The temporary exhibition activities of Greece’s National Museum of Contemporary Art (EMST)recently restarted with the opening of the exhibition “Urgent Conversations: Athens – Antwerp” that will be running through January 29, 2017 at the Museum’s permanent home (the historic FIX building).

Greek News Agenda* had the pleasure of interviewing EMST’s Director, Katerina Koskina** on the key message she wished to convey through the exhibition, together with the co-curator of the show, M HKA’s Director Bart De Baere.

Katerina Koskina also spoke to Greek News Agenda about upcoming events and the highly anticipated full operation of the Museum which is expected by November 2017 and shared her views on how the crisis has affected the country’s arts scene, as well as on how important EMST’s opening is for the evolving cultural image of Athens.

How was the idea to curate “Urgent Conversations Athens – Antwerp” developed and what is the key message you wish to convey through the exhibition?

We wanted to open the Museum’s temporary exhibition program in its new building with an exhibition that would express and signify the ideas of dialogue, exchange and collaboration. The Museum of Contemporary Art, Antwerp (M HKA) has been a great partner. “Urgent Conversations: Athens – Antwerp” has been developed bottom up, each time starting from a work of a Greek and a Belgian artist, that resonate, searching a notion that arises from this resonance, then adding a third artist from elsewhere in one of the two collections.

As such, the exhibition was structured around 22 notions, with the work of three artists in a dialogue around each notion in every case, in total consisting of more than 70 works from 66 artists. The key message is that dialogue is the fundamental element of culture and that art allows for reviews and reassessments of previous issues, redefining them and making them current. Thus, it proposes alternative solutions and ways of communication, detecting sensitivities and triggering peaceful actions.

What comes next? Can you tell us more on the Museum’s main plans with regard to upcoming events, activities and collaborations (2016- 2017)?

Our future plans include the collaboration with documenta 14, our project empty pr(oe)mises, the national participation at the 57th Venice Biennial, the opening of the exhibition of the Museums’ permanent collection, the traveling of the exhibition Urgent Conversations Athens – Antwerp to Antwerp in April, and of course the continuation of our full schedule with educational programs, conferences, temporary exhibitions and parallel events.

HouseEMSTTell us about the museum’s permanent collection. When is the full operation of the museum to be expected; what are the prerequisites in this direction?

The EMST permanent collection has a core of important works by Greek and international artists which is constantly enriched with new ones, especially with donations from artists. Most of the works focus on multicultural, identity and social issues.

Our full operation, which is expected by November 2017, depends on many factors, especially administrative. In collaboration with the authorities we are trying to solve them and meet all the prerequisites that will ensure the implementation of the museographical study and the smooth operation of the Museum.

We need more personnel and of course money, which we are making an effort to find from the private sector as well.

You have a long experience in the Arts field, having organized, directed and curated several projects in Greece and abroad over the past 25 years. Can you give an insight on whether (and to what extent) the crisis has affected the art scene in the country, both in terms of artistic creation and in terms of the art market?

From my point of view, the crisis made things more difficult but on the other hand, more creative too. It forced us to look into different directions, to reinvent ourselves and led us to synergies, cooperation and funding in goods. We cannot do things alone anymore. We have to be a chain, in creativity and in new ideas.

I am an optimistic person and I want, even from the dark, to look and find the bright side of every situation. I am not saying that things aren’t difficult but we cannot -and we should not- just sit and wait. We have to take action. That is what we did with the Museum. We took action and things moved at a moment that most people believed they wouldn’t.

EMST AthensIn your view, how important is EMST’s opening for the evolving cultural image of Greece and especially for the city branding of Athens?

The EMST’s opening was received with immense joy by the public, as they had been waiting long to see its renovated spaces. We are very happy that the Greek and international audience has now the opportunity to visit the Museum, the heart of which beats for contemporary art.

Greece is known internationally for its important antiquities. It has been a bet for us to develop an interest for contemporary art as well, to be extrovert and play a role as a capsule for the arts, the combination of their different forms, the dialogue between antiquities and contemporary art and to be a destination in the City, for its citizens and visitors.

* Interview by Eleftheria Spiliotakopoulou

katerina koskina CV**Katerina Koskina is an Art historian, museologist and curator of exhibitions. In December 2014, she was appointed Director of the National Museum of Contemporary Art (EMST) in Athens, Greece.

Born in Corfu, she studied French Literature at the University of Athens, as well as History and Philosophy of Art at Paris I-Sorbonne University. In addition, she studied Museology at the Ecole du Louvre and has a PhD in Art History.

From 1988 to 1992, she worked at the European Cultural Centre of Delphi as a Special Advisor for visual arts. She was the Greek Commissioner at the 23rd Biennale of Sao Paulo in 1996 and at the 51st Venice Biennale in 2005, and the Director of the 3rd, 4th and the 5th Thessaloniki Biennale of Contemporary Art (2011-2015). From 1992 to October 2014, she was Curator of the Alpha Bank Art Collection. She has also been Artistic Director of the J. F. Costopoulos Foundation, Athens, until the end of 2014 (1992-2014), President of the Board of Trustees of the State Museum of Contemporary Art, Thessaloniki (from December 2008 until January 2015), member of the Artistic Committee of the Athens METRO (from 1998 to 2011) and Artistic Consultant to the Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games/Athens 2004 S.A. from 2000 to 2004. She is a member of the International Council of Museums (ICOM) and the Greek section of the International Association of Art Critics (AICA Hellas).

Katerina Koskina has organized, directed, curated and co-curated many group and one-man shows, while she has contributed essays to several books and exhibition catalogues, as well as articles in newspapers and art magazines. She has been awarded as “Cavaliere dell’ Ordine della Stella d’ Italia” and “Chevalier dans l’ Ordre national de la Legion d’ Honneur”.

Read also: EMST: “Urgent Conversations Athens – Antwerp” (by Greek News Agenda)

Watch video: EMST- A Museum for Contemporary Art (Katerina Koskinas’ interview to ANA-MPA, June 2015)

Visit: EMST’s official website