An initiative co-organized by the Municipality of Athens and the Australian Embassy in Greece.
An impressive photorealistic mural decorates the Protoporia bookstore building, located at the junction of Emmanouil Benaki and Gravias streets in Exarchia. The internationally renowned Australian street artist Guido van Helten arrived in Athens in mid-November, following an invitation from the Australian Embassy in Greece and the Municipality of Athens, and created a large-scale mural, which pays homage to the Athens neighbourhood that hosts it and is identified with the publication and distribution of books.
Faithful to his usual practice before starting to work, Guido van Helten visited and studied the area, met its residents and professionals and after listening to their stories and exploring their daily life, he came up with the theme that, according to him, characterizes this specific neighbourhood of Athens.
Focusing on the old business of books and bookbinding, the artist’s conversations with the artisans of the industry and the photographic material he collected inspired him to create a mural dedicated -on a first level- to the traditional art of bookbinding. The artist attempts to link different aspects of the area’s profile through the theme and the photorealistic composition, which captures the reflections on the shop windows and the texture of the posters that characterize Exarchia.
A few days ago, the Mayor of Athens, Kostas Bakoyannis, welcomed the famous artist at the Municipal Hall of Athens. After thanking him for his work in Exarchia, he commented:
“When the Municipality of Athens decided to offer public space to Greek and foreign street artists for the first time, our goal was for them to create, express themselves, and “converse” artistically with Athens and the Athenians. So it is not surprising that Exarchia became a source of inspiration for an artist like Guido van Helten. We thank him warmly and Ambassador Athanasios Spyrou, as, with his mediation, the Australian Embassy in Greece invited Guido to Athens.
“The Australian Ambassador to Greece, Mr Athanasios Spyrou, stated on the occasion:
“Athens proudly joins the list of cities adorned by a Guido van Helten’s mural. I am delighted that the project was realized in collaboration with the Municipality of Athens and was warmly embraced by artistic institutions and residents. Their contribution was invaluable for its realization. I thank them and the Mayor, Mr Kostas Bakoyannis, from the bottom of my heart.”
For his part, Guido van Helten said: “The project focuses on the bookstores and bookbinders of Exarchia, which for me symbolize freedom of thought, philosophy, journalism, but also the gradual closure of family businesses and traditional commercial activities. In one of the shops I visited, I met two bookbinders, Georgios and Vasilis. Georgios told me that he entered Vassilis’ shop at 12 and insisted on apprenticing next to him. His story inspired me to highlight the region’s character and the vibrant local identity through the broader concept of literature and political theory. This particular teacher-student pair stood out because of their dedication, commitment and lifelong relationship.”
The project was implemented with the valuable contribution of Ms Christine Grek, Art Curator at the Athens Street Art Festival and Mr Kleomenis Kostopoulos, Art Director of Art In Progress. Special mention should be made to the people of the neighbourhood who, from the beginning, “embraced” the artist with their hospitality and welcomed the project. The project brought together passers-by, residents, workers and shopkeepers, and people of all ages, as the process of realizing it became an artistic event and an exercise of dialogue and interaction with the neighbourhood.
A few words about Guido Van Helten
Guido van Helten is an Australian visual artist and photographer. He is internationally acclaimed for his contemporary street artworks worldwide, based on exploring communities and identities and captured in large-scale photographs and murals. His work has developed through a keen interest in travel, photography, architecture and contact with cultures and their context. His interests and ability to create significant scale works have led to commissions worldwide, from Australia to Europe and America. In 2016 he was nominated for the Sir John Sulman Award from the National Gallery of New South Wales for his work in Victoria’s Brim community.
For more information about the artist, please visit:
www.guidovanhelten.com, Insta: @guidovanhelten