A Meeting Point For Artists in Athens
ATHENS—Amidst Kotzia Square’s emblematic infrastructure which houses the National Bank of Greece and the City Hall of Athens, inside a century-plus old neoclassical building is a place where the city’s cultural and artistic community comes together.
The space is called CAMP!, or the Contemporary Artist Meeting Point, and it aims to foster relationships and form connections between Greek artists, international artists and the public of Athens by creating and exhibiting innovative projects across various artistic platforms.
“We make art upstairs— host exhibitions and show theatrical pieces, cinema projections and house musical performances,” explains Dimitris Farmakis, one of the founding members of the space. “Then to gather people we have a bar downstairs where we make money to support the whole institution.” The bar is easy to spot under its bright yellow awning that hovers over its bustling terrace that spills into Kotzia’s main plaza.
Though the municipality has been unable to support CAMP! financially, Farmakis says they are very enthusiastic about the space. “We always have [the city’s] blessings, and they let us use the square without charging us money,” he says, mentioning that whenever possible CAMP! makes an effort to bring shows and exhibits out of the gallery and onto the streets. “We want to make the city more interesting and beautiful,” he says.
Farmakis explains the need for such an organization, as he says that limited or absent government funding is a ubiquitous issue across all sectors of art in Greece, “Due to the lack of funding here, art is usually a part-time job,” he says. “There are lots of great artists that have really great projects but are unable to present them, and there are other cases where quality suffers because artists don’t have the time because they have to work as a concierge or something to actually make money and live.”
Due to its understanding of both its own and the public’s financial limitations, CAMP! does what they can on a small budget, and makes widespread accessibility a priority. All of the exhibitions held in the space are completely free and open to the public, and the admission price of attending live performances is capped at five Euros.
“We make art for everyone to see,” says Farmakis. “The space is something that can make people come closer to art, and give artists a place where they can show things that they would never show in different circumstances.” He says that because CAMP! is not a gallery with an aim to sell, the potential to expose new ideas and experiment increases.
In its constant hope of remaining affordable CAMP! has formed a close relationship with the Athens-based initiative CheapArt—a non-profit organization that advocates innovation and collaboration and works creatively to combat longstanding issues of expensive and inaccessible art.
George Georgakopoulos, co-director of CheapArt stresses that one of the organization’s main priorities is to become a part of the city—an aim that is achieved partially through its relationship with CAMP!. “The point of this thing is to get connected, really connected—not virtually connected but actually connected with real people,” he says—adding that he thinks both organizations are on the right track as they have developed a working fusion between artists and the cultural public. “The participants are happy, the artists are happy and the public is very happy, the public is certainly part of this space—without the public it is nothing.”
Farmakis thinks CAMP!’s location is also key to its success. “We think [Kotzia] is the most beautiful square in Athens,” he says, pointing out its appeal due to its seclusion from main roads, liveliness, history and proximity to the markets.
Eva Hradil is an Austrian artist and curator whose exhibition Siga Siga is currently on display at CAMP!. She believes that Kotzia Square hugely benefits from the organization. She says it has managed to provide hope and confidence to the area during a time of crisis—one that has certainly affected CAMP!’s politically and financially focused neighbors. Hradil says the space brings international attention to art in Athens, and to the square. “It’s a place where everything seems possible,” she says. “When things seems to be shaky and unsteady, CAMP! brings a sign of confidence, it creates itself.”