NEON activates a neoclassical residence at Kaplanos 11, Athens, by commissioning the new installation of Kostis Velonis. The artist conceived A Puppet Sun especially for this site, responding to its history, architecture and position in the heart of the city. The neoclassical residence, constructed in 1891 is a unique architectural example and one of the last remaining buildings of its kind in Athens. Narrated in such an extraordinary space, Velonis’ work addresses the site’s lived experience and memory, investigating the powerful historical, political and cultural intersections as well as personal narratives that are present.
The residence offers an incomparable historical context, taking up an exceptional place in the social and political life of Greece throughout 20th century. The residence was first occupied by Pavlos Kountouriotis, an admiral who later became the first President of the Second Hellenic Republic. Subsequently, it was utilised as literary salon and private residence of important personalities of the Greek 20th century history. Throughout the crucial decades of 1910 and 1920 it housed the headquarters of the People’s Party “Laikon Komma”. During the same period, Eleni Zouzoula-Kanellopoulos, the first female author of children’s books in Greece, established a literary salon in the residence. This became a central meeting point for literary figures, poets, painters and intellectuals that defined with their work the culture of the time in Athens.
The development of A Puppet Sun reflects Velonis’ desire to bring the multiple narratives of the residence back into existence, and spark a dialogue between concepts related to everyday life, privacy and politics. Exploring a symbiotic relationship with the site, Velonis embarks on a commission that encompasses a remarkable range of different media. He reveals the contradictions and coexistence of cultural aesthetics and ideological narratives, by combining the comic with the tragic, as well as social, political and psychoanalytical elements and influences that are central features to both the history of the residence, as well as his own work.
It is an initiative for public art and the city, conceived and commissioned annually by NEON, aiming to activate public and historical places through contemporary art, contributing to the interaction of art, society and the city. This new commission by NEON is the largest-scale solo presentation of Velonis’ work to date.
Kostis Velonis was born in Athens, where he lives and works. He has been awarded degrees from London Consortium (Birkbeck College, ICA, AA), Université Paris 8 (D.E.A), and a PhD from the National Technical University of Athens. He is represented in museum collections, including the National Museum of Contemporary Art (EMST), Athens. Velonis has participated in multiple exhibitions and residencies internationally and in recent years has exhibited at: Akademie Schloss Solitude, Stuttgart (2017); documenta 14, Fridericianum, Kassel (2017); Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp (M HKA); Antwerp - National Museum of Contemporary Art (EMST) (2017); Casa Maauad, Mexico (2016); Padiglione Arte Contemporanea, Milano (2016); Städtische Kunsthalle München, Munich (2015); Whitechapel Gallery, London (2015); Kunsthalle Athena, Athens (2014); Museo Tamayo, Mexico (2014); BOZAR, Brussels (2014) and MUMA, Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne (2014).
Kostis Velonis is represented by Kalfayan Galleries.
Vassilis Oikonomopoulos is Assistant Curator, Collections International Art at Tate Modern. He works closely with Tate’s Middle East and North Africa Acquisitions Committee, with a focus on formulating Tate’s strategy in the region. At Tate Modern he has curated the retrospective exhibition Alexander Calder: Performing Sculpture and also organised the 2016 Hyundai Commission Anywhen, with French artist Philippe Parreno in the Turbine Hall. He regularly publishes and lectures on contemporary art and is currently working on a retrospective of Fahrelnissa Zeid set to open in June 2017. Prior to Tate Vassilis has held curatorial positions in galleries and organisations international
Assistant Curator, Collections International Art, Tate Modern
Courtesy NEON & Kalfayan Galleries
Main Photo Images
Kostis Velonis, You Glow in my Heart like the Flames of Uncounted Candles, 2017