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Street art vents anger over austerity in Athens

A giant lion roars against the backdrop of a battered Greek flag in wall art covering the side of a school building in a working-class Athens suburb.

The creation is one of many examples of street art across the Greek capital expressing the despair of ordinary people after four years of government belt-tightening at the behest of international creditors.

The artist, BANE, is among around 60 contributors to Athens’ second annual street art festival, using some 30 public buildings in the run-down districts of Nikaia, Rentis and Tavros as their canvases.

Several of the works defy the three-month festival’s title “Crisis, What Crisis?” apparently aimed at steering artists away from the gloom of soaring unemployment and sweeping poverty with Greece beginning to make timid steps towards recovery.


A giant lion roars before a frayed Greek flag on a graffiti by BANE on a wall of a primary school in Athens suburb of Nikaia on this picture taken on April 29, 2014. Photo: AFP  
A photo taken on May 12, 2014 shows a view of the street art and graffiti exhibition at the private Onassis Foundation, currently showcasing some 40 street art works -- including spray-painted cars -- specially created at the organisation's exhibition space near the centre. Photo: AFP

Duval, who is taking part for a second time and helped paint a mural inspired by “Zorba the Greek", added: “The walls of Athens deserve a little more colour and joy.”

Street art has “exploded in the city these past six years,” he said. “It is a form of protest that takes the artist out of his studio.

“Young people are looking for ways to express themselves in hard times, and street art is an ideal vehicle for that,” he added.

Greece stood on the brink of bankruptcy in 2010 when international lenders came to the rescue with the first of two bailout packages totalling 240 billion euros ($330 billion).

In exchange, Athens was forced to undertake drastic reforms including wage, pension and job cuts to bring down its runaway public deficit – prompting often violent protests.

Organiser Gogo Kolivira described the artists’ brief as “interpreting the news in the public space” but with a view to generating “optimism and hope”.

“The aim is to keep street art a vital part of the city,” said fine arts student Sotiris Gardiakos.

The event, which enjoys support from the French, Israeli and Swiss embassies, closes at the end of June with a photo exhibition of graffiti and slogans that have appeared in Athens since the start of the crisis in 2010.


A man rides by a new mural by INO at the Athens Technopolis, an industrial museum and a major cultural venue, on May 27, 2014. Photo: AFP   A woman visits the street art and graffiti exhibition at the private Onassis Foundation, currently showcasing some 40 street art works -- including spray-painted cars -- specially created at the organisation's exhibition space near the centre on May 12, 2
A woman visits the street art and graffiti exhibition at the private Onassis Foundation, currently showcasing some 40 street art works -- including spray-painted cars -- specially created at the organisation's exhibition space near the centre on May 12, 2014. Photo: AFP  
A girl runs in front of Sotiris Sotiris Gardiakos mural on the side of a primary school building in the working-class district of Nikaia on April 29, 2014. Photo: AFP  

- AFP