A unique and profound photography exhibit by HRH Prince Nikolaos of Greece and Denmark will make its world premiere at the National Hellenic Museum (NHM) in Chicago as it reopens in September. Resilience is an exhibition of 20 works of photographic art – among them 19 never-before shown and one exhibited in London earlier this year – that will be previewed at the NHM Saturday, Sept. 25.
Prince Nikolaos is an accomplished photographic artist whose works have been exhibited throughout the world since 2015, most recently at the London Design Biennale in June. His first solo exhibit in North America, Resilience will open to the public with a presentation by Prince Nikolaos Sunday, Sep. 26, and will reside at the NHM through late December. The exhibit is sponsored by NHM Trustee, Chicagoan John S. Koudounis.
A central piece of the Resilience exhibit called Sea Cred was created by Prince Nikolaos in collaboration with Parley for the Oceans, a non-profit that enables creators, thinkers and leaders to raise awareness of environmental threats to the planet’s oceans. The piece is a photographic mosaic, with images assembled on credit card-sized pieces of Parley Ocean Plastic®, a premium material created from intercepted plastic debris from remote beaches, mangroves and coastal communities, to represent the impact of consumerism on the oceanic ecosystem.
“Rather than simply taking a picture of a landscape, I’ll take a picture of what is evoking emotion – such as a zoomed, focused image of a ripple of water – that has caught my eye in the moment,” says Prince Nikolaos. “These details are the essence of the landscape to be celebrated and preserved.”
“As an artist Prince Nikolaos is always drawn to open spaces; nature has been an integral theme and presence in his work,” says Marilena Koutsoukou, the exhibit’s curator. “Like an archaeologist meticulously excavating, recording and drawing conclusions, the artist’s intent with this body of work is to deconstruct and explore from where this strength originates.”
In discussing Resilience – both the collection of works and the human capacity to overcome difficulties faced across the globe that inspired the exhibition – Prince Nikolaos quotes the renowned Greek poet Odysseas Elytis who said, “If you deconstruct Greece, you will in the end see an olive tree, a grapevine, and a boat remain. That is, with as much, you reconstruct her.”
“However, this exhibition goes far beyond Greece,” says Koutsoukou. “It’s Prince Nikolaos’ expression of our collective experience with a new normal, a shared belief that we must let go of our past ways and find ways to celebrate and protect nature and, eventually, ourselves.”
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This technique of assembling precise, detailed photography to create a vast presentation also was employed by Prince Nikolaos in Together, which premiered in London, and is the only piece in the exhibit previously shown. It features two life-sized olive trees growing side-by-side, their branches entangled. The assembly of those images into a single artistic piece allows for clarity and detail. Each tiny leaf is clear and crisp even in its life-size presentation. Togetherwas inspired by the isolation and desire for togetherness experienced worldwide through the pandemic.
“I’ve always maintained that the most beautiful artist is nature; I’m just the messenger,” says Prince Nikolaos, who credits his wife, Princess Tatiana, for inspiring his technique of trying to convey the emotion which the landscape evokes in him. “I once was photographing the dessert, and my wife advised me to stop trying to capture its vastness but, instead, to focus on what moves my soul.”
Through the long months of the global pandemic, Prince Nikolaos also has looked to his origins for inspiration. He asserts that finding our ancestral foundations, and sense of belonging to a larger narrative, leads to finding our center of stability.
“Prince Nikolaos’ art is ideal to reopen the National Hellenic Museum,” says NHM Trustee Koudounis. “Beyond the shared Greek heritage, the shared values of reaching to one’s origins for fortitude and of the preservation of natural elements make this exhibit a fit for our community.”
Founded in 1983 as the Hellenic Museum and Cultural Center, the NHM’s current location was builtin 2011. The building is constructed with natural limestone and glass, materials that represent the artistic and technological traditions Greeks have impacted from the Classical Age to the modern day. It contains design elements associated with Aristotle such as earth, wind and fire; although water is not physically present, light and glassy surfaces are incorporated to represent the importance of water.The symbolic heart of the building is a dramatic, sky-lit east-to-west-staircase that represents the immigrant experience, cultural ties to Greece and the limitless potential – the resilience – of Greek Americans in the United States.
“As we reopen the National Hellenic Museum, once again coming together to celebrate not only our heritage and community, but also our role as global citizens, we are so very proud and honored to present this exhibit to Chicagoans and visitors to the city of all nationalities,” Koudounis added.
Tickets to the National Hellenic Museum, including HRH Prince Nikolaos’ exhibit are $10.
Located at 333 S. Halsted, the National Hellenic Museum is an anchor of Chicago’s Greektown. For Museum hours beginning Sept. 24, and information about Museum memberships, its exhibits and programs visit their website.