The Benaki Museum, in collaboration with the marble atelier on•entropy and the non-profit organisation Ingenious Loci, presents the exhibition-installation ‘A Future for the Past’, opening on Tuesday 4June, a show focused on supporting and promoting Tinian marble carving through contemporary design.The exhibition is part of a two-year programme of the same name, curated by Maria Cristina Didero, which explores the social dimension of marble craftsmanship in Tinos in its dialogue with contemporary culture and which hopes to show how this relationship can contribute to both social and economic sustainability.

The ancient art of marble craft on this Cycladic island has been included in UNESCO’s List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, with the Preparatory and Vocational School of Fine Arts of Panormos Tinos being one of only three places globally where this art is still studied and practiced.

As an art that has been continuously practiced for millennia and is inextricably linked to Greek cultural heritage, having produced internationally renowned craftsmen and sculptors, Tinian marblecarving holds great historical significance. At the same time, it can also constitute a potential factor for social progress. The art of sculpting in marble and, in particular, the kinesthetic knowledge preserved across generations that underlies it contribute to the strengthening of societal bonds within the villages of Tinos. Now more than ever, during a period of intense tourist development and gentrification on the island, putting marble sculpture into a contemporary artistic context can help restore the sense of community and belonging. Through its beneficial effect on the collective identity of Tinians, it can improve their quality of life, both socially and economically.

In the words of a Tinian sculptor, “You used to hear children playing with the hammer; on the streets of Pyrgos, you used to hear water running, and bells ringing. The doors of the houses and the marble workshops stayed wide open all day. Today, the place is full of shops, and there is no trace of marble craftsmanship. There was a time when marble workshops and churches were central to our daily lives and work”.

The presentation of ‘A Future for the Past’ at the Benaki Museum follows a successful showing at the 5VIE Desing Week last year in Milan, which received more than 30 mentions in the international press (including in Wallpaper*, Design Miami, and La Repubblica) and a special mention at the Salone Sustainability Award 2023. A follow-up event featuring various activities and workshops, which will take place on Tinos, will be announced soon. This is an unprecedented synergy of local with international and traditional with contemporary in this particular field of craftsmanship, a synergy that aims to contribute to the future of both contemporary marble design and the marble-sculpting tradition, making Tinos an acknowledged centre of cultural richness.

The dialogue between the traditional and the contemporary continues on the ground floor of the Benaki Museum in the Byzantine wing, where recent ecclesiastical works by artists from Tinos and some contemporary marble lighting fixtures, inspired by chandeliers, frame the museum’s permanent collection of Byzantine and post-Byzantine icons, which are among the most famous and beloved objects in its collection.

The exhibition will be accompanied by lectures on marble, sculpture and contemporary design, as well as technical meetings/workshops at Yannis Pappas’ workshop.

It is a novel synergy of the local with the international and the traditional with the modern in the specific field of craftsmanship, a synergy that aims to contribute to the future of both contemporary design in marble and the marble sculpture tradition, making Tinos a recognizable hub of cultural wealth.

With A Future For The Past, as they note, “design is not just about a beautiful and comfortable chair, but about generations of people and the body of knowledge it takes to create something. Their connection to matter and the interactions between them are the essence of craftsmanship. These are often taken for granted or overlooked, and should be highlighted especially in a rapidly changing age.”

Benaki Museum

Koumpari 1, Ground Floor, Athens

Curator: Maria Christina Didero 

Opening Hours: 04 through 30 June, 10:00-18:00

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