Artist Andreas Angelidakis has transformed Paris’s modernist Espace Niemeyer into an immersive archaeological site filled with “soft ruins”

Since 2012, Audemars Piguet Contemporarythe cultural branch of the Swiss luxury watchmaker, has commissioned site-specific works from artists such as Ryoji Ikeda at 180 The Strand in London and Meriem Bennani on New York’s High Line. Now, on its 10th anniversary and the inauguration Paris+ by Art Basel (October 20-23), the program exploited Andreas Angelidakis for his first project in the French capital.

Although his background was in architecture, Angelidakis stopped designing physical structures in the early 2000s. Today, he describes himself as “an architect who does not build”, and his artistic practice struggles with the idea of ruins via 3D virtual spaces.

Andreas Angelidakis in his Athens studio. Courtesy of the artist and Audemars Piguet.

His work in Paris, however, is IRL: Angelidakis transformed the interior dome of Espace Niemeyer, the modernist monument designed by the Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer in the 1960s – in Center for Critical Appreciation of Antiquity (2022), an immersive installation inspired by the Temple of Olympian Zeus, which was the largest such structure in ancient Athens.

Dating from 460 BCE and completed by Roman Emperor Hadrian in 131 CE, the temple has been destroyed and rebuilt at different times in the city’s history. more recently, as a gay cruising area, the site entered the personal history of the artist. “Center for Critical Appreciation of Antiquity is both a metaphorical digging into the history of Athens and myself as an artist,” Angelidakis said in a statement.

Inside the Espace Niemeyer in Paris.  © Dimitri Bourriau, Espace Niemeyer.

Inside the Espace Niemeyer in Paris. © Dimitri Bourriau, Espace Niemeyer.

The facility appears to be both an archaeological site and a modern construction area. At its center is a monumental Ionic column supported by scaffolding – a reference to both ancient and ca. The days of Airbnb – with a shipping container masquerading as a gift shop.

Like the temple, which stands today, the column of Angelidakis is surrounded by what appear to be ruins – perhaps of a society of the past, present and future simultaneously. The column and furniture appear to have been made from marble; a nod to the artist’s ongoing “Soft Ruins” series, they’re actually made of digitally printed fabric over foam.

Courtesy of the artist and Audemars Piguet.

Courtesy of the artist and Audemars Piguet.

Being an interactive work, visitors are invited to leaf through soft and oversized books featuring LGBTQ+ literature; they also serve as lounge chairs in which you are invited to sit. “I want to provide visitors with a playful environment to consider antiquity today,” Angelidakis said.

“It’s a whole system designed for a stylite, a type of monk from the early Byzantine Empire who lived on top of a pillar,” Angelidakis explained at Art Basel.

Such a monk once sat atop the Temple of Olympian Zeus; the hut was removed by the Greek government in the late 19th century, one of many historical erasures carried out during a period of national rebranding. Here, the stylite reappears as a series of statues and in a music video, dancing to Klaus Nomi’s cover of Donna Summer’s I feel love in the middle of the ionic columns. Meanwhile, ambient lighting adds nightclub vibes all around.

Courtesy of the artist and Audemars Piguet.

Courtesy of the artist and Audemars Piguet.

“We’re creating an atmosphere that people will have a hard time placing,” Angelidakis continued. “Is it day or night? »

“Greek architecture as an aesthetic has been used in everything from gay bars and summer beach clubs to museums and parliaments,” he added. “But don’t come expecting to study.”

Center for Critical Appreciation of Antiquity (2022) is open to the public and free until October 30, 2022.

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