The new contemporary art exhibition that will take place at the Museum of Cycladic Art from April – October 2011 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 seventy 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 1940s whose paintings and drawings respond to the landscape 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.
Also to be included is the work of Lynda Benglis whose pleated and gilded sculptures recall the fabric drapery of the Caryatid and the cookery book of Daniel Spoerri “Mythology and Meatballs’ written on the island of Symi in 1966. The Greek-born Lucas Samaras and Jannis Kounellis, both of whom left the country in their youth but continued to make work intimately connected to its history and culture will be represented by key works that reveal their often complex relationship to the past.
Shown for the first time in Greece, Martin Kippenberger’s legendary project MoMAS (the Museum of Modern Art Syros) will be presented through the architectural model, drawings and ephemera that the artist made to represent this 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. Markus Lüpertz dithyrambic paintings referring 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.
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?