18/09/2011 - 18/12/2011
Casa Bianca

The Fernandez residence was figuring prominently among the renowned “Towers” of Thessaloniki, i.e. the mansions, with their huge gardens, that belonged to Thessaloniki’s urban elite and which, in the early 20th century, dominated the route connecting the White Tower and Villa Allatini. Dino Fernandez – Diaz’ family (he was a Jew of Italian citizenship) was one of the most prominent families in Thessaloniki. The Fernandez, Modiano, Allatini and Morpurgo families were the most important trade houses in the city. The house became known as Villa Blanche, Casa Bianca or “Villa Fernandez” and was remembered by both the old and the new city residents for its magnificence, wealth and unique architecture.


Evi Charitidou – Mavroudi, Modern Monuments of Thessaloniki, published by the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Northern Greece, Thessaloniki: 1985-1986



Casa Bianca is a house for thought and for conversation and has been since the time of its construction right up to the present day. It pays homage to the written word in relation to the painted image, and acknowledges the demands of an interior life. It is a place where the history of Thessaloniki is brought to bear, and the tradition of reading and literature finds a showcase. Including a homage to Alberto Savinio (1891-1952) –the artist, writer and musician, born and educated in Athens, who served the Italian Army in 1917 in Thessaloniki–the house has a number of contemporary works that examine the significance of literary sources and their relevance to the making of art today.


Paolo Colombo



Word and image


In The Man without Qualities (part three, chapter 55, ‘Galleys and drafts’, “Feeling and behaviour. The precariousness of emotion”) Robert Musil wrote: “The fervour of many portraits -and there are portraits, not just pictures, even of things- consists not least in that in them the individual existence opens up toward itself inwardly and closes itself off from the rest of the world”. Those few lines could speak for many of the works on display, foremost among them the installation by Manfredi Beninati, an abandoned drawing room, shut and inaccessible to the spectator. It is a literary gaze, turned toward the inner life, the opposite of that of a communicator, turned only toward the outer world, a contemplative gaze, which presupposes gratuitousness, the opposite to that of a consumer, aimed at possession or dispossession. Beninati’s installation raises doubts about the lawfulness of crossing a threshold scot-free, be it that of art or of a house.

Casa Bianca (White House) was built by the Italian architect Pietro Arrigoni at the beginning of the last century and belonged to Dino Fernandez Diaz (who dedicated the house to his wife Bianca). Jewish of Spanish origin, Fernandez Diaz escaped -thanks to an Italian passport- the German deportation which decimated, in February 1943, almost the entire Jewish community (Europe’s largest) of Thessaloniki. He and his family were however killed in the first massacre to take place in Italy at the hands of the German SS at Maina, on Lake Maggiore, on the 22nd and 23rd of September, 1943.

Can the inner gaze turn toward the outer world when it has seen horror? Can it portray it? Andrej Rubliov, in the homonymous film (1966) by Andrei Tarkovski, refused to paint the Last Judgement after witnessing the brutal blinding by the grand duke of artisan monks, and withdrew into silence after the village of Vladimir was sacked and massacred by Tartars. This is the dumbfounded silence before the horror of lost sense, of man deprived of humanity, the Naked Masks of Luigi Pirandello, like the frail puppets of Christiana Soulou, which yearn to vanish rather than emerge, or like Margherita Manzelli’s flesh-pared floating women’s bodies or the flayed skin of Michelangelo’s Saint Bartholomew who, in the Sistine Chapel, triumphs, knife in hand, finally liberated of his own countenance. However, regarding Manzelli, as well as Soulou, there is no liberation, only a void, nothing to counterpoise the bodies, no space, no resistance nor desire. It’s the triumph of the meaningful over meaning, of a world without metaphor, of the seen over knowledge. It seems that Shakespeare, before writing A Midsummer Night’s Dream had read The Golden Ass by Apuleius, the first novel in the Latin language written in the second century before Christ, where the protagonist, Lucius, spies on the mistress of the house and sees her transform herself into an owl. Driven by a craving to possess the secret of mutation, he ends up turning himself into an ass by mistake. Again, it is this fixed gaze on possession which sanctions the loss of self, as with Oedipus, who goes blind when his guilt is revealed to him; that is, when it becomes reality, ceasing to be oracle -an oracle that had saved him from the abyss with the illusion of metaphoric language. According to Nietzsche, in his essay On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense, illusion is guilty of having fabricated truth and concepts on the basis of deceptive metaphors. When intuitive man triumphs over rational man -writes Nietzsche- a civilization like that of Greece can arise, in which art dominates over life and where “this dissimulation, this disavowal of indigence, this glitter of metaphorical intuitions, and, in general, this immediacy of deception accompanies every event of such a life: neither the house, nor the gait, nor the clothes, nor the clay jugs give evidence of having been invented because of a pressing need. It seems as if they were all intended to express an exalted happiness, an Olympian cloudlessness, and, as it were, a playing with seriousness”. And yet, contemporary man, who has emptied these metaphors and who, reducing language to the world of the purely tangible, has rendered them incapable of expressing the complexity of being, no longer resembles the Nietzschian stoic whose face is “a mask with features of dignified balance”, and instead resembles Bottom lost in the wood, troubled and grotesque. The loss of logos, the word emptied of its consequentiality, becomes merely a visual formula and leads -from Sophocles to Shakespeare- to the loss of self. Words, in ancient religious frescoes, are always captions; that is, they function as a key to reading the image, just like captions in silent movies, where the writing is detached during editing in a separate black frame, announcing the next scene. When, on the other hand, words are mixed in with the image, as in comic strips or slogans or in the shift from silent movie captions to subtitles, the image ceases to refer to anything else and truth -falsehood, according to Nietzsche- is replaced by an eternal present of interchangeable, self-referential and endlessly repeatable figures and words. Thus, the enigma of a fragment, the debris of relics washed up by the sea and by history, the basis of the works by Savinio and of the protagonists in the Embirikos photos on display, today succumb to the uprooted and non-historic word, no longer a metaphor of another world but a vehicle of information. Thus, William Kentridge’s piece, his video Zeno Writing, inspired by the Italo Svevo novel of 1923, becomes even more of a major novelty in an artistic panorama where the only possible use of language is still that of the spoken word, addressed, that is, exclusively to an external world. In the Svevo novel which Kentridge draws on, the protagonist breaks off treatment with a psychoanalyst who decides to take revenge on his patient by publishing his notes. An anti-hero, therefore, who flees and refuses -unlike Oedipus- to see his secrets laid bare, preferring to leave us words subject to illusions and falsehood in an endlessly postponed and never represented present. Kentridge draws on words without decontextualising them and succeeds by working in an opposite direction to that of pop art: he doesn’t transform words into images but restores to the image its literary quality, that Domaine intérieur that Andreas Embirikos knew he could translate into figures as long as he spoke for poetry; that is, to himself and never to a public. Thus we have the last verse of The Gleam (from Inner Land): And the sphinx (a pun on “to clasp tightly”) crushes us upon her breast in the gleaming silence of the lighthouse. The sphinx punishes those who reduce enigma to reality and awards those who recompose symbols. Naturally, symbols are the children of dreams and illusions, as Nietzsche critiques. However, if myth, which is their direct representation, is not true, it always occurs and can always be reformulated, as in the collages in the series Greek Mythology, which Nanos Valaoritis created between 1963 and 1975, using, playing with and replacing the content and personalities of Greek mythology with images from the Victorian age. Here Surrealism displays all its vitality in its continuity with contemporary artists such as Pierpaolo Campanini, Pavlos Nikolakoupolos and Imran Qureshi, who have chosen the complexity of the allusive figure, devoted to contemplation, over the simplification of the literal one, devoted to popularization. And only this kind of work can bring the fire of Hestia -Zeus’ sister and the guardian goddess of hearth and home- back to the Casa Bianca, a home whose past belongs to one who lost his life, and those of his dearest, to horror. In fact, only complexity can restore human features to the Nietzschian stoic, impervious to myth and illusion; the same features as those of Ulysses, who the sea restores to Telemachus as an old migrant, naked and humiliated, and not as the king of a conquered home.


Angela Maria Piga


  • Alberto Savinio
    Alberto Savinio, real name Alberto de Chirico, was born in Athens in 1891 and died in Rome in 1952. He started his writing career in Paris as a contributor to Apollinaire’s Soirees De Paris journal. He wrote many novels, short-stories, autobiographies, plays and librettos. He also contributed to many magazines and newspapers as a...
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  • Andreas Embirikos
    Andreas Embirikos (1901-1975) came from a wealthy family as his father was an important ship-owner. He was born in Braila, Romania, but his family soon moved to Ermoupolis in Syros, and after, when Embirikos was seven years old, to Athens. While he was still a teenager his parents divorced; he started studying Philosophy at the Athens...
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  • Andreas Vais
    Born (1965) in Athens, where le lives and works. He studied english literature at the University of Athens but painting and music have always been indispensable to him. Selected exhibitions: Escape Tendencies , Kourd Gallery, Athens, 2010; Strange Paradise , ArtBeat, Βrussels, 2009; Turbulent Times , The...
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  • Christiana Soulou
    Born in Athens. She studied at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux Arts, Paris. She lives and works in Athens. Recent solo exhibitions: This Dust Was Gentleman and Ladies , Sadie Coles HQ (London, 2007); A Midsummer Night’s Dream , Sadie Coles HQ (London, 2008); Friedrich Petzel Gallery (New York, 2010); Bernier/Eliades...
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  • Imran Qureshi
    Born (1972) in Hyderabad. He lives in Lahore. He studied (1993 BA Fine Art) at the National College of Arts, Lahore. Recent solo exhibitions: Corvi-Mora (London, 2004); Anant Art Gallery (New Delhi, 2006); Encounters: Imran Qureshi , Modern Art Oxford, Oxford Canvas Art Gallery (Karachi, 2007); Portraits and Vortexes, (with Aisha...
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  • Jean-Marc Rochette
    Jean-Marc Rochette lives and works in the south of France, Berlin and Paris. After a career as a comics author since 1976 and many publications in France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Korea, the Netherlands, the book Transperceneige by Lob and Rochette, published in 1983, is the subject of a movie by Bong Joon-Ho, the  Korean director...
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  • Jockum Nordström
    Born (1963) in Stockholm, Sweden, where he lives and works. He is best known for his vivid collages, but also for his drawings, paintings and his work as an illustrator. Recent solo exhibitions: While the Mortar Dries , The Douglas Hyde Gallery (Dublin, 2010); Who is sleeping in my pillow , David Zwirner (New York, 2010);...
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  • Manfredi Beninati
    Born in Palermo in 1970. He studied Law and Film. He has exhibited widely, with solo shows at the Lorcan O’Neill Gallery in Rome (2006); the Galeria Braga Menendez in Buenos Aires (2007); the James Cohan Gallery in New York (2008), the Tomio Koyama Gallery in Tokyo (2008); the Max Wigram Gallery in London (2010). He has also participated to a...
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  • Margherita Manzelli
    Born in Ravenna in 1968. She currently lives and works in Italy. She has taken part in a number of exhibitions such as: L’ape e la rosa , Kimmerich, New York, 2011; Due , Collezione Maramotti, Reggio Emilia, 2010; Orientina , greengrassi, London, 2008; Studio Guenzani, Milan, 2005; Castello di Rivoli, Rivoli, 2004;...
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  • Nanos Valaoritis
    Born in 1921 in Lausanne, Switzerland, Nanos Valaoritis studied classics and law in the University of Athens and English literature at the Lοndοn University and attended courses οf Mycenaean Grammar at the École des Hautes Études οf Sorbonne. During the years 1944-1953 he translated and presented Modernist Greek poets οf the...
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  • Olaf Nicolai
    Born (1962) in Haale/Saale, Germany. He lives and works in Berlin. He studied German Literature and Philology in Leipzig (Germany), Budapest (Hungary) and Vienna (Austria). In 1992 he completed his PhD on "The Vienna Group" (‘Die Wiener Gruppe"). Olaf Nicolai’s work is conceptual in nature and often characterized by (socio) political...
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  • Pavlos Nikolakopoulos
    Born (1973) in Athens, where he lives and works. He studied at Athens School of Fine Arts. Pavlos Nikolakopoulos is interested in the notion of “discontinuity” where things are not formed through a smooth and regular stream, but from different interferences or random parameters such as accidental events, time, conflicts, and mistakes....
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  • Pierpaolo Campanini
    Born in1964 in Cento, Italy where he lives and works. Over his career he exhibited in different solo shows such as at francesca kaufmann, Milan (2009), Blum and Poe, Los Angeles (2008), Corvi Mora, London (2007), Salon 94, New York (2006). His works were showed in many group exhibitions, at Galleria Comunale d'Arte Contemporanea...
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  • William Kentridge
    Born (1955) in Johannesbourg, South Africa, where he lives and works. He studied at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesbourg (1976), at the Johannesbourg Art Foundation (1976-78) and at École Jacques Lecoq, Paris (1981-82). William Kentridge’s work has been seen in museums and galleries around the world since the 1990s, including...
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  • Yannoulis Halepas
    Best known for his sculpture, Sleeping Woman (1877) at the First Cemetery in Athens, Yianoulis Halepas (Tinos, 1851-Athens, 1938) is one of Greece’s most important sculptors. He studied at the School of Fine Arts in Athens and the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. His early work reflects the conservative spirit prevalent in the late...
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Untitled (12th Istanbul Biennial), 2011 Biennale de Lyon