If you are not completely removed from the contemporary world of arts and culture, you are bound to hear about the NiMAC on your trip to Cyprus. You might ask: «What is it?» The Nicosia Municipal Arts Centre is an art venue that is well-known both in Cyprus and abroad.
The center is located in a building that used to once house a powerhouse (early 20th century). The building has since been restored, but has retained its original walls, the layout and the metal elements, which create a particularly suitable backdrop for the artworks on display.
Following the restoration work in 1994, the building, which is an excellent example of industrial architecture, received the Europa Nostra award.
As you enter the center you will first see large information stands dedicated to the current exhibition. The main exhibition space spans across three large, interconnected halls.
Because contemporary art events tend to offer more than a merely visual experience, viewers are expected to engage with art and its message on a multi-dimensional level. This fact applies to art curators as well, who face the task of organizing an art space that facilitates this process. And so as you walk down the corridor of the arts center, you have the option of entering the small, dimly-lit exhibition rooms located on the right, which screen various audio-visual material. It’s really quite an amazing experience.
To the left of the entrance there is a small art salon where you can purchase art books, as well as works by different designers and artists and many others things.
Alongside its exhibitions, NiMAC also conducts research and educational work. You can purchase its publications on contemporary and classical art as well as Cyprus culture at the art salon.
Now here is an arts library, which houses more than 30,000 publications, some of which are extremely rare. The library also has an archive of international art magazines that includes such publications as the Verve, Minotaur and Cahiers d’Art. These materials can also be accessed electronically. To the right of the reading hall there is an auditorium that is used to host public readings, seminars and other events.
The building complex has additional spaces used to hold different master classes and workshops for children and adolescents.
If you feel like you need to take a break and grab a bite, you can always visit the interior courtyard, which has a garden and a restaurant.
The current exhibition at the arts center features works by Glynn Hughes (1931-2014), a well-known contemporary artist, teacher, journalist, film critic, writer, poet and a pioneer of contemporary art in Cyprus.
Hughes was one of the few artists who left an important mark on the arts landscape of Cyprus. He had a large personality and produced multi-faceted, powerful art. Together with another eminent artist of the time, Christoforos Savva (1924-1968), Hughes drew the attention of the public to a number of innovative art projects.
The Glynn Hughes exhibit was on display in December 2016. During this time the library also made available archival information on the artist’s life and work.
After our tour of the exhibition, we met with the director of the center, Mr. Yiannis Toumazis, who told us about Nicosia’s current and future art events.
— Dr. Toumazis, who founded NiMAC and how did it happen?
— NiMAC is a good example of collaborative work between the capital of Cyprus and the the Pierides Foundation, which is the oldest cultural institute located in Larnaca. NiMAC was founded in 1994 as a result of an agreement between mayor Lellos Demetriades and the president of the Foundation, Dimitris Pierides.
I am also the director of the Pierides Foundation and over the last 22 years of
working there, we have produced quite a few interesting projects. The Foundation is responsible for defining the arts policy of NiMAC — an important platform for promoting contemporary art and forging connections between Cypriot and foreign artists. We also hold many educational programs and events.
— Do you recall the first exhibition at NiMAC?
— It was called «The Tree» (1994). It was a small exhibit of works by Greek and Cypriot artists — from the old and the new school. Starting in the 19th century and up until the present day the image of «The Tree» has been a source of inspiration for many artists. Since 1994 we have held more than 96 large exhibits.
I should say that, on average, we hold 3-4 large exhibits a year. Plus, we always have a lot of ongoing projects, including smaller exhibits, master classes, seminars, conference and other educational events. The NiMAC complex includes an educational center of children and youth that offers engraving, film and art classes. We are also always open to hosting foreign professionals.
This fall we plan to launch the Theatropolis venue, which will become a platform for new visual art experiments and innovations. Our main mission is to promote contemporary art at the highest level. We also seek to build bridges between Cyprus and the rest of the art world.
— Since we started talking about representatives of foreign art, would you mind telling us how many foreigners come to your center? And who are they: art connoisseurs or tourists?
— You see, Nicosia is not a very popular tourist destination (we don’t have the beaches that attract most foreigners). At the same time, most tourists do come here for a day or two as part of their tour of the island. Our building is located in the very heart of the historic part of Cyprus and many of the people who visit the capital, do end up here as well. We are also surrounded by a large number of famous museums and cultural organizations, which means that we also get visitors from these «neighbors». We would certainly like to expand the number of visitors and attract more attention to our events. Nicosia, and specifically its central part, is a beautiful place for cultural events. We would love to see more new faces at our exhibitions and other events.
— Does NiMAC have its own collection of artworks?
— Being an arts center, NiMAC does not have its own collection of art. This is largely due to the fact that our main mission is to organize exhibitions. We welcome anyone interested in art. It is easy to keep up with our events by registering on our website (www.nimac.org.cy) and signing up to our email updates.
— Who is your target audience?
— Our viewer is basically anyone who is interested in contemporary art trends and personalities. Unfortunately, Cyprus still doesn’t have a museum of contemporary art. I believe that NiMAC is filling that gap at the moment. For example, you just visited a Glynn Hughes retrospective, which showcases works by an eminent artist from Wales, who came to Cyprus many years ago (in 1956) and stayed untill his death in 2014. His work made a big contribution to contemporary Cypriot art and had a significant influence on young Cypriot artists of his (and our) time.
We also organize many experimental exhibitions, which tend to draw the attention of younger people. We try to make our events interesting to families and children too. We are convinced that art education for children is particularly important: when children come home and they share their knowledge with others. And when visitors are done enjoying our exhibitions and events, they are welcome to stop by our restaurant or cafe. Both are also available for private parties.
— Which of the foreign art organizations does NiMAC work with?
— We are actively bringing art from abroad. We recently held a Picasso exhibit (that featured works from the Picasso Museum in Paris) and a Joan Miro exhibit (the Majorca collection). So yes, we maintain ties with galleries, museum and centers around the world.
We also like to go on tours ourselves. So, for example, this September there will be a group exhibit at the HALLE 14 arts center in Germany (Leipzig), which will be dedicated to Mediterranean artists (from Cyprus, Greece, Turkey and a number of Middle Eastern countries). And in January we plan to bring a group of Cypriot artists to Israel.
NiMAC also participates in large European projects, because, like I said, we are invested in expanding our collaboration with foreign art organizations.
— Why do you think we need museums and art institutes? What is their purpose?
— I believe that culture is a crucial aspect of our lives. It helps to deepen our knowledge and understanding of things.
We need to take art and culture more seriously, because it is thanks to them that we evolve as a civilization. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to be on the list of public priorities in Cyprus. And still, I am convinced, that museums and art centers improve the quality of our lives.
We thank Mr. Toumazis for an enlightening conversation.
So if you do end up in the Old Town district of Nicosia, don’t forget to visit NiMAC. The arts center always stays on top of global art trends and has interesting events and exhibits happen there all the time. Enjoy works by well-known Cypriot masters as well as art by eminent contemporary artists from leading museums, galleries and exhibition centers around the world. Nicosia can certainly make you feel like you are in the heart of the entire world.
Address: 19, Palias Ilektrikis (Old Town)
Exhibition center: every day (except Sunday and Monday) 10:00 – 21:00,
Office hours: Monday – Friday 8:00 – 15:00
Entrance is free
Telephone: +357 22797400
See you soon!