REAL FOOD October 2008
REAL FOOD magazine
I met her at her gallery, a few days after the opening of the exhibition of my old friend Panayotis Linardakis, shortly after the Art Athina art fair. She was tired but happy. “Art Athina is an institution which enables art lovers, artists and gallery owners to get together in a celebration for all of us”. I have known Maria since the time she was starting her gallery, “Medusa”, back in 1979. She was a smiling girl full of spunk, power and optimism. That is what Maria Demetriades was—and still is.
K.TH. How did the idea of a gallery come about?
The painter Maria Spentza was my mother’s sister. My childhood years at my aunt’s studio smelt of paint, amidst canvases and passionate debates among artists. I was there, too, unsuccessfully playing at being a painter and slapping paint on paper. At the age of twelve, convinced I would never be a great painter, I declared I would be a gallery owner. It was with this certainty, that I could not live away from the magic of art, that I spent the time until I could open my gallery, Medusa.
K.TH. And how did the name Medusa come about?
Maria-Medusa was my nickname at school, because of my long curly hair and my love of the sea. To me, the myth of Medusa is about the power to escape the ‘baddies’ by turning them into statues.
K.TH. How does a child find her way? Is it the choices we make or the influences we receive that shape us?
Our choices are never independent of the influences we get. I consider myself lucky to have known from a very young age that art defined my life, and the most important thing is that now, 29 years later, I still cannot imagine myself anywhere else but in art. Of course, if I had the money I would have become a major collector.
K.TH. Did you study art?
No. I read art history from early on and followed with passion the work of artists in Greece and Europe, hoping to work directly with artists when I grew up—and that’s what happened.
K.TH. And now there is a gallery in Paros as well?
No, in Paros there is a wonderful café-bar on the seafront of Aghios Dimitrios, Naoussa: the Fotis Café. It was designed by us from the outset as a receptive shell to be transformed by the art it hosts at each time. To this day we have shown there the work of Nakis Tastsioglou, Lina Bebi, Marigo Kassi, Maria Grigoriadi, Anton and Voula Massoura, and now I am preparing an exhibition for Miltos Michailidis, with paintings inspired by an imaginary trip to Paros. Michailidis will create an installation of objects around the shop. The show will open on June 21 and will remain open for one year.
K.TH. How did Paros come about?
I first went there when I was 18, for my first holidays without my mother. I fell in love with the island and returned every year. In 1985 I found a disused oil mill at Lefkes, and started to restore it little by little. Since then I consider my work to be in Athens and my home, my personal life, in Paros.
K.TH. The café is open in the winter while the gallery is closed in the summer?
The gallery is open throughout the year except August, when Athens is deserted. The summer is an artistically lively season for “Medusa”. In June we open the exhibition “Best of 2007-2008”, with works by Miltos Michailidis, Yorgos Rorris, Costas Coulentianos, Voula Massoura and Panayotis Linardakis, which will run through the end of September. On June 27 the retrospective of Voula Massoura opens at the Gallery of Rhodes.
K.TH. Didn’t you ever think of becoming an artist yourself?
As I told you, I made this decision early on, at the age of twelve. My friends call me an artist of life, because I try for every day to be full of beauty, balance and creation.
K.TH. How easy is it to choose which artists to present?
There are several ways, certainly. I have always gone for the works that move me. I want what I see in a studio one day to remember it the next, without thinking about what movement it belongs in, what circle promotes it or who is behind it. None of that interests me. My gallery does not follow a specific line of, say, exclusively geometric or conceptual art. Here we have Nakis Tastsioglou next to Yorgos Rorris, or Maria Grigoriadi with Voula Massoura, with entirely different works. I just believe that the works I promote have substance and take art a little further. That’s my criterion—nothing else. As I said, there are many other ways but I am not interested in them.
K.TH. Does a gallery create or meet needs?
It is more interesting to create needs, to open the world of art not just to experts and specialists but to those who feel a primal attraction. It makes me proud to think that people who had no inkling and did not have art in their life can no longer live without it.
K.TH. What is creativity to you?
It’s never to settle down; never stop making plans, going ahead, experimenting, taking risks, building.
K.TH. Do you believe in talent, generally?
K.TH.Do you recognise it?
I hope I do.
K.TH. Through reason or emotion?
K.TH. And have you discovered any talents that you see as success stories today?
Yes. There were young artists who started out with me and we continue successfully together to this day.
K.TH. What talent would you say you have yourself?
I would say I have an almost ‘automatic’ aesthetic gaze in what I do. When I design an exhibition, I know how to present the works without thinking too much about it—I work almost mechanically. Due to my great love for art, I follow a lifestyle which starts from my work. This is why I could never do anything other than what I do.
K.TH. Have you met any people you have admired a lot?
This is what I see as my greatest asset. I knew Iolas very well, and consider him my mentor. I also see Takis as my mentor; and Akrithakis, too. I never stop meeting and appreciating people. The good thing about art is that you are never bored. As long as you are alive and working, there are always new things to fascinate you, and remarkable people to meet.
K.TH. How different is what we see as a success for ourselves from what other people believe?
What matters to me is to feel good about yourself. The others are too many… no one can be liked by everyone else. The important thing is to do things we like, take them as far as we can and enjoy life as we make it day by day.
K.TH. What is the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen?
I have seen lots. Still, one of the best was an exhibition outside Brussels, in a beautiful garden full of blossoming cherry trees, where the sculptor Jo Dilο had invited 200 sculptors to turn a birdhouse into a work denouncing environmental destruction.
K.TH. And the ugliest?
I see violence as one of the ugliest things in the world. Violence against people terrifies me.
K.TH. Do you like the Acropolis Museum?
I have heard and read lots of contradictory comments, but I have not seen it yet so as to form a personal view.
K.TH. What is aesthetic?
To me, aesthetic means balance.
K.TH. Does aesthetic change as a culture evolves?
Certainly. Especially when you watch Greek serials on television… it’s going downhill.
K.TH. How do you relax?
Travelling in my boat relaxes me. I am the skipper myself, I’ve been sailing for several years now. I relax when I am with my dog and my cats.
K.TH. Does art relax you?
Art excites me, makes me think. Of course, it does relax me when I am at home, with the works I have chosen around me.
K.TH. Can you imagine yourself in a house with no works of art?
No, I’ll always have something. Even when I travel, I have a small angel by Raymondos which I place on the bed stand next to me.
K.TH. Do you cook at all?
Of course. I love to cook, it’s one of the things with which I unwind. When I cook my thoughts do not wander, I am focused. Besides, even the simplest cooking is creative. I cook simple meals with the vegetables I grow in my garden in Paros, and lentils. I eat no meat these last thirty years. Another thing I love to do is gardening.
K.TH. Your favourite food?
Salads. Lots of salads. And chickpeas in the oven, cooked with red peppers or eggplants. I like combining them with something else.
K.TH. What is the gallery’s schedule for next autumn?
The gallery will be open till September with the “Best of 2007-2008”. For October, the month of photography, we have two Swiss artists, in collaboration with the Krisal Gallery of Geneva, which hosted works by Nakis Tastsioglou and Costas Lefkochir last year. In November we continue with a solo for Nakis Tastsioglou, and then come Lina Bebi and Marigo Kassi.
K.TH. I wish you every success.