InvestigationLong dominated by an overwhelming artistic heritage, Hellenic creation took time to take off. New talents are now daring to free themselves from the imprint of ancient Greece, without denying it.
Silhouettes of ancient Greek women, faces of great Greek philosophers, Doric columns colored in blue, yellow or red: these neon shades immediately give a youthful look and a modern look to these Greek figures. Handmade in Greece, the decorative objects of the Sophia brand flirt between art and design and are sold throughout the world, notably at the Louvre Museum in Paris or the British Museum in London.
A creative saga started in 2014 in the midst of the financial crisis: “I believe that what made the concept successful is this mix of modernity and reference to our past”, explains the designer of the brand, Alexandra Alevra. But if Sophia’s success was very rapid, the development of Greek design takes much longer.
First, because the weight of ancient Greece and its aesthetics has long been overwhelming. “But the new design scene, albeit quiet, is slowly maturing. The history of the Greek nation remains a major influence, but it is slowly being digested. Young designers are ready, for example, to reinterpret episodes from Greek mythology,” says Tina Daskalantonaki, curator of the shop at the Museum of Cycladic Art, located in the Kolonaki district of Athens. There are enthroned statues of Cycladic art – a flourishing civilization between 3,000 and 2,200 BC – evoking the sculptures of Picasso or Brancusi but also a sharp selection of these new design signatures.
Marble, ceramics and embroidery
The local artisanal culture could also have been a brake on the development of design. “In a country where tradition and the place of craftsmanship remain very strong, many find it difficult to really call themselves designers. Many artists place themselves between craftsmanship and design without making a choice. However, these are not the same professions”, explains Sergios Fotiadis, designer, co-founder of the We Design agency and pioneer in thinking about “made in Greece” souvenir objects.
Because many tourists rummage through the stalls of Athens or the artists’ studios of the islands to bring back objects in marble, ceramics, embroidery, three essential Greek craftsmanship. A heritage that designers no longer hesitate to rework. Thus, Ioanna Koulouri from the Meet the Cat studio has fashioned magnificent brass pendants (54 euros), which are actually small pieces of embroidery, inspired by childhood. “Greek families gather around the table every Sunday at noon, a table always covered with a tablecloth embroidered by the grandmother”, explains the designer from her small studio in Athens.
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