A N T O N I S .D. P A P A Y A N N I D E S

K O S T A S   I R A K L I S   G E O R G I O U
Art in the Press


The story of using the permanence of art
strengthen the transient message of newspapers. 

In the late Seventies/early Eighties, Greece as a country was going through deep change – and its Press was leading the way. That change was part economic, part social since new structures of an open society were in place and demanding their share in growth; even more present was a spirit of seeking new perspectives, reaching for new frontiers – and in this, the Press was in the first line.

In that very period, a leading Greek newspaper – TO VIMA – owned by an emblematic figure of Greek public life, Christos Lambrakis, used the technical potential offered by new printing facilities, but mainly the human potential it mustered around a forward-looking social project to attempt, in its Sunday supplement, to bring original art creations in contact with its audience. Literary pieces were produced (or translated), accompanied by original artworks, illustrations, specially commissioned to visual artist Kostas Iraklis Georgiou. The idea behind that experiment was to use the permanence of art – especially so of the graphic arts – to add a touch of depth, to give a feeling of permanence, to allow for a meditative approach to the message that a newspaper carries – a message that is by its very essence transient and fleeting. Greek and international writers who have been showcased in this way are: Italo Calvino, Alberto Moravia, Aristotelis Nikolaidis, Kostoula Mitropoulu, Giannis Angelou, Vassilis Alexakis, Takis Hajianagnostou, Spiros Plaskovitis, Graham Greene, Ernest Hemingway, Jorge Amado, Patricia Highsmith, Vasilis Vasilikos, Ilya Varshavsky, Vladimir Voinovich, Augusto Roa Basto, Anatole Broyard, Elio Vittorini, Michel Lambert, Roald Dahl, Jean Joubert,Suzanne Prou,Istan Orkeny, Catherine Rihot,William Faulkner, Sandro Penna, Luigi Pirandello, Isaac Babel.

This experiment, some 30 years after it originated, is being revisited by the book/album “Η ΤΕΧΝΗ ΣΤΟ ΕΦΗΜΕΡΟ” [The title in Greek incorporates a word-play, since it brings the permanence of art/τέχνη in juxtaposition with the impermanent element/εφήμερο of the newspaper/εφημερίδα in Greek]. This book reproduces original works of Kostas Iraklis Georgiou, that were first used in the Sunday Supplement of TO VIMA; the story of that experiment, but most importantly its meaning and its socioeconomic as well as cultural or  even political background in Greece of the Seventies/Eighties is told by two editors of today’s leading Greek newspapers (the first one was back then instrumental in building TO VIMA in its modern form); the president of Greek State Museum of Contemporary Art and art historian Katerina Koskina; the then-editor of TO VIMA Yorgos Romeos; the managing editor of a financial sister-publication Yannis Marinos; and journalist A.D. Papayannides who coordinated “Η ΤΕΧΝΗ ΣΤΟ ΕΦΗΜΕΡΟ”.

As leading Greek (but internationally active) visual artist Tassos said back in 1978, “such design works operate in the overall synthesis of a publishing venture”. While art critic Maria Paxinou seconded: “in many cases, the artist is not limited to a simple “optical rendering” and transcription of the text; he attempts an interpretation”. In more ways than one, this visit to a venture of the past may be peculiarly relevant to the search for new meaning on part of the Press nowadays.