Sozita Goudouna is an exemplary art curator whose long, multifaceted and multi-textural experience in the Greek and foreign art world creates ripples wherever she moves. Now in New York and Head of Operations at the studio of legendary artist Raymond Pettibon, Goudouna talks to GCT about the Greek art scene and the various projects she has been working on.
How did you find yourself on the art path?
I was able to have a better understanding of myself through my involvement in the arts. The shift occurred when I decided to merge my academic interests with a more practical participation in the arts. At some point we realize that it isn’t a privilege to follow our dreams, but a prerequisite if we want to experience our full potential and truly “contribute” to society.
What have been some of the highlights of your work as an art curator in Greece and abroad?
Following a 17-year “stopover” in London to study and work for the academy and the local art scene, I felt the need to present the work of Greek artists abroad. The collective project I curated in 2009 at the London Festival of Europe, which featured international and Greek artists and architects at the Shunt Vaults (a labyrinth of railway arches under London Bridge Station) was a milestone moment!
I am pleased that versions of that project also toured in Athens at the Benaki Museum and the Christian & Byzantine Art Museum. These versions were with the participation of established international artists such as Mat Collishaw and most of the London participants, including Kostas Alivizatos, Melia Kreiling, Nefeli Skarmea, Xristina Penna, Yorgis Noukakis, The Erasers, Klio Boboti, Margarita Bofiliou, Kostis Velonis, Alexandros Mistriotis, and Dimitra Stamatiou are very active in the international art scene.
During the years of the Greek financial crisis, a key project that I consider has had a positive and long-term impact on the local art scene was the first official Athens Art Residency that I directed with the support of European funding. The programme hosted solo exhibitions by influential emerging and established international artists, including Lynda Benglis, Martin Creed, Marie Voignier and Santiago Sierra and collaborated with Marina Abramović for her production of “Seven Deaths,” a tribute to the life and death of Maria Callas that is set to debut in 2020 at the Munich opera house.
As a member of the Ecological Association of Hydra since 1988, I also enjoyed arts and environmental projects I curated on the island in 2011 and a recent research project I initiated and realized with the support of the Onassis Foundation at Aixoni Sculpted landscape in Glyfada, built in 1991 by Nella Golanda. Aixoni has been culturally inert and my project attempted to highlight the impact and influential role that it could play for the Greek cultural industry.
Tell us about your work in the US now with acclaimed artist Raymond Pettibon & what the exhibition aspires towards.
I moved to NY in 2015 to work for Performa Biennial and New York University and when I realized that I wanted to stay in NYC one step leads to the other, teaching at City University of New York (CUNY) and managing Pettibon Studio.
Raymond Pettibon is perhaps the most prominent contemporary American artist to concentrate on drawing as his primary medium. It is a great privilege and art history lesson to work with him as head of operations of his studio and with the galleries that represent him such as David Zwirner Gallery, New York, London, Hong Kong, Regen Projects in LA and Sadie Coles in London. With Raymond, we worked for the inaugural exhibition of Zwirner’s first outpost in continental Europe, the Paris gallery that also hosted an event for Dior with Pettibon’s art pieces that inspired Kim Jones on his fall men’s collection for Dior. Currently, we are working on his show at Regen Projects LA.
Pettibon’s work is widely admired among the contemporary art audience and has avid devotees in the international field of drawing connoisseurs, nevertheless, fewer people are aware of his influential writings, scripts, and videos. Being affiliated with Performa Biennial in New York, as the inaugural Andrew W. Mellon curator, my main concern was also to highlight the textual and performative aspect of Pettibon’s oeuvre by initiating and producing a project at New Museum for Performa Biennial in collaboration with Massimiliano Gioni and RoseLee Goldberg and with the participation of musicians and artists including Kim Gordon, Oliver Augst, Frances Stark, Young Kim, Marcel Dzama, Juli Susin, Veronique Bourgoin among many other artists.
How would you describe the art scene in Greece? In what ways have you seen it evolve in your life so far?
The Greek art scene, like Greece itself, is unpredictable, stray (in terms of governmental strategy and funding), exciting and undisciplined. I consider that lately, it has evolved into a more international scene owing to the broader interest of foreigners in Athens. That is partly a result of the financial and social crisis, and of art initiatives by younger, local and international artists and curators who understand the importance of experimentation and who aren’t afraid to fail. This approach has caused a cultural shift from the significance of galleries in the 1990s to the prominence of non-profit art initiatives.
How does the art scene in Greece compare & contrast to that in the US? What changes would you like to see made in Greece & why as an art-lover & curator?
The US art scene is very different… Greece has a long road ahead of it and unfortunately, during the period of Documenta we lost the opportunity of making a coherent statement about art that is produced in Greece – and without a national statement it is difficult to export art.
There have been interesting initiatives by the Ministry of Culture such as EKETHEH that developed into the MITROO (an online record for cultural non-profits) in 2010, however, the MITROO wasn’t able to announce any open calls for funding until 2019. As far as required changes are concerned, I imagine it would be a repetition to talk about transparency or about the (non) opening of the Contemporary Art Museum, EMST. It is positive that lately, the Ministry decided to include a Secretary for Contemporary Art, we would like to see contemporary art specialists at these posts and consistency when the next government takes over…
Are there many Greeks involved in the art world in the US today? What is the Greek influence — if any- in the US art scene? Are there any contemporary artists like Stephen Antonakos making a mark?
Yes, there are many Greeks who either moved to New York early like Antonakos, Chryssa, Samaras, Mylonas, Hadjipateras, Marketou or emerging artists who came recently. I consider that it is significant for the Greek Ministry of Culture to “realize” the impact that the Hellenic Consulates can have on contemporary Greek art abroad and to design a serious strategy for the arts, similar to the British Council, the Austrian Embassy and the French Cultural centers. Otherwise, the extroversion of Greek culture will depend on private initiative.