SIGHT - Antony Gormley on the Greek Island of Delos with NEON Greece
We were invited by NEON Greece who kindly sponsored our trip to Mykonos. All images, words and opinions are our own.
We began our Mykonos trip with the private view of The Palace at 4am - an exhibition held at the Archaeological Museum of Mykonos and presented by NEON Greece. The exhibition features 13 artists from all over the world and they were invited to create artwork that responded to the collections and antiquities that are housed at the archaeological museum.
The Palace at 4am intertwines the contemporary pieces with the treasured relics of the past; Ian Law’s ceramic figures sit in glass vitrines with the excavated pottery whilst others sit atop plinths in between Zohra Opoku’s botanical photographs. This courageous juxtaposition creates an interesting dialogue about time, humanity and our desire to make marks on/with the earth.
Collectively, the artworks talked about diversity within the human race and celebrated those differences - a message that we felt should absolutely be shared. Individually we felt a personal connection to the work of Haris Epaminonda, Rena Papaspyrou and Petrit Halilaj, who all incorporated natural elements in their work in some way.
The following evening we boarded a boat to the island of Delos; a small (3.4km²) island to the west of Mykonos that, according to Greek myth, was the birthplace of Zeus’s twin children Apollo (god of light) and Artemis (goddess of the hunt, the wilderness and the moon).
We were there to visit SIGHT, a site-specific exhibition by Antony Gormley in collaboration with the Ephorate of Antiquities of Cyclades (say that 10 times fast!) on the archaeological site and the Museum of Delos Island.
Historically, Delos was a major centre for religion and a vital trading port (we’re talking 1st millennium BC) and despite its past importance is now uninhabited apart from archaeologists that are working on live sites.
So for British artist Antony Gormley to have 29 sculptures installed in various places around the island, it’s quite a big deal. We spent a few hours exploring and quite honestly could’ve been happy doing it for a whole day. Apparently Delos has a particularly wet winter and so when we hopped off the boat we were greeted by greenery and plant life that we really weren’t expecting.
There is a map and a key explaining all the different sculptures and where to find them but (not sure whether it’s intentional or not) it’s quite useless and we found it better off to just wander and let the statues/bodies/forms find us. We call it ‘discoverable’ and it suits us just fine.
Antony himself was there with us and gave a rather emotive speech; he talked of the honour of being able to make his mark on such a special place and the hope that many others would visit Delos and that his work would act as a catalyst for thought and contemplation. His words were humble and honest, stating that the sculptures themselves have no intrinsic value and want for nothing - it is us that impart our ideas and value to objects.
For us Antony’s work is beautifully-simplistic and we thoroughly enjoyed sitting by the various pieces, mimicking their stature and taking in the sights and sounds of the island - the iron figures eroding slowly in the elements as we too felt the power of the sun on our skin and the breeze through our clothing. The beauty in his work is that it’s inoffensive and so if you don’t like it then they’re mostly hidden and at least they’ve moved you in some way and of course by that time you’re on Delos and the island itself has plenty to win you over. It did us anyway…
Daily ferries and boats take visitors across to Delos and guided tours are also available (most of the guided tours include the admission price to the island which is €12) and there is no extra cost for the exhibition once you’re on the island. It is advised to wear flat shoes/trainers as the terrain is quite loose underfoot. The site is free-flowing so you’re able to roam and there is the option of a steep climb up Mount Kynthos (great views at the top and a few of Antony’s work as a reward!) but you don’t have to climb up if you can’t or simply don’t want to.
NEON in collaboration with the Ephorate of Antiquities of Cyclades presents: Antony Gormley | SIGHT On the sacred island of Delos, Greece 2 May – 31 October 2019 Curated by Iwona Blazwick OBE, Director, Whitechapel Gallery and Elina Kountouri, Director, NEON Organised and commissioned by NEON.
NEON is a nonprofit organisation that works to bring contemporary culture closer to everyone. It is committed to broadening the appreciation, understanding, and creation of contemporary art in Greece and to the firm belief that this is a key tool for growth and development. NEON, founded in 2013 by collector and entrepreneur Dimitris Daskalopoulos, breaks with the conventional model of a contemporary art foundation limited to a single location. Acting within a multitude of initiatives, spaces, and civic and social contexts, it seeks to expose the power of contemporary art to stimulate, inspire, and affect both the individual and society at large. NEON constructively collaborates with public and private cultural institutions and supports programs that increase access and interaction with contemporary art.