Friday 20 October 2023

The Runner by Kostas Varotsos

The last time we visited the National Gallery in Athens we did something we had not done before: rather than giving The Runner a quick, albeit admiring,  glance, and moving on, we actually crossed the road, went up to the square and looked at this awesome sculpture properly, from all angles.

The sculpture faces the National Gallery and the Hilton Hotel, busy traffic all around it.

First completed in 1988, the 40-foot-tall sculpture was created by Costas Varotsos. The densely layered work is formed from thousands of jagged shards of greenish-grey glass which are stacked around iron, forming a runner in motion. 

Originally the piece was installed in Omonia Square, but due to fears that it would topple from underground metro vibrations, in 1994 the city moved the piece fo Megalis tou Genous Sholi square - not much of a square, more of a traffic island.

When designing the sculpture, Varotsos considered which types of movement occur in these public spaces and how they might impact the viewing of the work. 'The position of people on the square is never fixed', he explains. 'As is the case with every city, here, too, objects and buildings are things yous see while in motion. Rarely do you stop to look closely at something. Individuals observing the sculpture do so at two speeds, depending on where they are on the square: walking on the sidewalks or driving by in a car. The kind of space operating here is not only a purely visual one, but also one open to the sense of touch; one generating a tactile sensation'.

The figure is meant to capture the exact moment one finishes a race - be that a literal translation of a marathon, or a more loose interpretation of conquering a challenging moment.

Finally, in this shot, The Runner can be seen next to a 1,500 year old olive tree, also in the square.

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