Thursday, February 28, 2008
Greek graphic design legends Freddy Carabott, Michalis Katzourakis and Agni Katzouraki, all of them well in their 80s now, threw a retrospective exhibition at the new Benaki Museum in Athens. It opened at the end of January and it'll be on till the end of March. I'm so bad at posting in time on this blog, and now, a month after, the spectacular opening of their breathtaking exhibition seems more or less like a memory - but had I sat down after visiting it and wrote my impressions, then i'd produce an post full of uncontrollable enthusiasm and joy.
I met them a couple of weeks before the opening for an interview they'd give me for an Athenian free press magazine, "LIFO". It was hard, being a young designer, talking to the semigods. Dimitris Arvanitis was there too. Four semigods of the field sitting next to me, answering to my questions and discussing design stuff. It was so hard, it brought up so many of my insecurities, I dreamed the following night that Mr. Katzourakis was telling me "Who the hell you think you are, asking these dumb questions. Get a life, moron". He had such an authority telling me this, I almost woke up in self-deprecating tears. Mr. Carabott produced some of the most amazing stories and answers, but the magazine stuff cut half of it due to the sheer size of the final text (about 4.000 words).
The day of the exhibition, I was asked by the loveliest man on earth, Mr. Carabott, to translate from english to greek a small text Ben Bos, the former AGI president, would read at the museum's amphiteatre prior to the opening of the exhibition. I was, what the heck, i'll do it. But i didn't know it would be the amphiteatre, nor that it would be packed. I thought I'd be translating to a small audience of maybe 20,30 people at the museum cafe. I was very nervous, naturally, mixing up microphones and not knowing what to do with my hands, body, look, and breath. I hate public performances of any sort. Anyway, i did it. And it was kinda funny as well, cause I sat at the same table with Ben Bos, the Greek Graphic Designer's Association president, a politician and Dimitris Arvanitis, as if i was equally important.
The opening was a rainbow of colors, amazing, unknown work (loads of forgotten masterpieces among their more famous work, like the National Tourist Organization posters or some of the most recognizable logos in the country) and an endless flow of people that looked as colorful, positive and happy as the works themselves. Yes, that was the special thing about this night: it wasn't the works - it was their effect on people. Never had i seen such a thing, such a transfer of energy from exhibited material to viewer. It was as if, even the less design-savvy, felt they should smile, be happy. And everybody was happy. Was it me? No. This thing really happened. 9 out of 10 people were smiling or laughing. And all around those smiling people some of the most beautiful, lively and witty works of modern graphic design you have ever seen.
Being a 34-year old designer and seeing their body of work you can easily feel intimidated. But at the same time you feel as if you chose to do the most amazing profession on the planet. And if a 85 year old guy like Freddy Carabott is still cracking jokes like he's 25, everything is possible. I'll get back to this amazing man soon...