An Exhibition Catalog that will Channel your Wanderlust

The exhibition Charmed Lives in Greece: Ghika, Craxton, Leigh Fermor opened at the British Museum in London when I was (and would be for the foreseeable future) in New York. Naturally, this led to a strong and dreadful feeling of missing out. This exhibition promised to present the intricate links between three key figures in the fields of art and literature of the twentieth century. Before one dismisses this as something quite typical of art exhibitions, please note that this one promised to not simply present the links between works of art, but also those within each subject’s life in Greece and the UK, as well as the links they created between the fields of painting, writing, and architecture overall. This is a truly interdisciplinary project and a goldmine of information on so many and different levels.
Not being able to see the exhibition for myself, I made sure not to miss the curator’s talk arranged in New York mid-May. Ms. Evita Arapoglou was invited by the Hellenic-American Cultural Foundation to speak about the exhibition, her research on the subject, and of course the homonymous publication that accompanies it. The talk was straightforward and to-the-point, as Ms. Arapoglou explained how the project was instigated, the ups and downs, and of course some of the juicy details of the links between Ghika, Craxton and Leigh Fermor that are presented throughout the exhibition. Having worked as a curator myself, and deeply loving the field altogether, this talk proved quite educational.
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I was also able to purchase a copy of Charmed Lives in Greece (the catalog) for myself, and – everyone – here is the breakdown:
I sincerely believe that, for anyone else who, like me, will not be able to visit the exhibition, this book is the closest you can get to experiencing it. In fact, judging by the complexity and depth of the exhibition’s topic, the book is beyond complimentary to experiencing the artwork and objects shown. It is challenging enough for curators to present monographic shows of major cultural figures, let alone three. The information, therefore, presented by Charmed Lives in Greece is considerable, and multi-faceted rendering its catalog a textbook of sorts – only far more interesting and coming with a side-effect of wanderlust.
In the beginning, as most catalogs do, the editor Ms. Arapoglou acknowledges all of the people who contributed and helped in the making of the exhibition and its catalog. What is impressive, however, is that at the beginning of Charmed Lives in Greece Ms. Arapoglou also narrates how the project was conceived and came to be, together with all the key figures who, along with herself, realized this exhibition.
What follows is a series of rich essays that are interesting as well as “comfortable” to read. The authors have successfully avoided the oftentimes harsh and complicated art historical jargon without compromising the quality of the information they offer. They present all three artistic and historical figures, and the connections they formed throughout their lives beginning in the UK and lived-out mostly in Greece. If even all of this fails to gain your interest, the book will decidedly make you crave booking a non-return ticket to Greece.
In addition to its content, the catalog has an interesting layout that strays from your typical exhibition catalog. It is minimalist and modern. The information is neatly provided as though on an invisible grid. There are areas separated by an earthy color throughout the book. These carry the painting reproductions, photos, and letters. If I had one thing to note about this structure, it would be that the placement of the exhibition and research material requires a pause in reading or a constant revisiting of pages so as not to miss this information inputted between the text. To be more exact, in between sections of the curatorial essays, there are images of the works of both Ghika and Craxton, images of Leigh Fermor’s books, as well as photos of them, their spouses, their friends, in addition to excerpts of letters from different moments of their lives. All of this information is not only useful but actually, truly lovely to read through. It is definitely something not to miss out on because, in the end, it enriches the essays…and let’s all be honest, the placement of images within a text is always tricky, especially when the material is vast and broad.
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This all being said, I still feel a longing to see Charmed Lives in Greece in person, so much so that I have been ceaselessly trying to come up with scenarios as to how we could bring it to New York.  Anyone else want to brainstorm with me?

Disclaimer: This post is not promotional. It was written independently and intended to be a review of this book. All photos taken of the catalog are my own simply to demonstrate the design and compliment the review.
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