Alpha to Omega of Our Athens Nostalgia: N is for Niche

You didn’t make it to the Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghika Gallery – Benaki Museum during the small window of their regular opening hours (Friday-Saturday, 10am-6pm). But you were lucky enough to know Polina Kosmadaki, who had curated an exhibition of Ghika’s photographs of the 1930s and who gave you a private out-of-hours tour. You would hear from Polina (and then read in an online description) how Ghika’s photographic practice coincides with the efforts of Greek artists of the “30s Generation” to develop a native modern idiom that emphasized a Greek “line,” the Greek light, the “modern” qualities of the landscape, the ancient ruins, as well as folk art and local traditions. Had Polina not have given you this tour, you wouldn’t have discovered the corner of the gallery in which Zafos XagorarisThe Niche was tucked away. The Niche is a project to restore a chapel built in the 1930s for the first open-air school in Athens and it is beautifully documented in a special publication you can see in the photograph. You didn’t look at the publication about the project until much later, but when you did, the images you saw made you long to be back in Athens – to see the new Niche in the flesh, not knowing at the time that the Academy, the Lyceum and the Stoa Poikile had a modern cousin. What lessons do you think are being taught there today?

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