The art scene in Athens is vibrant and dynamic. Soaking up the rich plethora of modern culture on offer in the city is just as important as enjoying the Ancient ruins. Whether you’re only in town for a weekend or have the luxury of taking your time, these are the must-visit contemporary galleries to see in Athens.
An industrial space that houses a dynamic programme of contemporary art in Athens, Ileana Tounta Contemporary Art Centre is an essential visit for modern art lovers. Founded in 1988, the gallery was the first multi-purpose creative space in Athens, setting a new agenda for the contemporary art scene in the city. The dynamic programming has welcomed over 250 exhibitions since it opened, with a curatorial stance that champions Greek artists and represents them internationally. Alongside the multi-purpose gallery space is the urban garden. The open plan restaurant is a great spot to spend an evening with a menu that offers locally sourced, seasonal plates.
Founded in 2008, The Breeder is considered to be one of the most influential commercial galleries in Greece. Located in the trendy Metaxourgeio neighbourhood, it is a destination that is undoubtedly worth the journey. The space exhibits local and international artists, working as a channel between the Greek art scene and the wider world. The contemporary programming offers a wide range of media from video installations to sculpture, abstract painting and murals. Openings at The Breeder welcome a wide range of creatives and are always vibrant.
Founded in 2014 by Helena Papadopoulos and Andreas Melas, Radio Athènes is a non-profit contemporary art gallery in the centre of the city. While promoting a dynamic programme of modern art the gallery also functions as a bookstore and hosts events. Exhibitions are widely varied in their mediums and themes, ranging from meditations on political trials (Vangelis Vlahos: Objects to relate to a trial (Nov17)) to stories of failed relationships (Eleni Bagaki: ‘A book, a film, and a soundtrack’). Performances, readings, screenings and broadcasts all combine to make Radio Athènes a must-visit contemporary art space on your visit.
Founded in 1995, the Rebecca Camhi Gallery is a commercial space with a renowned reputation. The gallery was originally housed on Sophokleous Street but moved to Metaxourgeio in 2008 where it remains ten years on, housed within a neoclassical building. The programming has always emphasised the importance of exhibiting international names in Athens – previous exhibitors include Nan Goldin and Sylvie Fleury – however the space also welcomes and represents contemporary Greek artists. One of the most important shows in this vein was the group exhibition of young Greek artists in 2011. The show featured work by Alexia Karavela, Andreas Ragnar Kasapis, Chrysanthi Koumianaki and Vasilis Paspalis, pre-empting the need for unified narratives around the contemporary art scene in Greece. Alongside exhibitions the gallery also regularly hosts events, working as a cultural hotspot.
The National Gallery of Contemporary Art took over the iconic FIX building in 2000 but was unable to function in its home between 2003 and 2016. When the financial crisis hit, the gallery closed for some years but re-opened in 2016 with the first of many dynamic exhibitions. The large, open-plan space in Koukaki is as interesting architecturally as it is for the work exhibited inside. Programming is political and nuanced, with Greek artists commenting on social issues through a range of media, from photography to sculpture as well as audio visual installations.
Founded by the renowned art critic and curator iLiana Fokianaki in 2013, State of Concept is an innovative and exploratory space at the heart of Athens. The gallery facilitates conversations about the social and political landscape not only in Greece, but about the state of Europe more widely. It offers a platform for Greek artists to challenge existing narratives and scrutinise the modern apparatus. Exhibitions range from Virtual Reality installations and video screenings to more traditional mediums. The work exhibited is well chosen and consistently engaging. A must-visit in Athens.
Courtesy of Boris Kirpotin for Bernier/Eliades Gallery
Founded in 1977 by Jean Bernier and Marina Eliades, the Bernier/Eliades Gallery relocated from its original space in Kolonaki to a beautiful Neoclassical mansion in Thissio in 1999. The gallery has introduced many artistic genres to the public, including conceptual and land art, arte povera, and minimalism. The space offers a mixture of renowned Greek and international artists. Previous exhibitions include work by Gilbert & Geroge, Zhang Yexing, Helmut Stallaerts and Kahil Joseph. In 2016 the gallery opened another space in Brussels, enabling work by Greek artists to reach further international audiences.
The Eleni Koroneou Gallery was founded in 1988 to promote contemporary art in Athens. Originally located in a space close to the Acropolis, the gallery moved to a larger Neoclassical building in Thissio in 2009 and is still there today. The space has consistently worked to build awareness about Greek artists outside of the country as well as bringing international artists to Greece. The gallery represents dynamic Greek artists such Eftihis Patsourakis, Panos Papadopoulos and Eleni Koroneou.
Gagosian Gallery is an internationally renowned commercial space with galleries across the globe. Yielding major influence in London and New York, the presence of the Gagosian in Athens is not quite as widely felt as elsewhere. Nevertheless, the exhibitions offer international names to Athenian audiences and visitors in its boutique space in Kolonaki. The outpost opened in 2011 and offers more intimate curated works, such as Sally Mann’s emotional photographs of her mentor Cy Twombly’s studio.
Established in Geneva in 1983 by Dakis Joannou, DESTE Foundation for Contemporary Art is a not-for-profit space now based in the Athenian suburbs. The influential art collector’s initiative moved between venues until 1996 where it settled in Neo Psychico, re-designed by American architect Christian Huber. The space has exhibited hugely influential artists and also champions emerging Greek creative talent. Now working with the Museum of Cycladic Art and the Benaki Museum in Athens, DETSE continues to stage a dynamic international programme.