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The Famous Umbrellas of Thessaloniki

Most of us - umbrella lovers or not, have seen the famous 13m-high, stainless steel sculpture titled "Umbrellas" on the waterfront in Thessaloniki, Greece. Instagram is full of beautifully taken photos of the umbrellas in  different stages of sunset or sunrise or pink for breast cancer awareness month (#thessalonikiumbrellas). They’re actually one of the most photographed sculptures around the world. You may think it’s a new installation but it has been an integral part of the waterfront in Thessaloniki, Greece, for more than 20 years.

It was designed by the late Greek sculptor George Zongolopoulos and constructed in 1997.

George Zongolopoulos was an important Greek sculptor, painter and architect whose works ever since 1988 frequently included umbrellas theme. He was often called the “eternal teenager” and was a representative of  “Generation of 1930s”.

His active years run from the 1920s until 2004 when he died at age 101 years old!

It was important for Zongolopoulos that his sculptures  include an element of motion to co-exist in harmony with their environment.

The umbrellas were installed on  the waterfront of Thessaloniki in 1997, the year that the city was the European Capital of Culture.

Since then, the umbrellas have taken on different shades of meaning to the residents of Thessaloniki. Some see it as a platform for social campaigns, such as when the umbrellas were illuminated in pink light in an effort to raise awareness about breast cancer. Others have attached more everyday connotations, such as seeing it as a symbol of protection, or as a sign marking the horizon on foggy days.

The fact that “Umbrellas” is a sculpture that a man created in the age of 92 years old add another deep layer to the meaning. The George Zongolopoulos work is full of dynamism, sensitivity, imagination and vision still “travels” around the world- most recently to Egypt to enhance the Greek-Egyptian friendship.

You can see his work at Museum of Contemporary Greek Art I. Vorres (Peania), Municipal Gallery(Athens), Museum Dimona (Israel), National Bank of Greece and Ministry of Education.

If you’d like to learn more about George Zongolopoulos work vist http://www.zongolopoulos.gr/en/

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