in contemporary culture that has seemingly witnessed an end to the traditional ‘Grand Tour’ so closely associated with Byron and his fellow Romantic artists. Where do artists seek inspiration now and what parallel can be drawn with the current globalised age of hyper-mobility and the travel and cultural explorations of previous generations of artists?
Participating artists: Etel Adnan | Lynda Benglis | Leonard Cohen | John Craxton | Barbara Hepworth | Martin Kippenberger | Jannis Kounellis | Markus Lüpertz | Brice Marden | Helmut Middendorf | Ben Nicholson | Manfred Pernice | Lucas Samaras | Daniel Spoerri | Juergen Teller | Cy Twombly | Iannis Xenakis
Curator: Jessica Morgan The exhibition is curated by Jessica Morgan, Tate Modern. Morgan has curated numerous exhibitions for Tate including the retrospectives of Gabriel Orozco (2011), John Baldessari (2009) and Martin Kippenberger (2006) as well as group exhibitions such as Common Wealth (2003), Time Zones (2004) and The World as a Stage (2007).
Exhibition duration | 15 April – 10 October 2011