Kathimerini Greece Newsroom
by Maro Vassiliadou
It is the first cultural event of Greece in the Vatican, one of the centers that shaped European art. And that makes it special in the first place. The exhibition "Society of Persons - The depiction of the human form. From Post-Byzantine Art to Contemporary Greek Painting", organized by the Greek Embassy in the Holy See in collaboration with the National Gallery - Alexandros Soutsos Museum was inaugurated a few days ago in the historic center of Rome, in Piazza della Cancelleria
"We had the idea to organize an art event, because in the Vatican and in the Italian peninsula in general, classical Greece and our modern literature are very famous, but not the painting production of the post-revolutionary period", says Panos Kalogeropoulos, representative of Kathimerini Greece in the Holy See, who had a leading role in the conception and implementation of this project. "We believe that, although Rome preserves a huge artistic legacy created under the auspices of the Popes, this should not discourage us from showing such remarkable painters of our own."
The Palazzo della Cancelleria of the Vatican, where the exhibition is housed, was built in the late 15th century and housed the papal government until its demolition in 1870. It is housed outside the walled Vatican City but is under the principle of extraterritoriality. Until December 8, 66 works of Greek paintings from the collections of the National Gallery, from museums and institutions, as well as from private collections are exhibited in this palace. The most important painters of modern Greek art are represented, from Nikolaos Gyzis, Nikiforos Lytras and George Iakovidis to Giannis Moralis, Giannis Tsarouchis, and the most modern Chronis Botsoglou, Giannis Psychokoros and Christos Rostor among others.
Christos Bokoros (Agrinio 1956), "Myrsini", 2008. Oil paints on linen, 120 x 100 cm. (Collection of Sotiris Felios).
The curator is the honorary director of collections and museological programming of the National Gallery Olga Mentzafou, with partner Maria Migadi, an independent art historian. An additional important element for the exhibition is the decision to start with hagiography. "Byzantine art, continuity and evolution of Hellenistic art, gives special emphasis to the depiction of the face", explains Ms. Mentzafou. "So we begin our exhibition with the hagiography of the post-Byzantine era because we believe that through its evolution and the influences it received and incorporated, we reach the genesis of the new Greek art: in the Venetian-occupied Ionian Islands first and then in the Greek state founded after liberation from the Turkish yoke. Alongside, special reference is made to the aesthetic principles of Byzantine art that revived in the 1920s and 1930s and in fact with a turn to its sources, the Fayum. The artists of this generation, through the depiction of the face, will give the measure by which they can draw from the national heritage without distancing themselves from the principles of modernism ".
The exhibition also marks two anniversaries: The forty years since the exchange of ambassadors between the Hellenic Republic and the Holy See (1980) and, of course, the 200th anniversary of the Struggle of Greek Polygenesis. The choice of topic was crucial. "The depiction of the human form is a fundamental element of the way in which Greco-Roman civilization saw the world around it," comments Mr. Kalogeropoulos. "We also thought it would be interesting for the Italian public to know how a society that had been cut off for well-known reasons from the artistic development of the rest of Europe for centuries, managed to reconnect with it over two or three generations and participate equally in becoming international art."
Chronis Botsoglou (Thessaloniki 1941), "The sculptor Alberto Giacometti", 2003. Oil on canvas, 199 x 98.5 cm (collection by Sotiris Feliou).
"The presence of the human form and its depiction from Byzantine icons to the present day, as it was formed in Greece over the years, is the pre-eminent theme that corresponds to the humanist environment of Rome and especially the Vatican, and expresses the inseparable link between of our countries ", says Ms. Mentzafou. In various historical, political, social, religious, philosophical, poetic conditions, the depiction of the face conveys ideas and concepts that sometimes have symbolic value, sometimes heroize or deconstruction of the depicted, but always through the prism of the artist's personal approach, which is influenced decisively from his psychology and worldview. Ancient beliefs connected the depiction of the face with worship rituals of the deity first, and of the ruler later.
"Through the portrait, as an aesthetic formulation and at the same time as a social and historical testimony of each era, we follow the evolution of the depiction of the human form", says the curator. "The work mainly expresses the bourgeoisie that is depicted, but it also states the personal approach of the artist who recognizes the natural uniqueness of the depicted, in parallel with the one that he wants to project. A "Society of Faces" that defines the identity of the person, invites the artist to explore the mystery of his presence, and the viewer to participate and understand this mystery ".
The design of the exhibition was done by Omot, architecture teacher Sonia Charalambidou and Irini Charalambidou, architect.