Rolex Arts Festival - Athens

Rolex is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative and its commitment to the arts worldwide over the years. For the first time, the company will bring this programme and dozens of the world’s most talented artists who excel in their art to Athens in a celebration of the legacy of 20 years of mentoring.

The Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative holds a special place within the Perpetual Arts Initiative. It encompasses a distinctive and unique vision of mentoring – generous and global – that plays a tangible role in promoting excellence and the future of the arts.

The mentoring programme, recognized as an initiative with unparalleled respect and legitimacy, has become a universal reference in artistic circles where it is linked to the genuine commitment of Rolex as a true patron of culture. It provides new artists with the opportunity to be supported by masters in their fields and the confidence they need to recognize and reveal their full creative potential. Additionally, the programme helps safeguard the world’s artistic heritage.

Over two decades, a remarkable artistic community has been built, encouraging an international dialogue across cultures and disciplines that helps the Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative realize its main objective: the transmission of knowledge to new generations of artists on a global scale. The Athens event is both a true manifestation and celebration of this life-changing programme.

Festival performances and events

Today, Rolex announced that multidisciplinary performances, exhibitions, readings, screenings, installations, and discussions will share the achievements and ongoing creative relationships of more than 60 Rolex protégés and mentors. It will fill stages, galleries, and public spaces at nine venues in Athens – the cradle of arts and learning – for a full week in spring 2023 with more than 30 performances and events, in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative. The Rolex Arts Festival, spanning dance, theatre, music, film, architecture, visual arts and literature, and showcasing a generation of outstanding international artists who have advanced their work with the support of Rolex, will be presented to the public from 26 to 28 May. A special pre-festival programme, dedicated to the people of Athens and organized to engage Greek artists, arts professionals and young people, will be offered from 22 to 25 May.

In presenting a dazzling array of works by the Rolex fellows (former protégés) from 26 to 28 May, as well as public conversations among the fellows and acclaimed mentors – many living legends – the Rolex Arts Festival seeks to inspire those in the Greek capital at the heart of the world’s culture. The festival will also be a vivid demonstration of the commitment to reach for the pinnacle of performance that drives Rolex to support individuals and organizations in the arts. This continuous pursuit of excellence, symbolized by the word ‘Perpetual’, underpins every aspect of Rolex’s activities – from its watchmaking to its many partnerships.

In keeping with this mission, the pre-festival programme presented from 22 to 25 May will feature the participation of dozens of Greek artists in 14 free public and professionalevents. A distinguished eight-member Greek Advisory Committee has provided counsel and assistance in organizing all aspects of the Rolex Arts Festival, which is being curated by independent arts advisor and programmer Emma Gladstone OBE, former Artistic Programmer at Sadler’s Wells in London and former Artistic Director and Chief Executive of Dance Umbrella.

“To bring the public just some of the wealth of multidisciplinary achievements that have been fostered by the Rolex mentoring programme, we issued an open call to all Rolex fellows to participate by presenting works,” said Rebecca Irvin, head of the mentoring programme at Rolex. “The response was overwhelming and unanimous. We at Rolex are moved and excited by the outpouring of creative energy and the spirit of communal engagement that the fellows will be offering in Athens.” Gladstone commented, “There is astonishing generosity in the range of work that the Rolex fellows will be showing the people of Athens – a generosity matched by the invaluable relationships that the mentors formed with these fellows, and by the contributions of Rolex in initiating and supporting this special endeavour. To honour this generosity across the 20 years of the Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative, the Rolex Arts Festival will highlight three broad themes: the relationship of sharing at the core of the programme, the impact of this sharing on the fellows, and the ongoing artistic legacy that the fellows are now creating around the world.”

Highlights of the Rolex Arts Festival

Events and presentations in the Rolex Arts Festival will be offered to the general public at minimal cost, with ticket proceeds going to the partner institutions for their arts programmes.
The activities will include:

• A group exhibition at EMST (National Museum of Contemporary Art) by the eight Rolex visual arts fellows – Sammy Baloji, Alejandro Cesarco, Masanori Handa, Nicholas Hlobo, Mateo López, Thao Nguyen Phan, Camila Rodríguez Triana and Matthias Weischer – with an introductory talk moderated by mentor Carrie Mae Weems.

• A group exhibition at Benaki Pireos 138 of work by all Rolex architecture fellows – Sahel Alhiyari, Gloria Cabral, Mariam Issoufou Kamara, Simon Kretz and Yang Zhao – with an introductory talk moderated by mentor Sir David Chipperfield.

• A screening in the courtyard of Benaki Pireos 138 of short films by Rolex arts fellows Aditya Assarat, Kyle Bell, Sara Fgaier, Annemarie Jacir, Josué Méndez, Celina Murga, Agustina San Martín, Tom Shoval and Chaitanya Tamhane.

• Two theatrical presentations: The Case of the Stranger by Rolex arts fellow Whitney White at the Athens Conservatoire, with a post-show talk featuring Rolex mentor Phyllida Lloyd, and [÷] v.0.8: Boléro, a solo performance at Ω2 Complex by arts fellow Sebastián Solórzano Rodríguez.

• Two dance events at the Athens Conservatoire: a performance by Rolex arts fellow Khoudia Touré with an ensemble of Greek and international dancers, and a double bill featuring arts fellow Eduardo Fukushima in a solo performance and a duet choreographed by fellow Myles Thatcher.

• Two music events: a sound installation performance at Megaron’s Trianti Hall Side Stage by Rolex music fellow Ben Frost, and a closing concert at Megaron Gardens featuring ensembles from Egypt, Honduras and the UnitedStates led by fellows Dina Elwedidi, Marcus Gilmore and Aurelio Martínez, with a guest appearance by mentor Gilberto Gil.

• Four installation works at the Athens Conservatoire by Rolex fellows Selina Cartmell (theatre), Matías Umpierrez (theatre), Federico León (theatre) and Jason Akira Somma (dance).

• A music commission and performance, Artemis: Fountain, created for the Dancing Fountains at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, by Rolex music fellow Pauchi Sasaki.

• A Word in Your Ear: writings by all Rolex literature fellows – Naomi Alderman, Antonio García Ángel, Edem Awumey, Colin Barrett, Julían Fuks, Julia Leigh, Miroslav Penkov and Tracy K. Smith – read in English and Greek by noted actors, introduced at a presentation in the Athens Conservatoire Amphitheatre and available for digital download throughout the Rolex Arts Festival.

Additional events

Two special “Sideways Mentoring” events will show how Rolex fellows are now inspiring each other and working in collaboration across disciplines. At Ω2 Complex film fellow Annemarie Jacir and literature fellow Colin Barrett will present a film script they are developing, with selected scenes interpreted by actors. At NewStage, Maya Zbib (theatre), Lee Serle (dance), and Mateo López (visual arts) will present Listening to the Walls Wear Off Their Colour, a dance theatre performance they have created.
Public discussions presented throughout the Rolex Arts Festival will be:

• New Legacies: Four fellows (names to be confirmed) in a conversation about the social, cultural, and ecological impact of their creative work.

• Creative Alchemy: Three fellows and three mentors (names to be confirmed) in a conversation about the elusive yet essential qualities that spark a creative relationship, moderated by Orestis Andreadakis, Artistic Director of the Thessaloniki International Film Festival.

• Lifelong Learning: Three established artists (names to be confirmed) who have guided and inspired fellow artists, sharing reflections and memories about the people that influenced them in their own lives.

The Rolex Arts Festival will also include a Gala evening at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, where the 20th anniversary ceremony will feature performances by music fellows David Aaron Carpenter, Vasco Mendonça and Susan Platts, with music fellow Josep Caballé Domenech conducting the El Sistema Greece Youth Orchestra, and the participation of the Greek women’s a capella
ensemble Chores.

It should be noted that the majority of the festival will be in English with Greek translation available (where appropriate). Film and video works will have Greek and English subtitles. All readings in the digital audio project A Word in Your Ear will be available in Greek and English.

The Pre-Festival Programme to the Rolex Arts Festival

Leading up to the Rolex Arts Festival, the four-day pre-festival programme (22–25 May) will include day-long workshops, masterclasses, public talks, musical performances and rehearsals, and more, involving dozens of Greek artists, Rolex fellows and mentors including Anne Lacaton, Phyllida Lloyd, Robert Lepage, Walter Murch and Colm Tóibín.
The Advisory Committee for both the festival and pre-festival programmes consists of: Eleftheria Deko (cross-disciplinary artist working in lighting design for performance, architecture and art), Katerina Evangelatos (Artistic Director of the Athens and Epidaurus Festival), Sofia Exarchou (writer-director of the 2016 awardwinning film Park), Katerina Gregos (Artistic Director of EMST, the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens), Alexandros Drakos Ktistakis (drummer, composer and orchestrator), Euripides Laskaridis (choreographer/performer, founder of the Osmosis company), Ilias Papageorgiou (architect, founder and principal of the PILA studio) and Kostas Spatharakis (editor, translator and founder of Antipodes Publications).


Established in 2002 to assist in the transfer of knowledge from one generation of artists to the next, the mentoring programme is based on the belief that art is a continuum, an accumulation of past experiences over generations, and that all artists are inspired by those who went before them. In keeping with the Rolex tradition of encouraging individual excellence, younger artists of exceptional promise – the protégés – are given the rare opportunity to spend significant periods of time in creative exchange with world-renowned artists in their particular field – the mentors – on a one-to-one basis. The programme today encompasses the disciplines of architecture, dance, film, literature, music, theatre and visual arts. There is also a variable, or “open category”, mentorship that can take place in other fields or in an interdisciplinary pursuit. These mentorships are grouped in alternating periods according to discipline.

The mentors who have so far given of their time and vast talent are among the world’s greatest artists. They are: Sir David Adjaye, Margaret Atwood, (the late) John Baldessari, Tahar Ben Jelloun, (the late) Trisha Brown, (the late) Patrice Chéreau, Sir David Chipperfield, Mia Couto, Alfonso Cuarón, (the late) Sir Colin Davis, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, Olafur Eliasson, Brian Eno, (the late) Hans Magnus Enzensberger, William Forsythe, Stephen Frears, Gilberto Gil, Philip Glass, Alejandro G. Inárritu, (the late) Sir Peter Hall, David Hockney, Rebecca Horn, Zakir Hussain, Joan Jonas, Sir Anish Kapoor, William Kentridge, Jiří Kylián, Robert Lepage, Lin Hwai-min, Phyllida Lloyd, Spike Lee, Lin-Manuel Miranda, (the late) Toni Morrison, Walter Murch, Ohad Naharin, Mira Nair, Youssou N’Dour, (the late) Jessye Norman, Michael Ondaatje, Crystal Pite, Alexei Ratmansky, Kaija Saariaho, Martin Scorsese, Kazuyo Sejima, Peter Sellars, Álvaro Siza, Wole Soyinka, Julie Taymor, Saburo Teshigawara, Jennifer Tipton, Colm Tóibín, Kate Valk, Mario Vargas Llosa, Carrie Mae Weems, Robert Wilson, Zhang Yimou, Pinchas Zukerman and Peter Zumthor.


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