Discover SNEHTA art residency and Augustus Veinoglou
It was summer and we were in Athens. While we were walking in our neighborhood, we found something different from the usual kebab: yes, it was an art gallery. We immediately said to ourselves that we had to interview the person that founded it. That’s how, few days before leaving Athens, we had the chance to meet and interview the guy behind all this. Are you ready to travel through the modern art scene in Kypseli, Athens?
Augustus Veinoglou, 36 years old.
I was born in Athens from an Athenians family with origins from Asia Minor.
I lived in the city center of Athens until six years old, then my family moved to Papagos, an Athenian suburb. When I was 18 I move to Scotland to study sculpture and after my studies I was an art teacher in Scotland, Estonia and Netherlands. After all, I came back to Athens.
The sea, swimming, the music, playing guitar, listening to jazz music, playing video games and role games, reading sci-fi books and sculpture (obviously). I like adventures, but they happen only if you travel.
Definitely, going to Scotland. I wanted to be an animator and graphic designer, but then I understood I wanted to study fine arts and that changed my life.
What is Snehta? When did you found it?
Snehta is a gateway for artists, Greek and not, to work in a perfect scenario without thinking about anything than art. Snehta is a safe harbour for artists, where they can meet people and be productive. This art project wanted to create a new universe that is the contrary of the present Athens. When I was living abroad, I came back to Athens and I explored all its atypical areas creating Snehta: a completely different sci-fi reality representing the opposite of Athens. Back in Estonia I did an exhibition about it and in 2012 I decided to open it: an organised art residence in Athens to share what I lived with other artists. It was at that moment that Snehta born.
What pushed you to open Snehta and what is its main objective?
I wanted to open it because there was nothing like that, I wanted to create a different reading of the city of Athens made by different artists and creators. “Snehta is an art gallery, a workshop and much more. People still don’t understand it, but why do you have to understand everything?” he says. “Snehta is also an experimental artwork between community and artists. In this way people are closer to modern art and artists are part of the community, not isolating themselves in the suburbs.”
Why did you open it in Athens and specially in Kypseli?
The special reason was Athens: in fact, Snehta couldn’t have existed anywhere else. Kypseli was chosen randomly because I had the apartment of my grandmother there where I founded the first art residency. I think that Kypseli is not mainstream and it’s the best place to start exploring Athens: is home-oriented, like a small village in Athens. Snehta isn’t a residence that aims to be isolated, but to get melt with the city.
What is your job? What’s your business model?
I would define myself a cultural manager and artist. Since Greece doesn’t have a special artist status, Snehta was a non-profit organisation based in the UK. If before it was under my name, since I moved it to Greece Snehta became independent. Thanks to this change I’m able to do advertising, crowdfunding, get funds from the minister of culture and sell items. There’s also a bad side of it: in fact I have to pay 800 euros of taxes every 3 months that I wasn’t paying with the freelancer status.
What are your feelings as an artist when you walk in the streets of Athens?
Well, I feel like in a movie. I don’t feel in Athens, but more in an American town like Los Angeles. I feel energized and inspired. I think that sometimes I should be in my studio creating art instead of being on the streets. One of my biggest wish? Record the present before it changes.
How is the art market in a city like Athens?
Art became an accessory, so it’s considered something useless. A lot of art galleries closed because rich people that were buying art were victims of the crisis and today they don’t have any more money to buy art. That’s why Greek artists are selling mainly to foreigners.
How do you chose the artists for the exhibitions?
We chose 90 artists since 2012 and it was specially thanks to the network of people, organizations, promotions and the applications on our website.
Which role you give to art in the greek society? Do you think that art can help Greek society?
There is a lifestyle potential in understanding modern art. Art teaches people to think out of the box, in a creative and more critic way. It’s something educational but also pragmatic. Art gives a different angle to things, more modest and minimalist. I think that modern art comes second because classical art is more relevant in Greece. The government is not giving enough importance to modern art, but is pushing only ancient Greek arts. Unfortunately the reason is that it’s easier to sell ancient arts to generic tourists.
How and where do you see your future in 3-5 years?
I see myself as the director of a big art residency with a lot of projects, a lot of money, doing my art at the same time, or I would most probably disappear from the face of the Earth.