Local guide to Neos Kosmos

Local guide to Neos Kosmos

Greece, Athens
Neos Kosmos appeared on the map while Athens slept. This modest, blue-collar neighborhood is experiencing a renaissance, with trendy art spaces, eateries, theaters and bars popping up among auto repair shops and apartment buildings.

A New Beginning in a New World

“I felt that I had done everything I could in London. It was time to move on.”

But why exactly Neos Kosmos, I ask.

“Well, you can walk to the Acropolis!” he says with the joy of a newcomer, even though he grew up in Athens.

“I believe that art revitalizes run-down neighborhoods,” he continues as we stand in his gallery and explore the covered favela he built with by Athens-based artist Finch for his latest exhibition. Fittingly, since Neos Kosmos actually began as a slum for refugees in the 1920s. “Come on, I'll show you,” he says, and we begin our trek through the hood.

"You know, this place was known as garazoupoli (meaning "garage town") because of the crazy amount of auto shops in the area."Its history is easy to check since I'm struggling to find a radius more two blocks where there is no parts store or body shop where local handymen work under open hoods.

Kra leads me a block up the street from his gallery and down the stairs through an open door, and it immediately feels like I've stepped back in time. A sign behind a protective metal grill on a first-floor window reads Chronokapsula, which translates to “time capsule.” I'm surrounded by vintage items: dolls, Playmobil figures, board games, books, comics, audio cassettes, Nintendo video games, stickers and stuffed animals. It's a toy collector's paradise who doesn't want to spend a fortune, and a great place to show today's kids what life was like before the Internet.

Moving up

Our next stop is at Symptom, a contemporary art space founded by The Krank, a Greek artist who spent time in Berlin and then returned to Athens at the same time as The Krah. It's still early morning, so we press our faces to the window and look inside to see if anyone is home. The red rod-shaped light in the metal frame outside the studio is turned off. “You should come back here,” says Kra before moving on. Symptom is just one of the spaces where artistic expression is taking center stage; ceramic studios and community workshops, murals on local basketball courts and neighborhood walls, and tram cars lining the new tram line, Neos Street The space is full of creative fertility.

He takes me through rows of public housing in the area known as Durguti, which was originally a slum occupied by Armenians and then refugees during the Asia Minor disaster of 1922. Beginning in the 1950s, housing was gradually built to provide better conditions for residents. Small green parks separate the buildings, and wooden benches provide seating and shade from the summer sun.

"Can you see that?" he asks, pointing to an apartment building wall covered in tags. “I want to ask the owners if they want me to paint it over. To make it beautiful.”

Eat, drink and be merry

Fita is probably the restaurant that first attracted gourmets from all over the city to Neos Kosmos, bringing the area to the culinary forefront. The gastrotavern is next to a tram stop, overlooking one of the apartment complexes, with an open kitchen that focuses on seafood and a menu that changes daily. “My friends say it's amazing, but I don't have time to go there,” Kra says.

"Oh, and for drinks we'll go to Teras. It's a little more upscale than others in the area, but they make amazing cocktails. It's in a beautiful neoclassical building with a garden in the back." , and upstairs there are art exhibitions." The garden is a real oasis for the area: tables are located under a massive fig tree that appears to surround an equally large olive tree, its branches tilted towards the sun.

We head towards Callirua Street, the unofficial border between Koukaki and Neos Kosmos. The area, which is the epicenter of the underground art revival, would be nothing without a record store. Go to Underflow. This cool, dimly lit store, housed in a former motorcycle repair shop, is a haven for those who believe music is best heard in analog format.

Top of the World

By this time the sun is already at its zenith, and it becomes too hot to walk, so we drive to the last stop. Up the hill, up the stairs and onto the huge rock on Cynosargus Hill, which offers a breathtaking 360 degree view of the entire city from an angle I've never seen before. The sea shimmers, Philopappou, the Acropolis and Lycabetus are perfectly aligned, and the midday sun bleaches the stark white buildings topped with silver water tanks. Kra stands on top with his arms raised, like the king of the world, his new world.

“Everyone says that art is passion. I think it's more of an obsession than anything else. Even if I didn't do this for a living, I'd still be doing it,” he says.

He sees potential everywhere; every street is a discovery, every wall is a canvas. And the area he chose proved him right. For now, Delirium remains the only urban art gallery in Greece, serving as a hub for both artists and amateurs. In a city that seems to breathe change, it is only a matter of time before others follow suit.

Source: thisisathens

Read also:
Photojournal: Fet Gede - Day of the Dead фото
Photojournal: Fet Gede - Day of the Dead