THE SAME RIVER TWICE: CONTEMPORARY ART IN ATHENS

The DESTE Foundation and New Museum, New York, in collaboration with the Benaki Museum, Athens, are pleased to announce The Same River Twice, a forthcoming exhibition of Athens-based artists curated by Margot Norton and Natalie Bell. The exhibition, opening at the Benaki Museum 138 Pireos St. in June 2019, will focus on the city of Athens and its constantly evolving artistic landscape, which is host to countless artist-run initiatives and exhibition spaces, cross-disciplinary happenings and collaborations, and a dauntless energy that has enticed many non-Greek artists to relocate and to call Athens home. Featuring over thirty artists of all ages and nationalities, working across all mediums, the exhibition will offer a portrait of a city with an artistic dynamism that continues to unfold as artists seek new models for creative output and exchange.

The Same River Twice borrows its title from an aphorism attributed to the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, in which he famously asserted that “one cannot step in the same river twice.” The flow of water offered an apt analogy for the state of constant flux Heraclitus sought to describe, and extends to the continuous transformations of Athens’ art scene today—and thus the inherent impossibility of capturing or containing it at any given moment. As a city, Athens is always in perpetual transformation, and its artists have long found ways to document its shifting landscapes, whether through visual or material studies of the city’s attributes, meditations on its monuments, relics, and cast-offs, or inquiries into the character of its people and public spaces. For many artists, metamorphoses are central to their work: mediums defy stability and trace modulations in form, and artistic practices blur the lines between genres or disciplines. Among other artists in the show, the fluidity evoked by Heraclitus’s river offers a way of thinking of identity at a time when the political struggle of those seeking to define their gender or sexuality is both turbulent and vital within Greece, and worldwide. Throughout the works in the exhibition, change and transfiguration are not only constant but embraced, and resonate as fundamental to energy and character that shapes Athens and its many artists.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue designed by An Art Service, featuring an essay by the curators as well as texts by Nadja Argyropoulou, Danai Giannoglou, Delia Gonzalez, and Theophilos Tramboulis, whose contributions aim to establish a resource on Athens’s multifaceted art scene—from underground happenings and activist orientations, to the rise of artist-run spaces, and the critical realm of self-published art zines and journals.

The Same River Twice follows the 2016 exhibition The Equilibrists, which was also organized by the New Museum and DESTE Foundation and was conceived in the spirit of the DESTE Prize, an award given to a promising young Greek artist biannually from 1999–2015. It also embodies one of the aims of the Benaki Museum, a historical museum that aims to bridge the past and the present. The exhibition also aligns with the New Museum’s commitment to exhibiting emerging artists from around the globe, highlighted by its signature Triennial exhibition, which will be held next in 2021.

CURATED BY: Margot Norton and Natalie Bell