Making Space for Art: Alkinois


Text by Lorina Speder

Petrálona, a blooming neighborhood in the city center by the famous Philopappos Hill near the Acropolis, has a rich history. Once known for its goats, Petrálona was also a place to thresh grains. This activity is still reflected in its name, which derives from the Greek words 'petrina alonia', meaning stone threshing floors.

Today the area’s heritage is evident in its numerous neoclassical buildings and eclectic-style apartment houses that have withstood the building wave of the 1960s and 1970s. Many of these architectural gems can be found in streets like Troon, Dimofontos, Eoleon, and Genneou Kolokotroni.

Not far from these streets there is a quaint alley named Alkinois. At its number 6, an almost hidden art space bearing the same name has evolved into an insider landmark of the local art scene. The founder Alix Janta-Polczynski is well aware that “people are not just passing by to see an exhibition, Petrálona is still very residential so one really has to make it a destination”. Nevertheless, Alkinois regularly comes alive when she invites artists, creatives, and culturally interested people to her events and openings.

Janta-Polczynski chose the street name for her space with purpose: “It reminded me of King Alcinous in the Odyssey that is the good host who shows a lot of hospitality. He’s welcoming and he is helping. These are the things that I wanted to keep by”, she explains and follows this concept not only with her events, but also with Alkinois’s international artist residency.

Installation view of the exhibition Bird Blowing Love (2023). Artworks by Faye Wei Wei.

Originally, Janta-Polczynski and her partner Felix de Bousies sought a space for their own work. But after seeing Alkinois for the first time — they found it online as a listing with dark and unrepresentative images — they recognized its potential as an exhibition venue. Despite its street-level location in a seemingly private apartment building, the spacious room behind the metal doors is big enough to accommodate larger art works like sculptures. Even the pillars that divide the space come in handy to hang art and thus change the room dynamics. Additionally, the back area, separated by a door, leaves room for other projects: De Bousies has been interested in the Buddhist movement for years and turned it into a Buddhist temple. The upper part of Alkinois is designed to welcome residents who can live, create, and spend time here. Since 2018, Janta-Polczynski has hosted several residencies that led to thoughtfully curated exhibitions. After the pandemic she also opened ADAD Books, a cozy café at Petrálona’s Merkouri Square that offers art catalogues from a lot of artists she’s showcased. A browse through the selection of books suggests that Janta-Polczynski work is often influenced by archeology. “It is a soft spot for me, but sometimes it is difficult to translate”, she confirms in the interview. Still, for Alkinois’s exhibitions, she most of the time just intuitively decides to work with artists and other curators with whom she clicks.

Installation view of the exhibition Stories about a Whispering Prince (2023). Artworks by Marco Villard.

Before coming to Greece, she was an assistant for curators and artists in London for around ten years. Alkinois marks the first time in which the Belgium-born curator works with a permanent space. “Before, it was always about finding spaces and collaborations”, she says, “the question here is how to renew the space and how to refresh it to keep it exciting.” Therefore she also collaborates with guest curators that take over Alkinois. “So far it’s been mostly Greek and Athens-based curators”, she says and mentions Dinos Chatzirafailidis, whose exhibition An Erratic Storm: Reaching Out to the Infinite was ongoing at Alkinois by the time of the interview. Showing an installment of art with an industrial touch and stark contrasts, Janta-Polczynski acknowledges that having guest curators opens up the space. “It’s just nice to see different energies transforming the room”, she says.

After getting funding from the NEON foundation for the first time, Janta-Polczynski is currently planning this year’s exhibitions. “For now we have until October, then we’ll see if we can carry on”, she says and glances into the far: “times moves fast.” There are a lot of plans, one of them being to connect the upcoming programme more with her café ADAD Books and make it a satellite for Alkinois. With these initiatives, there surely will be enough reasons for the cultural crowd of Athens to come and visit Petrálona in the future.

Currently on view at Alkinois: Ileana Arnaoutou & Ismene King, I will hold you forever. Or till everyone leaves the room. 14 March - 06 April 2024, Alkinois 6, 11852 Petrálona (in collaboration with Callirrhoe).

Installation view of the exhibition Receptacles ~on body fluids (part II) (2021). Participating artists: Aline Bouvy, Maise Cousins, Emeline Depas, Eloïse van der Heydn, Phillipa Horan, Marie Jacotey, Alix Marie, Mariana Mauricio, Zoe Paul, Anastasia Pavlou, Anousha Payne.
Installation view of the exhibition An Erratic Storm: Reaching Out to the Infinite (2024). Participating artists: Manolis D. Lemos, Maria Mavropoulou, Petros Moris, Pauline Pastry, Mercedes Pimiento. Curated by Dinos Chatzirafailidis.
Installation view of the exhibition A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2022). Participating artists: Bea Bonafini, Luke Burton, Despina Charitonidi, Stef Kamaris, Labrinela Konstantelou, Aristeidis Lappas, Zoe Paul, Anastasia Pavlou, Anousha Payne, Panos Profitis. Curated by Alix Janta. Scenography with Mathilde Rouiller.
Installation view of the exhibition Panicle Paintings (2022) by Navine G. Dossos. Photo by Yiannis Hadjiaslanis.
Installation view of the exhibition Bodies in Motion. Participating artists: Anna Papathanasiou, Antonakis, Despina Charitonidi, Evgenia Vereli, Maria Louizidou, Panos Papadopoulos, Rallou Panagiotou, Sofia Stevi. Curated by Odette Kouzou.
Installation view of the exhibition Out Here in the Perimetre (2022). Artworks by Vasilis Botoulas. Curated by Kiriakos Spirou.
Installation view of the exhibition Matter in Mind (2022). Participatin artists: Thomas P. Grogan, Georgina Hill, Andreas Mallouris, Mariana Mauricio.
Installation view of the exhibition Iridescence (2022). Participatin artists: Solanne Bernard, Lydia Delikoura, Marie D'Elbee, Charlotte Nieuwenhuys, Bregje Sliepenbeek, Cham Lavant.
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