Summer Travelogue

Summer Travelogue

Daniel Fuller at Art:21 Blog –interesting:

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Upon arriving in Athens, several curious and helpful people gave me every warning to stay far away from the Kerameikos and Metaxourgeio neighborhoods, which was exactly where I was headed, for ReMap KM 2. Settled by new immigrants from Egypt, Iran, Afghanistan, and Lebanon, and dubbed Little Bangladesh, these neighborhoods are defined by poverty, drugs, petty crime, and prostitution.

Just as I was about to head into the first gallery, Nice & Fit from Berlin, a teenager came barreling around the corner, ran out into the intersection, and was gone without a trace. Six of Athens’s finest gave chase for a couple blocks before giving up the pursuit. Perhaps the bad reputation is sadly deserved. But there was a tremendously festive spirit that night. Hundreds of brave art appreciators were following maps, strolling between abandoned buildings where the 21 international galleries and 16 independent projects had set up squats. It felt like we visitors had set up a block party on derelict pedestrian streets after the residents had agreed to disappear for the night.

Many of us ended our tours at Breeder Gallery’s elegant new space at the end of the nearly empty Iasonos Street. Co-owner George Vamvakidis explained to me that these seedy blocks were once part of Athens’s most affluent neighborhood, the grand homes creating a romantic passageway. As the city expanded, younger residents moved to further out suburbs, their parents died, and the crumbling facades were left to decay. I asked George if it had been a good idea to relocate his gallery to oblivion. He said he liked the action the street gets—all types of action—and that the foot traffic increased as the city grew darker each night. As it turns out, the vast majority of the seemingly abandoned-looking buildings were far from empty. Rather, they had been adapted into brothels, woven into the massive web of Greece’s legal sex trade.

Early the next morning, when I returned to the area to take a few photos in the light, I found myself walking behind the only other person who was out and about. He was dressed smartly, with a polo shirt tucked into his jeans and I assumed him to be a fellow tourist, perhaps a gallery-hopping collector, as we were both fumbling maps while walking. Suddenly he stopped, looked left, looked right, steadied himself, and then bolted through the front door of one of the brothels. I was left alone in the middle of the walkway completely surprised.

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