Mary Chatzaki with the painting «Sailing away» by Yiannis Adamakis at his show in the art gallery «anti».

Manolis and Koula Charalampous at the entrance to «Diplos» convenience store in the Old Market at Parikia, that put its mark on a whole era.

The moment the swimmers dive into the water for the crossing of Paros – Antiparos.

Mary Chatzaki

Interview: Avgi Kalogianni | Photos: Mary Chatzaki

10 years anti art gallery in Antiparos

The “anti” art gallery first opened its doors in the summer of 2012, in a Lilliputian 6x3x3m space right by the entrance to the Castle hosting painting, sculpture, ceramics, jewellery, photography, graphic design and video art exhibitions until the autumn of 2022, when it closed. For more than ten years, it gave us a host of memorable moments. Both the gallery and the Antiparos International Photo Festival marked the island’s cultural life for as long as they lasted. In the following interview, Mary Chatzaki, the gallery’s founder, talks to us about these ten high-impact years.

|| The high points ||
The first major exhibition was that of Chouliaras, curated by Elisabeth Plessa, with his daughter, who provided us with his works, attending as honorary guest. After all, Chouliaras’ residence for many years was inside the Castle of Antiparos. Three more artists joined us, Kakisis, who gave a talk, Foivos Delivorias and Panousis, and we held an event at the Castle that had no precedent in the island’s cultural scene –a large crowd, a great many songs, a huge success!
And that’s how the gallery was gradually established, and then Christos Bokoros came over creating a series of artworks designated for exhibition on Antiparos. We received great feedback by everyone coming up next. Then we got friendly with some of the artists, who asked us to be featured in another exhibition, as was the case with Achilleas Christidis.

I also feel grateful for the two exhibitions of beloved artist Yiannis Adamakis, and, if I was to single out one wonderful moment, that would be the singing on the bench with a baglamas accompaniment! George Hadoulis’ exhibition of paintings and ceramics as well as Stelios Ghikas’ were also among the highlights of this journey. Another top-notch event was that supporting and promoting the Kapetaneika –a wooden sailing boats regatta– commemorating Kostas Gouzelis, which takes place in Naoussa, Paros.
Platon Rivellis, the photography instructor and theorist, also exhibited his photographs in the gallery and has given two seminars on Antiparos. Another exhibition that stood out for its originality was the video art show put up by Eva Papamargariti, who had the gallery completely emptied and videos projected on the walls.
A special exhibition was that of Dimitra Katsaouni marking the 200th anniversary of the Greek Revolution and featuring the Heroes of 1821, which was attended by Antiparos Primary School’s students and their teachers.

A fitting finale to the gallery’s run was an exhibition showcasing the works of School of Fine Art students entitled “Have a Seat in Antiparos” in September 2022, kindly attended by their professors –certainly, a great honour for Antiparos. An array of Paros- and Antiparos-based artists displayed their works in individual or group visual art or photography exhibitions. Exhibitions of artworks by local artists were also held getting people to step into the gallery for the first time. We saw wide participation from local volunteers, mainly in the festival.

|| Antiparos International Photo Festival ||
The Festival arose from David Frazer Wray’s facebook page entitled “Antiparos Photo Gallery”, as well as my own idea of setting up a festival-type event. We made the most of the grounds of the Castle and to the best of our ability. Every July, starting off from the “anti” gallery that hosted the official guest’s exhibition, fifteen photography exhibitions would unfold in the singularly distinct surroundings of the outdoor spaces of the Castle. Even Stratos Kalafatis displayed part of his collection themed after Athos.

In the first year of the Festival, in 2013, the crowds were phenomenal and the feedback we got even from people I didn’t expect to turn up was outstanding. I didn’t think I was doing anything great, but I did believe I was bringing about something quite useful. Many were visiting the Castle for the first time.
The Festival became a not-for-profit association upon the Municipality’s proposal, which would be thus enabled to finance us, and was joined by the gallery. The funding, however, was minimal and the Municipality seemed to ignore rather than support us. I was hoping for some backing up, even of a non-financial kind, such us granting us the use of spots for putting up our posters and banners –this is a complaint of ours.
When the gallery closed, after the dissolution of the association and the announcement of the end of the Festival by David, I lied in anticipation of the Municipality’s reaction. But there wasn’t any. So, we brought the venture to a close, also owing to the archaeological digs at the Castle that made its grounds unsuitable for exhibitions.

|| End of season ||
Like everything else, the gallery, too, was greatly affected by the quarantine. During that time, things changed because quite a few friends and acquaintances avoided coming over to the Castle. And this practice was not reversed straight after the coronavirus pandemic. In fact, for the last two years, Antiparos has been deprived of the art-loving crowd. The neighbourhood changed and the gallery was a bit out of place. We used to be something special, a hangout had taken shape there, together with the bench. I’ve been suggested to hold an exhibition about the bench as both famous and lesser-known folks, as well as a large number of artists, have sat on it. I have amazing photos of this bench –this exhibition may eventually be mounted.

|| Konstantina Skiada ||
During the first years, I always had an assistant who never stayed around for very long, until Konstantina Skiada came by and stayed on until the end. A graphic designer and a Vakalo School graduate, she met most of the gallery’s graphic art needs. All the artists came to appreciate and love her. At the opening, after putting everything in place, I’d go to rest for a while leaving Konstantina to stand in for me and open the gates. And afterwards, there was a beautiful moment in store for me as I was drawing closer to the gallery, and saw people overflowing the alley, a glass of wine in hand, and then the fatigue would go away and what I’d be left with was just a sense of sheer satisfaction.

|| What I made out of it ||
What I got out of this experience was the joy of meeting artists, listening to them, laying my eyes on their creations. Even though I was anxious, especially when the artist was famous and was coming straight out of an Athenian gallery, I had plenty of confidence in myself trying to be authentic and avoid pretension. Rather than being the typical gallerist or an art historian, I’ve always been an art lover who provided the space, and possibly hospitality too. I hope the gallery, which never turned into an art shop but remained the way I wanted it to be –an art space, has planted a seed in people’s minds and consciousness so that it can be set up anew somewhere on the island. If only…

|| Future plans ||
There are no finalised plans for the future; just several thoughts and desires. One such wish is for some headway to be made with the exhibition and publication of The People of Despotiko, a collection of photographs capturing the restoration works carried out by marble sculptors on Despotiko –the uninhabited Cycladic Island dubbed “the other Delos”. The exhibition may have travelled to the U.S., but on Antiparos it was under-reported and not properly supported. Of course, the good thing is that, following the photographic documentation of the site, annual exhibitions were held showcasing the marble sculptors’ works. By now, I consider the marble sculptors my people.

|| Mary Chatzaki, the photographer ||
When I photograph, I don’t direct; the frame emerges instinctively. But instinct, as Plato Rivellis says, takes some cultivation. The easiest thing for me is to find a strikingly beautiful moment. Even an unpleasant scene has to be aesthetically pleasing. Most of the time, I can carry that off quite easily, so I think it’s instinctive now because, if I waste time pausing to think about it, I’ll miss the moment. Major themes I’ve worked on is sleeping people on the ferry boat or the faces I’ve photographed along Panepistimiou Str., in Athens. There, I was daring, but I could have been beaten up. As another great photographer I worked with, Stelios Skopelitis, once said, “In order to learn photography, get the camera and go out into the streets.” This is something I’ve done.

I’m very happy if I get a face –for me my most important photos are those with a human presence. I’ve never felt I could do what leading photographers have done: capture a landscape, portray nature. I have neither the skill nor the right camera. A landscape is something so powerful that I don’t feel my photography can effectively depict it. Since I was a child, I’ve been taking photographs and admiring photographers. I watch a lot of movies but, there too, I pick out frames. Cinema has been a great school for me and I always scan the credits to see who the photographer is.