Urban art in Athens is king!7 September 2021
Urban Art in Athens as far as I can remember, that is to say 20 years ago, was mainly composed of tags & graffiti. Today, the situation has changed and beautiful frescoes have come to punctuate our walks in neighbourhoods that were once a bit abandoned. To say that the city of Athens has evolved would be an understatement, it has literally been transformed! If we used to go there by obligation to reach the beautiful Cyclades, it is now worthwhile to linger in the neighbourhoods that are experiencing a new boom and even try to discover those that we could not really enter ten years ago. In the heart of Athens, Urban art is abundant, committed, and takes up with modernism the visual codes of representation of the Greek gods. A real delight for the eyes!
Unquestionable star of Greek urban art, the artist INO transforms Athens into a real standard!
INO is certainly the most internationally known Greek artist. His great discretion means that little is known about him, except that he is in his early forties and a graduate of the Athens School of Fine Art. This ghostly artist has quite simply transformed Athens into an open-air museum. His powerful, figurative style is used to serve his commitment with strength and perseverance. He sails hand in hand with the Greek people against the government’s austerity policy. Certain frescoes, such as the Lord’s supper depicting the leaders at the feast and the outstretched hands of the beleaguered people, speak volumes about his charge against this government starving the people.
Each of his works is a struggle, an open message to the inhabitants, a more violent message to the leaders. Apart from this magnificent Last Supper, which can be found on Peirarios Boulevard opposite Kerameikou Park, not far from Psyri, the artist has dressed the city and I will try to lead you in his footsteps by giving you a few details of the places where you could discover them.
I therefore begin the presentation of the work of the artist INO with this punchy work called “Apocalypse Now“. A call to revolution that can be found in the heart of Psyri in Miaouli Street. With this work, it is easy to understand why this artist with a piercing gaze does not show his face. We are also surprised that this work has not been censored, proving that freedom of expression is still the order of the day in the country of austerity.
Softer at first glance, this fresco depicting a little girl with a mallet has a very revealing name: “Breaking Barriers of Equality“. A strong stand in a Greek society where patriarchy dominates. INO is not only fighting against the political class but also for the evolution of gender equality in an orthodox country. This work is located in the heart of the cosmopolitan district of Psyri at the very beginning of Sarri Street.
Still in the center of Athens, this work called “Snowball” highlights another drawing technique used by the artist. He often works on detailed looks, sometimes completely erasing them. As if the businessman playing with money was losing a form of humanity. These absent faces can be found in other works by the artist.
On the other hand, he also uses his eyes to express his opinion and his contestations! This work next to the Last Supper is a clear example of this. If you look at this interpretation of Mona Lisa’s gaze, you soon realise that the inside of the eye is a mirror representing a policeman wearing a helmet and a gas mask. A fresco that echoes the great repression suffered by the Greek people during the government’s austerity policy, which had gone so far as to suspend pensions!
Street art in Athens owes a lot to the great artist INO. No matter where you decide to stroll, you will discover one of his works. In the Metaxourgeio district, on Iera Odos Avenue, you will find the beautiful work “freedom for sale“. And even when you set sail for the Cyclades, INO will accompany you to the port of Piraeus with a work entitled “We Have The Power” which will remind you of a Greek God!
Discovering the Athenian street art scene in the Psyri district at the foot of the Acropolis is a delight!
A few years ago it was in the Plaka district that you could discover tags and graffiti; today urban art in Athens has moved to the Psyri district which is evolving magnificently. Vandal tags, ephemeral but nevertheless beautiful works and giant frescoes intermingle. The district is in full mutation and you can go from a street with a divine charm to a street full of ruined houses and tagged fences; the diversity of works that this district offers gives it a particular charm and makes you want to come back… quickly!
I took as a starting point a modern café called the Upside Down Bar! The street behind this bar is simply magical and will hold some very nice surprises for you; starting with a work by the artist STMTS whose work focuses on childhood, its dreams, its disillusions,…
This street could be likened to an Athenian “Hall of Fame“; the works follow one another and are not alike. There are hands beautifully done by the artist SimpleG, a sweet portrait of a woman by Hambas, beautiful birds by Atek and many other works whose names I could not discover. So if anyone knows them, don’t hesitate to leave me a comment!
Psyri doesn’t stop at this beautiful street full of discoveries; I’m going to give you another place to go, which is most certainly the most tagged house in the neighbourhood! This chaotic work by artists David Shillinglaw and Mark Malarko leaves you speechless.
If you go into rue Evripidou, to the right of this improbable building, you will discover a number of ephemeral works of art, not to mention tags & blazes of all kinds. Everything here is illegal and smells of spontaneity. I must admit that it was difficult for me to make a choice in my photos to give you an idea of what you could see there. I hope that these few photos will make you want to go there, because personally this discovery made me happy! I managed to recognise some signatures such as those of Harriet Wood and Simoni Fontana.
Between vandal works and monumental frescoes, this district will undoubtedly delight you. Before sailing towards another, more popular, district, I could not miss the monumental fresco made by Alexandros Vasmoulakis alias Vasmou. This Greek artist creates deformed bodies and faces in a figurative style. They can be smiling, amusing, astonishing and also worrying. These faces all come from glamour magazines. He tears them up, photographs them and digitally reworks them. This work is located in the heart of Psyri, Plateia Irron. If you get lost in the adjacent streets, you will discover a lot of nice surprises!
Leaving Psyri and heading for the popular district of Metaxourgeio
Going into this part of Athens at night a few years ago was simply impossible! Today things have changed and it is an architectural patchwork where modern buildings stand next to old abandoned bourgeois houses. It is certainly the most popular district of Athens; but when you see how Psyri has evolved, you already know what this district could become!
Leaving Psyri, I lingered in the Kerameikou Park, it was very hot and the shade of the trees was pleasant, and some yellow spots had caught my eye! The park is home to some works by artists I don’t know, but I thought it would be nice to show them to you, because in Athens every corner has a surprise in store, and that’s certainly what makes the city so enjoyable to walk around.
When you enter Metaxourgeio, the atmosphere changes, there is something chaotic and the deserted streets reinforce this feeling. Here the artistic expression is raw, sometimes violent, protesting, revolutionary and almost always vandal! Some works are signed but many remain anonymous. We find the signatures of artists like …. This neighbourhood is an incredible playground for urban art and not a single house is spared. It is very likely that this one will become like Psyri in a few years. But for the moment I’ll let you make your own idea with these pictures.
Mister Achilles and RTM; these artists will punctuate your discovery of Athens!
They are everywhere! It’s amazing how, with each discovery of a new city, one quickly notices the important presence of certain artists. It is in the heart of Psyri that I started to see the half-faces of women drawn by Mister Achilles. I’m going to confess right away that I’m not a fan of his work in its entirety. His way of staging women’s bodies is unfortunately too often vulgar and a bit outdated. But here he is part of the urban landscape of the city of Athens that I try to show you without censorship 😉
RTM goes quickly, very quickly to sketch his simple and very expressive faces at the same time. There are few frescoes by him, only the faces are often represented. He is everywhere in the city, you can find his work on the main roads as well as in all the small streets; sincerely I must have seen about fifty of his faces and with the small pleasure of finding them as if I had just won a trophy!
It was important for me to highlight these local artists who ultimately share and brighten up the daily life of Athenians.
When you go to the Greek islands, take the time to discover Urban Art in Athens and more!
Sincerely, this capital is worth a visit! Not only for the street art, but for all the beautiful and charming things it has to offer. Plaka has become like Montmartre a real postcard. Some of the streets of Psyri are really charming. The promenade around the Acropolis, the heart of Athens, has been completely restored and has become a real place to stroll. On the food front, you can enjoy a lovingly prepared traditional lunch at Nikitas in Psyri or, on the other hand, a Greek-Japanese fusion culinary journey at the chic Nolan! Even in the Metaxourgeio neighbourhood, you can discover nuggets like the garden of the Cachou restaurant where it is nice to stroll in the evening.
I really fell in love with this new Athens and I can’t wait to go back to finish my Street Art journey in the Exarchia district; but also to discover a bit more the hidden treasures of this city which has changed so much. Of all my Street Art discoveries, the only city that rivals Athens in its city centre remains Mexico City!
I’ll leave you with a video of the facebook live that I made during my wandering in Psyri and I’ll see you soon for new Street Art adventures.
Wishing you all a nice back-to-school period!