For those familiar with vacationing in the Greek islands, you’ll know they hold a certain charm. From the cool breeze off the Aegean, the cicadas vibrating in the pines and the soft scent of baklava baking, not to forget the mesmerising turquoise blue sea and plethora of options to entertain oneself.
One thing you may not associate the Greek islands with is contemporary art yet, Hydra, an island of only 20 square miles, is becoming a destination each and every summer for the international art set. Perhaps kick-started by a certain Dakis Joannou, the Greek construction magnate with assets in hotel and transport, plus one of the most influential private art collectors of our time.
Most may know Joannou best for the collaboration between himself, artist Jeff Koons and renowned Italian yacht designer Ivana Porfiri on the 115 foot ‘Guilty’. This ultimate execution of contemporary creativity boasts an exterior design by the American artist, ‘Razzle Dazzle’, inspired by naval camouflage from World War 1. The geometric design is only added to as Hydra Port’s waves reflect the abstract shapes.
In contrast, calm interiors feature a master bedroom with a neon sign by Martin Creed above the bed spelled the word “Feelings.” David Shrigley cartoons adorn interior walls whilst a central stair case is left in clean white, apart from the glowing light that switches from tone to tone. Four guest cabins are also decorated to be more oasis-like than art scene, although adorned with gallery-worthy pieces, with enormous windows and Italian furniture.
Back on shore, Joannou is also responsible for the DESTE Foundation, which occupies Project Space Slaughterhouse within the port. Set right on the water, the gallery space is home to emerging Greek artists and plays hosts to exhibitions every summer, to which global enthusiasts and collectors flock to.
Hydra itself is one of those islands where time can easily stand still. Cars aren’t allowed – you can rely on donkeys to transport anything too cumbersome. Much of the amenities on offer take place in Hydra Port, with a fascinating array of typical cubist Greek housing and a busy harbour where fishing boats mingle with billionaire’s super-yachts. Whilst restaurants and spots for an aperitif or two adorn the waterside, quaint villages are easily walking distance away.
Greek and international artists and literary minds alike have long been visiting Hydra. Leonard Cohen, Brice and Helen Marden still own houses here whilst tourists regularly make the homage up to prominent Greek artist and sculptor Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghikas’ villa, now ruined high up on a hill, presiding over the capital town.
Hydra offers everything to quench the thirst for a signature Greek experience, yet with the appealing addition of exploring art and creativity from times gone by and that will inspire us in the future. What more could you want from a summer excursion?