THE BENAKI MUSEUM IN ATHENS, THE MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART IN
CRETE AND THE CRYPT GALLERY OF ST. PANCRAS CHURCH IN LONDON
COLLABORATE TO PRESENT NAVIGATING IN THE DARK,
A THREE-SITE EXHIBITION BY SCULPTOR KALLIOPI LEMOS
Site-Specific Installations Incorporate a Decade’s Worth of the Artist’s Sculpture,
Exploring Her Themes of Physical and Spiritual Migration
ATHENS, 26 January 2011 – An artistic journey of 1,500 miles has begun with the January 26, 2011 opening at the Benaki Museum in Athens of Navigating in the Dark, a three-part exhibition of the work of Greek-born sculptor Kalliopi Lemos. Incorporating works made by Lemos over the past ten years on her signature themes of physical and spiritual migration, the exhibition consists of a sequence of site-specific installations at three contrasting, highly charged venues, ending in October- November 2011 in London, where Lemos lives and works.
The sequence begins in the secular, contemporary, intensely urban space of the Benaki Museum courtyard, now transformed into a dramatically lit enclosure. Visitors make their way through a ring of four monumental, biomorphic steel forms to a hexagonal pond, reminiscent of a beehive, where a dozen steel sculptures of human heads lie half-submerged within the cells. The second installation site is the Mosque of Ibrahim Khan in Rethymnon, Crete: a 17th-century Islamic house of worship created from a 16th-century Venetian fortress church. Here the predominant sculptural material will be wood, the predominant form will be the boat (either deployed horizontally on the ground like a fleet, or lifted up in a vertical group to evoke human figures) and a group of a dozen sculptures of human heads, embedded into a primitive-looking boat form, will be made of salt. Finally, in the vaulted, underground burial space of St. Pancras Church, London, amid an evocative sound installation, a sequence of three actual boats—found objects, stripped down to expose the raw wood—will be filled with snakes and human figures made of steel and with steel sculptures of crows, near a hivelike space where white paper sculptures of bees hover in the air like migrating souls.
Curated by Maria Maragou, Director of the Museum of Contemporary Art of Crete and Curator of the Greek Pavilion at the 54th Venice Biennale, Navigating in the Dark is being shown at the contemporary annex of the Benaki Museum, Athens (January 26 – March 26), at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Crete, Rethymnon (May 6 – August 31) and the Crypt of St. Pancras Church, London (October 1 – November 30). Video documentation of each part of the exhibition will be presented at the subsequent sites, creating a cumulative record and allowing visitors at the later venues to appreciate the meaning of the project as a whole.
"I regard Navigating in the Dark both as a fresh departure for Kalliopi Lemos and as an enrichment and intensification of her earlier public installations on economic and social migration, which have gained her international attention," Maria Maragou stated. These site-specific sculptural installations in Eleusis, Istanbul and Berlin are the subject of a recent book published by the Akademie der Künste, Berlin, and Steidl.
Writing about that phase of Lemos"s work, the critic and scholar Arthur C. Danto has stated that when he first saw a photograph of her installation Crossing, "I felt that it was great art—a wonderful piece of contemporary sculpture by an artist I had never heard of…" When he learned of the narrative meaning inherent in the work, in which the wrecked wooden boats used by desperate refugees were grouped upright together like human figures, "I thought it was more compelling than The Burghers of Calais because more abstract and more terrifying."
Speaking of the continuation and expansion of her themes in Navigating in the Dark, which meditates on cycles in historical time, the natural world and her own life, Kalliopi Lemos stated, "There seems to be darkness and confusion in the world right now—a confusion of principles, and a fight of one against the other. One feels the need to discover a base: a truth that is unshaken and that connects you with your core. You have to descend into that dark place to discover understanding, sympathy and empathy, first toward yourself and then toward others. I have not yet found the right word in Greek for this process, but navigating, to me, expresses this lonely search for a direction, as you try to move through the "underworld" toward acceptance, humility and self-awareness."
About Kalliopi Lemos
Sculptor, painter and installation artist Kalliopi Lemos was born on the Greek island of Oinousses, near Chios, in 1951. She studied painting and printing at Byam Shaw School of Art, University of the Arts London, Central Saint Martins, where she also pursued post-graduate studies. She lives and works in London.
Her recent work has explored the narrative of journeys and displacement and the politics of forced migration. From 2006 to 2009 she presented a series of public art installations on these themes, comprising Crossing, Eleusis, Greece (2006/9); Round Voyage, SantraIistanbul, Istanbul (2007, permanent installation); and At Crossroads, Akademie der Künste, Brandenburg Gate, Berlin (2009). A book about the trilogy was published by Steidl and the Akademie der Künste in January 2011.
Past solo exhibitions include BM Suma Contemporary Art Centre, Istanbul (2008); Rites of Passage, Art Gallery of Cyclades, Syros (2006); and Angela Flowers Gallery, London (1999). Group exhibitions include Artists Books, ICA, London (2004); Redfern Gallery, London, (2002); Julian Machin Gallery, London (2002); and Four Greek Women Artists, La Subbia Gallery, Pietra Santa, Italy (1999). Her sculptural installation Perpetual Transitions is on permanent display at the Onassis Cultural Center in New York.
Her exhibitions in 2011 will include Navigating in the Dark and a contribution to the group exhibition Polyglossia at the Onassis Cultural Centre-Athens.
About the Benaki Museum, Athens
The Benaki Museum is one of the oldest and most significant art institutions in Greece. Donated by its founder, Antonis Benakis, to the newly established Greek state in 1831, the Museum today maintains one of the richest and most diverse collections of art in the country, ranging from prehistoric and ancient Greek works to Islamic, Chinese and modern Greek art. In the last ten years, the Museum has created annexes throughout Athens, including the Pireos Annex, which hosts hosts temporary exhibitions of modern and contemporary art from Greece and around the world.
About the Museum of Contemporary Art of Crete
The Museum of Contemporary Art of Crete was founded in Rethymnon in 1992 as a municipal institution and is housed in a renovated building of the Venetian era in the city"s old quarter. The Museum maintains a permanent collection focused on the works of Lefteris Kanakakis and other contemporary Greek artists and organizes temporary exhibitions and events on international contemporary art. The Museum has installed its part of Navigating in the Dark in the Mosque of Ibrahim Khan, located in the Fortezza in Rethymnon, a Venetian castle built on the hill of Paleocastro. The Fortezza was completed in 1570 and was then used as a public area with a church, storerooms and a hospital. After the Ottoman conquest in 1646, the church was converted into a mosque.
About the St. Pancras Church Crypt, London
The Crypt of St Pancras Parish Church was designed and used for burials from 1822 to 1854 and continues to serve as the final home to 557 people. During World War II, the Crypt was used as a bomb shelter. In 2002 the Crypt became a gallery space where international contemporary artists exhibit their work. It now hosts a rich year-round exhibition program.