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EXHIBITION: Flying Over the Abyss With NEON and Nikos Kazantzakis in Athens
A major group exhibition by NEON Foundation explores the legacy of Nikos Kazantzakis at the modernist building of the Athens Conservatoire.
18 November 2016 - 29 January 2017
Wednesday to Friday 12:00-20:00, Saturday and Sunday 11:00-19:00
Vasileos Georgiou B 17, 106 75 Athens

Left: Ioanna Pantazopoulou R.E. Reconfigured Etiquette, 2012. Right: Paul Chan, My birds... trash... the future., 2004. Photo © Nikos Markou

A writer known primarily from “Zorba the Greek”, a cinematic adaptation of one of his novels, Nikos Kazantzakis was in fact a prolific and deeply philosophical author who was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature nine times. One of his most spiritual and famous books is “Ascesis: The Saviours of God” (known as Askitiki in Greek), which is a series of spiritual exercises on the nature of human existence. The text of Ascesis was the starting point for curator Dimitris Paleokrassas to curate the exhibition “Flying Over the Abyss”, currently on display at a newly refurbished cavernous space in the basement of the Athens Conservatoire.

Hans Bellmer La Demi-Poupée, 1972. Back: Stathis Logothetis Triptych (Τρίπτυχo), 1972. Photo © Nikos Markou

Hans Bellmer La Demi-Poupée, 1972. Back: Stathis Logothetis Triptych (Τρίπτυχo), 1972. Photo © Nikos Markou

On the wall: Kostas Ioannidis, Glimpses, 2007. Left: Maro Michalakakos, Happy Days (Oh Les Beaux Jours), 2012. Photo © Nikos Markou

Organised by NEON and featuring exclusively works from the D. Daskalopoulos Collection, “Flying Over the Abyss” presents work from 34 Greek and foreign artists organised in six different sections. The exhibition borrows its title from a Kazantzakis quote  taken from the introduction of Ascesis, where he describes human life as an escape from the dark abyss of non-existence into the light of life: in response, all the works at the exhibition negotiate the dynamic implied in this image, where an upwards movement towards the light is in constant antithesis to the downwards spiral of entropy.


“We come from a dark abyss, we end up in a dark abyss; the bright inbetween we call Life.” -Nikos Kazantzakis

From left to right: Vlassis Caniaris The Big Swing, 1974. Aliki Palaska, Breathing Space, 2015. Kiki Smith Untitled (Pink Bosoms), 1990-92, dated 1990. Kiki Smith Untitled, 1992. Photo © Nikos Markou

The exhibition includes the original manuscript of Ascesis (which is presented in such a context for the first time), as well as a newly commissioned work by composers Yiorgos Koumentakis and Stavros Gasparatos, which marks a collaboration between NEON and the Greek National Opera. Starting from the moment of birth and the painful coming into the world, the exhibition examines issues of creativity, human relationships and our constant negotiation with our own mortality, but without being macabre or pessimistic. Instead, “Flying Over the Abyss” positively fulfils its title, and takes us on an inspiring journey above the troubles of human nature, pointing to the higher goals and meanings that make our lives worth living.


Kiriakos Spirou

Courtesy of NEON


Polis Ioannou

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