Greece’s Economic Crisis, the Art Scene and the Market These Days

The economic crisis that has haunted Greece has often been echoed in the media, but the increasing social unrest seems to have been a boon to creativity. In the field of visual arts, many art professionals say Greek art has woken up from a deep sleep.

By Eva Kekou, 4Humanities International Correspondent

Despite the grim side of Greece’s economic crisis, the ongoing austerity measures, two massive bailout packages and the growing unrest throughout society, the country’s arts sector is displaying an effervescence of creativity and development.

Although the budget cuts have had a substantial impact on the arts – forcing many arts organizations to cut programs due to a lack of funds – many people working in the field say such chaos has energized them and given them common ground to work on.

Dimitris Michalaros, the co-curator of Visual Art Festival Action Field Kodra in Thessaloniki, has said they were trying to turn the festival into a gigantic community project for the last two years and that many locals in the area volunteered at the space. New artist-run spaces have emerged and people are acting more collaboratively, although the work most artists and curators do is voluntary, even in those cases where a payment has been agreed upon in advance. Almost no one is paid and they all get by from minimal family support. The very lucky ones have side jobs as art teachers, bar tenders, etc. (and they are really lucky if they are also paid for that job). We seem, though, to value art and expression through it more highly these days. It seems as if there is a great need to take it out, express ourselves and communicate.

It is remarkable that a number of big art events took place these past two years, including Athens Biennale and Thessaloniki Biennale, the Fringe festival, and the Athens art video festival. Only a small number of galleries have closed down, although many do not sell anymore. It seems to be another Greek paradox of the crisis. As I would like to think positively, I would also like to think that this crisis will make us act with more solidarity, in groups, and view art not as a self-consumed product but rather as something that addresses current issues and notions today. I also want to believe that continuing crisis as part of the economic world will put a number of well-hidden problems in the art scene in Greece onto the negotiating table and help people address these issues in a straightforward, honest way that works toward the resolution of these problems.

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