Three years after they met, Helena Papadopoulos of Nice & Fit Gallery in Berlin and Andreas Melas of the radical AMP Gallery in Athens, decided to ‘Move In’ together under one condition: to shake the Athenian cultural routine.
-When did you first meet, where, and what made you cooperate for the project in Athens and AMP?
We met in Athens, at AMP’s very first show in September 2007. It was a few days before the opening of the 1st Athens Biennial and ReMap, so there was a great atmosphere in the city. Then we ran into each other in various art related events but it wasn’t until the summer of 2008 that we started to have a real conversation, over salad at the Benaki Museum snack bar-restaurant in Kolonaki. There was no thought of any kind of collaboration at the time, it was just great to be talking about what occupies, for better or for worse, ninety percent of our mind: art. A Nice and Fit in Athens hosted by AMP on the first floor of the building is a very recent development. The idea of co-habitation is very much based on the principle of cross-pollination.
-Helena, how would you summarize the last five years of NICE & FIT in Berlin and what makes you today address the Greek audience?
It was an experience of continuous transformation; both of the city and of the gallery that has grown from a front room project in my apartment to a space that offers an international platform to new voices-it has seen many of its artists bud and bloom. The new cycle is a more mature one; the Athens project is triggered to a great extent by this collaboration. The kind of spirit that Andreas has, what he has invested in his work, inspired me, I think he has a sharp understanding and uninhibited love for art. So the idea that we could join forces made me take the plunge.
-The tone of the artists and expositions at the new effort of Athens is, somehow, a continuation of those in Berlin’s Nice & Fit?
Yes, it will continue to reflect the spirit of Nice & Fit: through the support of the core artists, group shows tracing developments in contemporary art practices and the bookstore. But this is a new landscape so it is also opening up to new collaborations, for example, with artists who have shown extensively internationally, but not in Greece. For this reason the name of the gallery is switching to ‘Helena Papadopoulos’, to mark this new phase. The space is inaugurated on November 11 with a show by Paris based artist Claire Fontaine. Fulvia Carnevale and James Thornhill who are her ‘assistants’ are preparing an exhibition which reacts to the political conditions of late capitalism, particularly visible in today’s Athens. We will have a double opening with Andreas: he is showing, in
an exhibition curated by James Hoff, great original work, as well as archival material by and related to Destroy All Monsters, the legendary 1970’s band, formed by Mike Kelley, Jim Shaw, Niagara, and Cary Loren.
-Usually the growth and activation of galleries in other countries and cities is justified by a new challenge. Which is this in Athens?
Athens represents a new challenge: it’s a city that I know well, yet away from it for so long, there is an element of mystery. I have really enjoyed re-discovering it and I have been inspired by a great deal of people involved in the arts. In this particular moment of crisis and restructuring of consciousness, it seems that galleries with a cultural motivation might be interesting spaces to participate in.
-You both have a common background, a period in your lives in New York nearby that scene of contemporary art. How far away or close to it do you feel and how different is it from your experience in Athens’ contemporary scene?
We have another thing in common! We both got in the RCA (Royal College of Art) in London, at different times, in different departments, after submitting material and preparing for the interview for months; we had killed ourselves getting ready for it. This post-grad school is notorious for how difficult it is to get in, only a very small percentage of applicants succeed. You can imagine the level of satisfaction and excitement at the time: huge. Half-way through the first year we were overtaken by an inexplicable urge to get out, so we took a leave of absence, we both dropped out. (Andreas went on to the SVA, Helena to the Courtauld Institute of Art). But New York has been the most formative for our relationship to art. It is still very much part of our picture, it’s an important place and we are closely connected to the city and the scene. Our relationship to Athens, despite the obvious differences that characterize the center-periphery dialectic, is the same: within a cultural aparatus in the global context what interests us is the drafting of psycho-geographical maps.
-Andreas, what does this collaboration mean to you and how do you feel this project will influence both your personal work as well as the AMP gallery?
I’ve always been a firm believer in synergies and collaborations, so when Helena approached me with the idea of operating a ‘gallery’ out of the AMP building naturally I accepted. Since the beginning AMP’s objective was to create as much of an organic and flexible environment as possible so once the opportunity appeared I happily jumped at it. Hellena’s sensibility differs from mine, slightly, but there is an uninhibited love and understanding for the work from both sides that connects us. It is also clear that this an age of flux rapid transformation locally as well as internationally. Accepted models are widely questioned and new ones are in play. Alliances are forming all over the world enabling artists, galleries etc to deepen their pool of resources and information thus becoming more productive.