In Athens earlier this year I attended the opening of an improvised gallery space for street artists. Athens’s built environment is covered in graffiti — predominantly hastily scrawled tags, but also ambitious, colorful, and often large examples of public art. Many of these works are very prominent, and some of the artists responsible have made names for themselves, both inside Greece and, in one or two cases, internationally.
Stelios Faitakis, for instance — a Greek artist who combines a Byzantine visual idiom with hot political content — had a mural prominently placed at the last Venice Biennale, and now has a flourishing career on the international contemporary art circuit. But at the opening I attended, two short blocks away from Faitakis’s earliest extant mural (now just a weather-beaten fragment), an art critic I spoke to insisted that the “golden age” of street art in Athens had ended 10 years ago. “You are among the ruins!” he concluded with a flourish.