Mykonos, the new destination for art lovers

Mykonos, a high-end hotspot successfully combines parting and fine art in a unique kind way. When you hear about Cyclades islands and Mykonos, one of the first images that pops to your mind is whitewashed houses with deep blue hues, a discreet presence of fuchsia bougainvillea flowers, narrow streets and of course the centuries old windmills.

One of the things you may don’t know about the cosmopolitan island with its’ world-renowned restaurants and beach clubs is the fact that there is burgeoning art scene which attracts a more discerning kind of tourist to the island. Its many galleries and the new Mykonos Arts Festival all point to an exciting cultural blossoming.

Just a short drive from Mykonos town, the island’s galleries sit inconspicuously among its heaving alleyways, ubiquitous souvenir shops and outposts for luxury brands. One street away from Ling Ling is Rarity Gallery. Run by Vassilis and Christos for 25 years, the gallery exhibits works — photography, painting and sculpture — from internationally esteemed artists, including Julian Opie and Carole Feuerman.  The owners create a unique feeling to the visitors, with opera music swelling and spilling into the street while the owner entertains prospective buyers.

Famous Galleries to visit

Exhibiting this summer is Greek-American artist Paul Rousso, whose debut show last year went so well that he’s back for another season. “I have so much respect for the other artists that Rarity carries,” says Rousso.

“Mykonos is one of the most important, cosmopolitan and well-known summer destinations in the world and above all, it’s beautiful,” adds Vassilis. “It wasn’t really the jet-setters that drew us in, it was more the feeling of the island.”

Even though the galleries are just a short walk from each other, each one has its own history and succeeds in its own right.

The Big White Gallery focuses on Greek artists, while Gallery Skoufa (with an outpost in Athens) and Kapopoulos Fine Arts offer a mix of emerging and established Greek and international artists. Each runs an ever-rotating show, selling pieces of art every day — an indication of how art has become big business for the island.

Not that it’s all business. Championing young, modern artists in Mykonos is curator Marina Vranopoulou, founder and owner of Dio Horia Gallery on Panahra Square. Opening as a platform in 2015 with the the intent to host a summer residency and non-commercial exhibition based on the work made by each artist invited, Dio Horia is the the newest gallery on the island. It’s perhaps most representative of the contemporary art scene there because of its island-inspired residency program.

“I invite artists to come and stay in Mykonos and actually be influenced by its past and what it is today,” says Vranopoulou. “I like the idea of having an exhibition space on an island where people are relaxed and have time to come and enjoy the art.”

Hyper-saturated paintings of Mykonos’s selfie-taking beach clubbers made by Todd James, an American artist, bedeck the sun-filled upper floors of Dio Horia, while the newly landed and jet-lagged Matt Palladino worked on this summer’s Mykonos-inspired instalment, which opened on July 6.

“I work in a basement in Brooklyn, so being here to make the art is pretty much the dream,” says Palladino, whose work is a watercolour interpretation of his new surroundings.

“There’s an effort nowadays to bring more quality art into Mykonos, and Dio Horia seems to be leading the way in this,” says Nefeli Baimpa Dimopoulou, a Greek architect.

Just a few streets away, Berlin gallery Magic Beans has opened a pop-up exhibition for the summer, focusing on emerging modern artists in its first gallery outside Germany.

Not your typically laid-back Greek island, Mykonos is leading the charge in cultural output, attempting to match its cosmopolitan image with its artistic draw. Andonis Kioukas, founder of this year’s inaugural Mykonos Arts Festival, says his aim is to “create an annual cultural event of the highest quality, worthy of the reputation of Mykonos as a unique international destination”. Thanks to forward-thinking curators such as Vranopoulou at Dio Horia, the island is well on its way.

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