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Cultural Olympiad

The Cultural Olympiad is an expression of its definition.  According to the Oxford English Dictionary from the twentieth century, 'Olympiad' is defined as the period of four years between celebrations of the Olympic Games, and it was used by Ancient Greeks for dating events.  Ancient Greeks competed in athletic, literary and musical competitions at the Games at Olympia.

Devised for the first time for the Athens Games in 2004, the organizers of the Cultural Olympiad plan to extend the event into the future.  It will take on the role (between Olympic Games) of continuing the concept of the Olympiad by maintaining and reinforcing the Olympic ideals which are the focus of the Games. 

The Cultural Olympiad started at the end of the Sydney Games in 2000 and continue through 2004 and you can find below the program for 2004.

One example of a cultural event is 'OUTLOOK'.  This International Art Exhibition, brings together the main currents of contemporary art that touch the spirit of our times. The title OUTLOOK underscores the need for looking outwards, for being open to the restless artistic preoccupations, the challenges and the alternative cultural forms of the 21st century.

It sets off a series of relationships between the person as a viewer and the object of art, between vision and the other senses. It reveals the inherent contradictions and the creative possibilities of our changing world. 

According to the organizers, what contemporary art needs today is not its reduction to complex interpretative models, but its integration within a framework of comparison and dialogue-its assimilation within the sphere of a whole, in which each individual part is an active and significant unit. 

Drawing on its links with the present, OUTLOOK illuminates some of the dominant figures of the previous generation who have broken new ground in order to foster the sense of continuity within the artistic production. By featuring important and original works by a number of renowned artists from all over the world, this exhibition is a cultural event of major significance, and the first of its kind in Greece. Many of the important contributing artists have created their works in situ, or created original works commissioned for the exhibition.

We went to one of the three locations(see below for details): the gas works.  We were greeted by an enormous tortoise (see below) and listened to a monologue from a large white car discussing its 'angst'.  The venue was fun, the artwork ranged from excellent to entertaining and if we had time, we would have visited the other locations.  It's very near the Acropolis ad makes for a good contrast to the classical sights and sounds of Athens.




Outlook is made up of three exhibits at separate locations. All three exhibtion venues are situated on the Piraeus Street Axis. Piraeus Street marks the site where in the 5th Century BC the Long Walls of Athens joined the harbour of Piraeus. To this day it remains the key artery connecting Omonoia Square, the center of the city of Athens with Piraeus.

1. “Technopolis” - 100 Piraeus Street, Gazi 
“Technopolis”, the former Athenian gasworks are a mid 19th century red brick industrial complex on Piraeus Street just opposite the Ancient Greek cemetery Kerameikos. In recent years the Municipality of Athens has restored the buildings transforming them into exhibition spaces.

2. Benaki Museum - 138 Piraeus Street & Andronikou 
The Benaki Museum’s recently acquired building lies further down Piraeus Street. Now undergoing radical restructuring, a modernist grid-like building which formerly housed a truck and car warehouse, will provide one of Athens’ most impressive and innovative exhibition spaces.

3. “The Factory” - Athens School of Fine Arts, 256 Piraeus Street 
“The Factory” forms part of the Athens School of Fine Arts complex. Reconstructed in the early ‘90’s it is the biggest exhibition space in Athens and has in recent years housed many significant international exhibition.


Bruce Nauman
Plaster steps, 1997-98
Plaster, steel armature and sodium vapor lamps
110 cm (h) X 245 X 489 cm
Photo credit: Tom Van Eynde
Courtesy: Donald Young Gallery, Chicago

The art: In contrast to other recent major international art events, OUTLOOK is not restricted to a specific theme or a predominant theory. It focuses on works of art characterized by strong imagery and a powerful visual presence. It reestablishes the naturalness and the intensity of works which go beyond the saturation of images to lend a new breadth and a new dimension to the visual and aesthetic experience. "We no longer need pretentious and flamboyant theories on staging exhibitions," Christos M. Joachimides, the exhibition's artistic director points out, "but a restoration of their primary importance for our senses. The difference between one exhibition and an other is its myth and not some abstract concept. What is shaken and crumbling is exactly this myth and not some abstract concept". Often the first victim of the current overabundance of big exhibitions all over the world is art itself. Many of these exhibitions are not based on the works of art themselves but on trendy and striking theories. The oversupply of such theories and exhibitions distorts the very meaning of art, of its material and aesthetic essence and of the direct experience it presupposes. The particular meaning of art is dissipated in the anguished quest of the "new" in art and in a spread of information of a kind that has many people wondering "What is the position of art today?" Hence the need to refocus our attention on art itself and reinstate the moment of the subjective experience. OUTLOOK is a response to the exhaustion suffered by art as a result of an overabundance of exhibitions and works of art. Art becomes stronger when it returns to art and the artists. In this way, what really comes back are the forms and the experiences which constitute a real venture.

The artists: By bringing together 200 works by 85 major contemporary artists from 21 different countries, OUTLOOK also examines the relationships between different generations and origins along the geographic horizon. Although it is host to a variety of expressive media and techniques and a range of works of painting, sculpture, video art, photography, and installations, the exhibition is mainly focused on the interconnections between the works and the overlapping areas between them. It is this extension that becomes one of the key components of the exhibition: everyday objects and assemblies are transformed into sculptures, painting becomes environment, photography becomes painting, video becomes an installation.


Mike Kelley, Light (Time)- Space Modulator, 2002
(Painted steel staircase, (3) DVD players, (3) video projectors, distortion pedal, (2) amplifiers, (98) slide transparencies, (5) glazed and painted ceramic funerary/incense urns, (3) aluminum and plexiglass projection screens. )


CATALOGUE The exhibition is accompanied by a 400-page catalogue edited by Christos M. Joachimides, designed by Michael Paparounis and printed by Adam Publications. The catalogue includes an introduction by the artistic director; essays by Daniel Birnbaum, Nicolas Bourriaud, Arthur Danto, Nikos Daskalothanasis, Boris Groys and George Tzirtzilakis, which examine, from different angles, the new phenomena, the extent and the complexity of the practices of contemporary art; more than 260 colour reproductions of the artists' representative works and their biographical notes.

EXHIBITION ARCHITECTURE The exhibition's indoor display halls cover a total area of 5,000 square metres; another 9,000 square metres are covered by outdoor display areas. The layout was done by the architectural office of Maria Kokkinou and Andreas Kourkoulas, with the collaboration of Eleni Theodorou, according to the specific requirements of the works of art and aiming at a uniform identity and an expanded concept of the viewing experience. The display areas, the exhibits and the visitors form a system of visual relationships which alternates and is gradually revealed through movement.



Opening hours
Monday to Sunday, 10:00 a.m. - 08:00 p.m.
Closed on  25/12/03, 01/01/04, 06/01/04

The 2004 Program



MADRID, 3/02/04 - for two months 
Greece - honoured at ARCO 2004 in Madrid will presenting Greek contemporary visual arts through a number of paintings, sculptures, photographs, installations and video art works dating from the 1980's to date.

ANDROS, The V. & E. Goulandri Museum of Modern Art, 19/06/2004 - 26/09/2004
An exhibition dedicated to the work of Picasso.  The collection focuses on the influence which Greek prehistoric and classical sculpture, as well as classic literature, have exerted on his work.

ATHENS, Benaki Museum in Piraios Street, June 24 - October 2004 
This major exhibition - in collaboration with the Peloponnese Folklore Foundation -  illustrates how 'pleats',   as a feature of clothing since antiquity, have impacted on other cultures and continue to do so through to the 21st century fashion.

ATHENS, Benaki Museum in Piraios Street, July 1, 2004 -  August 31, 2004
Focusing on the history, culture, traditions, customs and ways of life of the Aboriginals, this exhibit from the States of New South Wales and Victoria is a recipricol agreemnnt and presented in return for the Greek Antiquities exhibition staged during the Sydney Olympics.

ATHENS, National Archaeological Museum, June - September 2004 
A large-scale archaeological exhibition featuring carefully chosen samples of ancient Greek art on the subject of the Olympic Games incoporating contibutions from several foreign museums.

ATHENS, National Gallery, June - October 2004
An exhibition focusing on the work of six 19th and 20th century sculptors who used the human form to bridge the gap between traditional and modern art (Rodin, Bourdelle, Maillol, Brancusi, Giacometti, Moore). The exhibit aims to take the visitor around the anthropocentric sculpture of the 19th and 20th centuries, as well as the social, historical, philosophical and existential questions to which the artists of the time were seeking answers.

GOUDI, National Gallery premises, June - October 2004 
Representative samples of the work of Henry Moore are on display in what has become Athens' sculpture gallery par excellence.

ATHENS, Benaki Museum in Peiraios Street, June 2004 
The development and spread of Islamic culture presented in an exhibition of priceless works of art.


Elvis Costello is reponsible for the musical adaptation and production of this two day event featuring selected songs composed by Manos Hatjidakis. The international performmers will mainly be singing in English.

ATHENS June 2-3, 2004 and THESSALONIKI June 6-7, 2004
The World Premiere of a new work by Philip Glass specially commissioned from the Cultural Olympiad. The work will be performed by five musicians -  one from each continent. 

A series of events dedicated to Manos Hatjidakis to commemorate the 10th anniversary of his death. Musicians and artists from around the world will perform compositions of the great Greek composer. 



This event centres on the organisation of an exhibition with three thematic sections: Shadow Puppet Theatres around the world; Greek Shadow Puppet Theatres; and Influences - (second generation productions). It aims to highlight the central role played by shadow puppet theatres in Greek culture and traditions, and examine the extent to which such theatres could be used as a point of contact between cultures.

The exhibition is being set up in collaboration with the Hellenic Literary and Historical Archive (E.L.I.A.), and is accompanied by a publication presenting the history and development of the Greek shadow puppet tradition (Karagiozis) situated within the context of shadow puppet theatre from around the world. The exhibition itself will give an equally panoramic view of its subject matter. 

MIKRI EPIDAUROS, Premiere 4/5/2004

Theatrical monologues performed by of internationally renowned artists. 

ATHENS, Herod Atticus Odeon, 01- 03/07/04

Ninagawa's production of Sophocles' tragedy Oedipus Rex features a cast of a hundred, and this is the only performance of the work since its premiere in Japan in 2002. 

EPIDAURUS, 25-26/06/2004
This performance is panorama of Greek creative talent from the interwar period.   Bringing together examples of stage sets painted by the most important Greek artists and stage designers of the time, as well as musical works of the most significant Greek composers, the production by the Greek Art Theatre - Karolos Koun takes selected scenes from the works of Aristophanes and links them together by means of a Narrator into a single performance.  A great opportunity to see cladssical Greek theatre seen and heard in the best tradition of translating ancient Greek drama into modern Greek.



In 2004, and for the first time, the international competition for young dancers organised by the Royal Academy of Dance in London, will take place in Greece   Dancers from 85 countries will compete in the Herod Atticus Odeon, Athens;  and the three best performances will take home a prize. 

For the first time a selection of new productions from the renowned Dance Theatre are presented  outside the Netherlands.  The performances will take place in an open theater!