Pauline Simon is the founder of the project HYam (Hydra for Artists of the Mediterranean). In 2014, HYam launched the Mediteranean Young Artistic Stage Prize, in partnership with Jean-Luc Lagardère foundation. It was awarded to Maria TsaKari, a young Greek artist that won the approval of an international jury and was selected among four finalists. Their work follows « the past as the only possible future » as a common thread and shed light on the diversity of the young Greek-cypriot artistic stage.
HYam is now setting up the second component of its project of providing support to creative young artists of the Meditteranean stage: An exhibition of the four final artists, entitled « Erotimatiko », is taking place from the 8th to the 17t of January at the Auction house Artcurial in Paris.

{Artsper}: How did HYam come into being?
{Pauline Simons}: HYam is the result of different observations. Through visiting art fairs, both in France and abroad, I noticed that young Mediterranean artists evolving in their respective countries were often sporadically represented and therefore they lack exposure on the international art stage. I am rather well acquainted with Greece; I have spent and still spend time there, which made me realize that an island like Hydra could potentially host quality contemporary art exhibitions during summer, with the help of art collectors and patrons. It gave me the idea to build a bridge between two cities with radically different yet complementary identities, the stony beehive that is Hydra and the French capital. This global project follows three important milestones: A Biennale Prize taking place in Paris and devoted to an artist hailing from a Mediterranean country, a following exhibition of the finalists artworks, and finally the co-production of an artwork in the public space of Hydra entrusted to the laureate.

{Artsper}: What are the specifics of the Greek-Cypriot creation that made you drawn to it to that extent?
{Pauline Simons}: It is difficult to talk about a specific Greek-Cypriot feature that would induce a form of artistic exclusion for the young Greek-Cypriot artists. The ones that I have met are very much aware of what is happening elsewhere. It is however true that they live in a country wreaked havoc by the crisis.

{Artsper}: «The past as the only future possible » is the guideline of the 2014 Prize, could you expand on that?
{Pauline Simons}: Greece has a historical and political legacy that can only leave marks behind, either consciously or unconsciously. One should bear in mind that this country has been muzzled by five centuries of Ottoman domination, stung by successive dictatorships, weakened by the Cypriot conflict, and is facing today the brunt of a new storm. In one way or another, these young artists are being affected by this realm. When the future seems uncertain, analyzing the past or simply going back to one’s own experiences can nurture the imagination and serve as a springboard.

{Artsper}: When is the next Prize due and what does it hold?
{Pauline Simons}: The next Prize will take place during the second semester of 2016 and will be dedicated to Morocco. It will follow the same process: I will first go through the process of selecting 20 young artists myself, it will then be followed by the deliberation of an international jury selected for its familiarity with the artistic creation of the country. Meanwhile, Maria Tsagkari, the laureate of the first edition of the Prize will close the third and final step of the project by setting up her work in-situ in the public space of Hydra in June 2016.

{Artsper}: HYam launched the project of an artist residency in the island of Hydra, in a wild mountainous background cut off from the rest of the world. Could you elaborate a little more on the project?
{Pauline Simons}: As many vacation sites, Hydra is double-edged, with the unique particularity that it is extremely well preserved: There is no room for cars and modern buildings. During summer, it attracts numerous singular visitors: an artistic microcosm including art collectors, gallery owners, patrons, etc. The fact that Hydra hosts quality contemporary art exhibitions is a real advantage for the resident artists. At the contrary, during wintertime, the island goes back to its medieval peacefulness that favours research and the implementation of projects.

{Artsper}: What is the state of the art market in Greece given the current precarious economical situation?
{Pauline Simons}:It is true that the crisis has made the art market more difficult. Some galleries are forced out of business; some are on the verge of closing. The government budget cuts make the environment in which museums evolve more and more competitive. However, private initiatives are breaking through, taking over the government role. Dimitris Daskalopoulos, president of the Neon Foundation, has chosen to highlight the Greek artistic stage while managing at the same time exhibitions of international scope. Likewise, the Startors Niarchos Foundation, scheduled to open in 2016, will breathe new life into the Greek cultural sphere. Finally, the internationally renowned Monumenta will take place in both Athens and Kassel. It’s a great challenge for Greece!

{Artsper}: According to you, which Greek emergent artists should we keep a close watch on?
{Pauline Simons}: The twenty artists that I have selected even though some of them are still very young.

{Artsper}: What is the role of new technologies in the Greek artistic scene? Do Greek artists have visibility on the online art market?

{Pauline Simons}: Lots of artists do not only use new technologies, but go beyond that scope to appropriate the upheaval induced by the digital era. For example, Evangelia Kranioti lays down a sociological question in one of her last artworks, Antidote: What would a contemporary version of Penelope the weaver compose in the digital era? Which profound desire, which obsession would inhabit her nowadays? Likewise, Angelo Plessas, laureate of the last Deste Prize, takes social media as an experimenting field and focuses on the double-phenomenon of solitude and connectivity. But quite honestly I am not aware of their visibility on the online art market.

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