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"Nautilus: Navigating Greece" at Bozar offers a survey of Greek culture and civilisation
CEO of BOZAR Paul Dujardin (C), historian Lina Mendoni (2nd R) and Greek Minister of Sports and Culture Panos Panagiotopoulos (L) look on during a press visit of the 'Nautilus: Navigating Greece' exhibition at the Bozar museum in Brussels. The exhibit is running from January 24 to April 27, 2014. AFP PHOTO / BELGA / ERIC LALMAND.

BRUSSELS.- The exhibition brings together a hundred historical works and objects, presenting a survey of Greek culture and civilisation down the centuries. In addition to this outstanding collection, containing many objects that have never left Greece before, visitors can see 23 works of contemporary art, all linked to the theme of the sea.

A focus on the Mediterranean basin is the thread that runs through a programme of BOZAR exhibitions over several years. In 2012, the Lusignan kingdom on Cyprus was one of the subjects of Mapping Cyprus: Crusaders, Traders, and Explorers. In the autumn of 2014, the Storie di Siena (working title) exhibition will look at the influence of Byzantine painting on the Sienese school. In spring 2015, we will see how the painters of the Renaissance saw the Ottoman Empire. This European story would, of course, be inconceivable without a chapter on Greece.

This spring, the Centre for Fine Arts presents a multidisciplinary programme – Focus on Greece – to mark the Greek presidency of the Council of the European Union. At the heart of this programme is the Nautilus: Navigating Greece exhibition, organised in cooperation with the Greek Ministries of Culture and Sport and of Foreign Affairs. Nautilus: Navigating Greece looks at the close relations between the Greeks and the Mediterranean Sea down the centuries. Seven themes are examined as visitors are taken on a journey through the fascinating history of the cradle of European civilisation. The exhibition illustrates the interaction between nature, culture, identity, adventure, trade, immigration, politics, religion, and mobility in all its forms.

The exhibition presents a hundred historic works and objects (including sculptures in bronze and marble, as well as pottery and other items) from 30 Greek museums. Many of these are going on show outside Greece for the first time ever. The exhibition covers the period from Cycladic art (3000 BC) to the Greco-Roman epoch, taking in the Minoan, Mycenaean, archaic, and classical periods. In addition to the historical items, it also presents 23 works of contemporary art, including photographs, paintings, and videos, by 20 Greek artists (Nikos Alexiou, Alexandra Athanasiadis, Lizzy Calligas, Vlassis Caniaris, Giorgis Gerolympos, Stratos Kalafatis, Katerina Kaloudi, Afroditi Liti, Nikos Markou, Sokratis Mavrommatis, Aemilia Papafilippou, Rena Papaspyrou, Eftichis Patsourakis, Mary Schina, Marios Spiliopoulos, Spyros Staveris, Leonidas Toumpanos, Stratis Vogiatzis, Manolis Zacharioudakis and Opi Zouni).

A journey through time
Seven themes relating to the sea are addressed in this exhibition. Historic and contemporary works of art alternate and take the visitor on a journey through time and space. The journey begins, not surprisingly, in a room entitled "Genesis" with an installation by Aemilia Papafilippou depicting a uterus or the origin of life. This is followed by a focus on ecology and on the multilateral interaction between humanity and the environment, illustrated by works from the Cycladic era and a work by Katerina Kaloudi. The artist, a great lover of her native land, travelled around the Cyclades, photographing details of the islands' rocks and stones. Her enlargements, reminiscent of fossilised forests, explore the complex relations between humanity and nature.

A room entitled "Maritime routes" immerses the visitor in the Minoan and Mycenaean periods. The emphasis is on the mobility of populations, products, and ideas thanks to maritime routes. Stratis Vogiatzis knows this subject very well. During four years, he travelled in Greece, Turkey, Italy, Spain, Egypt and France and took pictures of fishermen, trying to overcome their weaknesses and to face the power of nature.

The archaic period is represented by the sea-voyage myth of the Odyssey. The urge to explore the seas, to find a new world, and to start a new life is centuries-old, but the photographs of Leonidas Toumpanos show that it remains topical. In Athens Airport, Toumpanos photographed immigrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Morocco who are ready (or are they?) to abandon their lives in Greece and return to their homelands.

An exhibition devoted to Greece obviously could not overlook the legendary city of Athens, a great centre of power and wealth. The sculptures of Alexandra Athanasiadis, made of pieces of wood salvaged from shipwrecks and eroded by salt, contrast with the marble torsos of the past. The theme of "Hegemony" is followed by that of political and cultural integration: this theme, illustrated in a room entitled "Ecumene", focuses on Macedonia and Alexander the Great. Undoubtedly, one of the most striking works here is by Eftichis Patsourakis: the artist recreates the image of the world, juxtaposing marine paintings by anonymous painters in order to create a single horizon in a work that offers a reflection on the concepts of collectivism and interaction between cultures.

In the final room, devoted to religion, the visitor will discover maritime rites and mythologies down the ages. Marios Spiliopoulos presents a modern version of the beliefs of the sailors of Syros, who – for good luck – used to write on the island's rocks before boarding their vessels. The work of Spiliopoulos incorporates ancient inscriptions with Byzantine ones from the 13th century, and refers to different ways of naming God. Spiliopoulos analyzes the diachronic value of belief.

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