What’s Happening: To celebrate the 200th anniversary of Greece’s liberation from the Ottoman Empire, the arts organization Neon will renovate the historic Lenorman Street Tobacco Factory in Athens into a giant cultural center.
The Download: Built in 1930 and designed by architects Pavlos Athanasakis and Antonis Ligdopoulos, the Lenorman Street Tobacco Factory was declared a historic monument by the Greek Ministry of Culture in 1989. Renovations on the property began in 2000, but the 2009 Greek financial crisis hamstrung those efforts. Half of the building currently lies unused while the other half houses the library of the Hellenic Parliament.
Neon founder Dimitris Daskalopoulos is currently leading a top-down renovation of the nearly 70,000-square-foot building, which will present the inaugural exhibition “Portals” from June to December 2021. Co-organized by Madeleine Grynsztejn, director of the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, and Elina Kountouri, director of Neon, “Portals” draws inspiration from Arundhati Roy’s namesake essay and features site-specific works by Michael Rakowitz, Glenn Ligon, Danh Vo, and Maria Loizidou. When “Portals” closes, the building will be gifted back to the state for use as an all-encompassing cultural center.
In Their Own Words: “I was thinking, how do you make this historical event relevant 200 years after it happened, without making it a nationalist celebration?” Kountouri tells The Art Newspaper. “This is always a danger when a nation celebrates their past.”
“This artistic event is inspired mainly by the Greece of today,” says Constantine A. Tassoulas, president of the Hellenic Parliament. “In an unexpectedly bizarre and prolonged pandemic era, art can and does liberate. In this same way, the message that today’s Greece can inspire the most contemporary and remarkable potential of art is also liberating.”
Surface Says: We’re just glad they’re not building luxury condos.