Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus and the last divided capital of the world, is a place where two opposing communities, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, co-exist, separated by a buffer zone. A contemporary art gallery located on the edge of the old town centre, tellingly named The Office, plays on that paradox of the simultaneous purposes of locations.
Founded in 2009 by Tassos A Gkekas, a new exhibition takes the Greek gallery owner’s personal collection to VOLKS, a former Volkswagen warehouse, to stage ‘Investment Opportunities’. A similar riff on that contradictory theme, it presents works of contemporary art that Gkekas has collected over the years, with ‘no intention to display them’. Some pieces were gifted to Gkekas, some he acquired himself, having ‘built a special relationship with the work’.
The work is liberally spread out across VOLKS’ stark grey concrete space. There’s work by Francesca Woodman, the precocious photographer who took her own life at the age of 22 (in a parallel with Gkekas’ intuitive collecting, she did not plan to become a successful artist). Robert Montgomery, too, doesn’t much care for the personality cult that often surrounds great artists, but he’s become widely known for his works’ poetic, melancholy messages – shown at VOLKS in the form of typographic prints.
The unveiling of ‘Investment Opportunities’ is deeply personal. Most pieces were acquired as a result of Gkekas’ instinctive response to difficult life experiences. Even the politically charged art, like Glavkos Koumides’, Homage to Cy Twombly or Nazgol Ansarinia’s intricate prints made of collaged Arabic newspaper fragments, represent to Gkekas a childhood nostalgia and art’s capacity to salvage and aestheticise the negative (respectively).
The inclusion of Dimitris Merantzas – a Greek artist whose installation work is widely varied in terms of medium and material – is similarly meaningful, calling forth an intangible reaction, because, Gkekas raves, it’s ‘not like anything else I’ve ever seen’.
A wooden installation by Koumides, Iota Daseia, is paired with a Woodman photograph – itself juxtaposed with a famous Masahisa Fukase raven – evoking formal connotations that suggest a subconscious connection between all of Gkekas’ acquisitions. His collection shows the many ways art punctuates life, takes pain and political strife, and then transforms it into a thing of beauty.