Since the establishment of the Greek state in early 19th century, Greek visual arts have followed a slow and rather esoteric development over the long period leading up to the first decades after World War II. They have covered the ground between Western European and international art and local tradition, with a shifting emphasis from academic to avant-garde references.
Modern Greek art slowly found its way to maturity in the period leading to World War II. It followed a long path starting from the European academic tradition and passed progressively through the movements of the historical avant - garde at the turn of 19th and 20th century, while maintaining an undercurrent of locality. Instrumental in this process were the artists of the so-called "1930s Generation" who came of age shortly after World War II and the Greek Civil War, during the 1950s. Exhibiting new appreciation for local elements (naive painting, traditional shadow theatre - Karaghiozis) and a deep knowledge of the 20th-century avant- garde art movements, they developed an imagery that lingered creatively between European modernism and local tradition.
Coming of age with the "1930s Generation", modem Greek art had to wait until the 1950s and the 1960s to find itself in line with contemporary international avant- garde. In the post-war era, the interest of the younger generation of artists shifted largely from the affirmation of a modern Greek artistic identity to the quest for a place for Greek visual arts on the international avant-garde scene. Abstract painting, the avant-garde of the time, found solid representation in the work of a number of Greek artists.
The 1960s led Greek art towards international paths, Greek society towards intensive urbanization and the country towards a sad political adventure. Indeed, the establishment of the military regime (1967-1974) marked an abrupt interruption to artistic developments at a moment when contemporary Greek art was ridding itself of references of topical interest. A significant number of Greek artists remained abroad (mostly in Paris) until the beginning of 1980s, when they returned to their country to be gradually integrated into the local artistic establishment.
During the 1980s, painting emerged as a dominant practice, also underthe influence of current international trends.Over the last decade, the visual arts scene in Greece has become more vivid, less isolated, more experimental and receptive to contemporary international developments, despite pervasive topical cultural references. The regular exposure of Greek artists to the dynamics of major contemporary art centres (i.e. London, Paris, Berlin, New York) has contributed a great deal to the opening up of the Greek scene.
The beginning of 21st century finds the artistic and cultural scene in Greece at a critical juncture. The 2004 Athens Olympic Games offer a major occasion to bring not only the international audience closer to modern and contemporary Greek art, but also the Greek audience closer to renowned works of art as well as contemporary trends in international art. This was accomplished through the presentation of unprecedented exhibitions organised under the auspices of the Cultural Olympiad 2001-2004 and Athens 2004.
For more information please visit: Hellenic Ministry of Culture