Alix Janta in Athens
Six years ago, Belgian-Polish curator Alix Janta took her young family from London to Athens, settling at the foot of Philopappou Hill. Philopappou translates as the Hill of the Nymphs and Muses, lending its sense of magic to the neighbourhood of Petralona where, along with her husband Felix, their son Laszlo, and daughter Niki, she’s made her new home. Petralona feels like a village, known for its traditional tavernas and laid back ambiance. The charming weekly market is a natural meeting point as everyone passes through – often stopping at Adad, the bookshop and coffee bar Alix runs on Merkouri Square. Adad was the name of a small publishing house she ran in London, and this year it will start publishing again, from Athens.
Adad has become a vibrant gathering place, both for the international artistic community and longtime locals, some of whom have adopted it for their morning coffee. While many creative types have relocated to Athens in recent years, Alix is unusual in that the projects she’s launched genuinely enrich the local environment. Besides Adad, she runs an art residency and exhibition space nearby called Alkinois. Alix’s relaxed personal style and unassuming manner makes everyone feel at ease. With her natural elegance and discreet taste she has beautifully realised her vision of hosting cultural spaces that nurture new talent and are welcoming to everyone.
What made your choose Petralona?
It’s easygoing, with a family atmosphere, and near the centre. Children play in the square, people stop to say hello, there’s still a traditional way of life. It’s not too far from the sea – sometimes after dropping the kids to school, Felix and I drive down for a swim before getting on with the day.
How did you come to come to open your bookshop?
On my walk from the park through the square I would notice this adorable little corner shop sitting empty and imagine doing something there. I found out who it belonged to, arranged to rent it, and renovated it with the help of an interior designer friend who lives close by. Our book selection is pretty idiosyncratic, with lots by small publishers from around Europe, art and photography, independent magazines, unusual essays. We like to support local self-publishers too.
The shop is tiny but we have poetry readings and acoustic music, and I love that it’s become a place where people come when they need something, like piano lessons or a space to rent or kittens that need adopting.
And what about your art space?
Alkinois has similarly evolved into something very connected with the community. Every few shows we have a guest curator and the program evolves organically through the network passing through town. Sometimes we have a resident staying, at other times we show painting, sculpture, film, or more experimental work like culinary performances. It’s located in a former furniture factory that Felix and I fell for a few years ago.
What are your favourite neighbourhood spots?
I’m always having lunch at Rendez-vous, near the bookshop, or a bite at Coperti wine bar, by Alkinois. We also love Oikonomou, the traditional taverna that’s been running for a hundred years, and Aster, which does a more contemporary menu – they’re both on Troon, a well-known street with many restaurants and a classic open-air cinema that shows old movies.
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