Invisible City, Onassis Cultural Centre / Fast Forward Festival, Omonia Square, Athens, Greece

08.05.2017 - 21.05.2017

Photo: Stavros Petropoulos / Alaska

Photo: Stavros Petropoulos / Alaska

Photo: Gregor Schneider

Athens 2017, hand painted water colour on mesh fabric hanging above the ground, mesh fabric, metal construction towers, metal ropes, water tanks and weights (4600qm, H max = 1000 cm), Omonia Square, Athens, Greece 08.05.2017 - 21.05.2017
curator: Katia Arfara
© Onassis Cultural Centre/Fast Forward Festival, Gregor Schneider / VG Bild-Kunst Bonn

One of Germany's most controversial visual artists, Gregor Schneider, transforms Omonia Square into a place of shelter, a neutral zone hidden from attackers and the watchful eye of Google maps alike.

Omonia Square, in the heart of downtown Athens, is going to look somewhat different for a while, thanks to the eminent German artist. Schneider, who won the Golden Lion at the 2001 Venice Biennale, is preparing a work for the Onassis Cultural Centre's Fast Forward Festival 4, entitled Invisible City, it employs the art of camouflage. In fact, Schneider's entire oeuvre seeks to balance the visible and the invisible as he explores the relationship between private and public space, the imaginary and the real. The poetics of architecture, the many faces of the cityscape, are summarized in his work in the simple statement that "cities could be different if we could design and build them differently". He also references cities which offer a safe haven to the imagination in this era of perturbing transparency and the networked documentation of reality, a safe place where the concepts of surveillance, control, visibility and recognition seem to lose their dominance, albeit only for a time and in his work.

The use to which he puts camouflage in his Athenian action is bound up with the historic square's invisibility from above. The artist was inspired by the famous camouflaged locations of World War II like the aircraft factories on America's West Coast which were covered by gigantic sacks for the duration of the war for fear of Japanese bombing raids. His is a practice which, by protecting and camouflaging, distorts the image of the actual urban environment, meaning the appearance and reception of reality.

The artist:

One of Schneider's most important projects is Haus u r, which he started in 1985. In it, he has transformed his family home by creating copies of rooms within the original rooms of his home with their floors, walls, ceiling and doors. The hidden gaps between the actual rooms and their copies become mysterious, hollow places. Although visitors of the house report about claustrophobic experience in the disturbing normality, Schneider himself avoids interpretation, emphasizing instead the concepts of addition and the inessential or unnecessary. He said once: I do not know whether the house is a refuge or dungeon.

Other projects have provided much attention and social relevant discussions, such as his twin houses Die Familie Schneider (2004), the project Cube (2005), the High Security Isolation Cells (2005), his Dying Room (2007), his Temple in Kolkata (2011) or the pulverized Nazi Goebbels birthplace (2014). In Athens, Schneider goes back to the high-political public space. What is today a public space and what a private space? He presented 21 Beach Cells in 2007 on popular Bondi beach in Sydney, Australia. For 21 Beach Cells, Schneider placed 21 wire cells on the beach containing sun loungers and umbrellas, thereby combining relaxation and recreation with restriction and incarceration in a highly iritating way. He asked: What kind of space does a person needs to feel free?

Gregor Schneider, a leading visual artist, sculptor and exponent of conceptual art with existential dimensions, was born in 1969 in the city of Rheydt in North Rhine-Westphalia— which also happens to have been the home town of Nazi Germany's propaganda chief, Joseph Goebbels. Schneider was interested in art from a very early age. He staged his first solo show, the darkly entitled "Teenage Depression" (Pubertäre Verstimmung), aged just sixteen at the Kontrast gallery in Mönchengladbach. Between 1989 and 1992, he studied at the Fine Art Academies of Düsseldorf, Münster and Hamburg. In the early 90s, his work began to earn recognition and to be included in exhibitions at important galleries and major museums.

As a teenager, Schneider's first job was at the cemetery in his home town. As he said a few years ago in an interview for the Guardian: "I used to carry coffins from the church to the hole in the ground. It was a well-paid job, mainly because no one wanted to do it. The other people I worked with were an alcoholic and a disabled man".

More info:


Concept - Design: Gregor Schneider
Curator of the Project: Katia Arfara
Curation and Architectural Design by: Giota Passia, Panagiotis Roupas
Τechnical Αssistant: Kamil Jackiewicz
Comission: Onassis Cultural Centre-Athens / Fast Forward Festival

Special thanks to: Municipality of AThens, Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sport, George Zongolopoulos Foundation