Ommu, Lampoon
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Ommu, Athens. Being nomads and a part of book fairs

«There was a scarcity in creative material available in Greece. Our involvement in the scene here urged us to showcase work made in the locale to the individuals living here and outside of it»

OMMU – A bookstore and publisher 

Existing as nomads, OMMU now resides from the confines of the store owner, Marina Legaki’s home. Forty years old this year, she established OMMU in 2010 with her business partner, Tasos Gkaintatzis. OMMU is a reflection of the artistic element that remains alive in Greece. The bookstore carries books in art, design, architecture as well as magazines of sorts. Used as a platform to build communities, OMMU is a bridge for creative individuals to congregate.

Coming together from two varying backgrounds – Legaki in psychology and Gkaintatzis in photography – they pooled their creative resources and formed a coalition with their peers, establishing their zine, Dynasty. The zine’s topics covered fine art and music where musicians could submit their tracks to them. This was then copied onto discs and attached to the back of the zine. A collaborative effort made with artists, contributors, music producers and the individuals behind Dynasty.

«It began in the year 2005. Tasos and I collated with friends who were, at the time, still pursuing their studies in art school in Greece». Taking advantage of social media platforms was how Legaki and Gkaintatzis grew their pool of contacts in the creative scene on a global scale. «We knew creators from Turkey, England, Germany, Northern America. We exchanged our work with one another and created a network». Working alongside Gkaintatzis at an art gallery and managing their zine in tandem, Legaki took on a role of working and assisting refugees at a non-governmental organization.

Forging experiences, Legaki and Gkaintatzis navigated OMMU one day at a time. Legaki and Gkaintatzis prompted their first store as a pop-up in AMP, an art gallery. They did so by making use of the network of creative individuals they have built across Greece. «We evolved from the pop-up store in the gallery to a full, form in function outlet. I, then, released my position from the NGO and poured my focus toward the store and taking part in book fairs». 

OMMU’s store inception

The pop-up store opened in 2009. It was an effort made for a period of time, existing for a month, between mid-November to the end of December. The pop-up then drove Legaki and Gkaintatzis to launch OMMU in the month of June the following year. The name OMMU is a made-up word. Legaki shares that there is no meaning to the word. She then states, «The word for omma (ὄμμα in ancient Greek) means eye. The word looked appealing and was a name customers could remember. Design wise, this was how we stood out to the public».

Mutual friends introduced Legaki and Gkaintatzis. A shared adoration for the arts was the factor that drew them to initiating OMMU. Legaki shares the objectives and philosophies of OMMU was to inculcate independence in art as well as to expand the creative scene in Greece. «There was a scarcity in creative material available in Greece. Our involvement in the scene here urged us to showcase work made in the locale to the individuals living here and outside of it».

Legaki shares that she and her partner, Gkaintatzis, worked in measures to disseminate creative knowledge, distributing within Greece and parts of Europe. Their presence, therefore, worked toward closing a gap and bridging artistic communities. Utilizing the work of Greek artists, they published works as an independent-publisher. They also brought forth the finished products to the book fairs they participated in. «What we had, we gave it back unto the people. It was necessary to share what we knew».

Their desire to showcase what they find has been maintained over the years. An effort made by the partners through their research in the subject of the arts. OMMU’s existence has been that of nomads, having three spaces over the span of ten years since their establishment in 2010. Legaki shares the layout of the spaces used by the bookstore over time. The first space was a shop lot that contained a bookshelf and an empty wall used for exhibition purposes. 

Ommu, Lampoon
The fourth sex, Adolescent extremes

Lampoon review: The spaces at OMMU bookstore

«The space provided us with a desire to host exhibitions. The Nieves Library was the kick-starting event, taking use of the bare wall opposing the bookshelf». A few years into establishing OMMU, Legaki and Gkaintatzis moved from the prime lot to a second one with space. Spanning out over eighty square meters within the walls of the second establishment was an art gallery living alongside the bookstore.

Shelves and displays held books, artwork and photographs. Books and magazines here were not divided in sections, co-existing with each other in their genres on the bookshelves. On occasion, thematic displays of books and additional items were also arranged in genres like architecture or design. The aim was to entice a customer’s journey in the store.

The owners placed themselves in the second outlet for five years before moving out to their final location. Their reasoning for pulling out of the second space to the third was to invoke a sense of intimacy and a change that was subjected by the global economic downturn. Legaki states, «it was the necessary course of action to move to the final space. I had re-entered my previous role at the NGO. Therefore, balancing time between that and managing the store needed significant effort. We moved in with the shelves and the books, leaving behind the gallery section».

For its last space – a fifty square meter store – Legaki tells us that she utilized vintage shelves and a vitrine repurposed from an owner of a bookstore in the locale. A section of the room’s wall was a set of windows, allowing light to flood the room to illuminate the area. She shares that each of the spaces brought individual energy and personality. They made it a hurdle to let go and a driving force to seeking a newfound space they have yet to settle in.

OMMU’s last physical store in Romantso

For their last physical store, acquiring an office space in Romantso, Legaki and Gkaintatzis were working alongside creatives in the area. Open on an appointment basis, the duo then poured their time into the obligations of their other jobs.

Over time, the owners of OMMU have collaborated with a chain of designers to create concept furniture items for their store. Employing Design Marketo from the United Kingdom, Lars Freeden, Manuel Raeder and ROLU, they have executed artistic vision into their spaces. «The collaboration with ROLU was one that we hold dear to us. We were, in fact, a part with the design process, curating and creating the final works. The furniture was part of the store and customers could purchase it if they wanted to».

Legaki shares that the efforts made to work with designers was integral to OMMU’s identity. The gallery section of the second store was an area that showcased art from artists from Greece as well as from other areas of Europe. Carrying ceramics, paintings and photography. «It was an effort without structure. There was no roster. Our focus was not to sell the artwork, rather for the consumption and education for the people».

A self-sustained entity in Greece, OMMU operates alongside a number of independent-booksellers in the area. OMMU maintains its stance in championing the arts. It carries titles like Purple Magazine, KARMA, RE/Search and items from publishers like Kingsboro Press and Koenig Books. Having been influenced by their environs in the area over time, OMMU has become a sponge, learning and implementing their knowledge for the people through their daily operations. 

Ommu, Lampoon
Finding The Family Gun, Cali Thornhill Dewitt

OMMU’s participation in fairs and projects 

Contacts and experiences built over the years, from taking part in book fairs and in collaborative projects, have allowed OMMU to set themselves apart. «Our work centers around the creation of contemporaries in art. Bookstores here, while self-financed, were selling books in the Greek language and were mainstream. What we sell is niche». Their individual interests influenced their focus in the arts. A cultivated response coming from their circle of friends.

The publishing label ensued when Legaki came to a realization that there was underrepresentation of artists and creators of sorts in Greece. Publications under OMMU were done in random as Legaki explains that she had stumbled across the work of artist Juan S. Puyal in a U.K. based fetish magazine. «We then contacted him and found out that he had not published any of his work. We then assisted him in doing that». The same was also done for artists like Peter Shire and Cali Thornhill Dewit.

Legaki and Gkaintatzis choose creators to collaborate with based on their output and process in showcasing their work. On the surface, the duo carries out research for formalities and learns the traits of an artist, their working methods and how they can benefit from each other. For example, their publication with Shire and Dewit was the result of that.

A back and forth between OMMU and the artists produced two books – Shire’s called Tea Pot in Tempest, On the Spot, a blue hard covered book on a collection of drawings. While, Dewit’s book, Finding the Family Gun was brought together upon gathering creative output from either party. Color, types of paper and the out of the norm wire binding sets the book apart from the rest. Legaki states, «we went forward with that type of binding to set the book apart. The contents of the book were a compilation of his life gathered over the years in photographs and artwork».

COVID-19 impact of the publishing industry

Through shutting down and operating online since the start of the pandemic in early 2020, Legaki and Gkaintatzis are pivoting their focus towards their presence in the book fair community in Europe and Northern America. «We hope for things to open once again to enable us to carry forward with taking part in book fairs. We are even considering reopening a physical outlet post pandemic. There is a joy to owning a space you can call your own».

Flitting around between countries while operating in book fairs and out of their store, their set of customers vary each time. «There are buyers who are fresh to the art world, eager to learn from the platform OMMU has made available. Then there are customers who walk in and purchase items they want as they know beforehand what they like and want to read».

Apart from taking part in book fairs, OMMU carried out projects under their name brand. A means to disseminate education in art and design, these projects involved designers like ROLU, Thurston Moore and Eric Jane Nelson. «Our standout collaborative project was when Thurston Moore from Sonic Youth called us up, wondering if he could use OMMU to promote the release of his upcoming book. It was a dream come true. From watching a regarded artist on MTV to working with them. It remains dear to me». Carrying in total three hundred books in her apartment as inventory, the brand is looking to root in a physical space in the near future to expand the books and magazines they carry.

OMMU

Anaxagora 3-5, Athina 105 52, Greece

OMMU is a bookstore and publisher established in2010, based in Athens, Greece. It stocks a range of rare and historic publications.

The writer does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article.

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check and buy on Prototipo Store
item collections in limited edition
crafted according to our editorial search

Hemp / made in Italy
Lampoon is working to restore
Hemp production in Italy
as hemp is the one and only
natural vegetal fiber sourceable in the country
for more info, please email us at [email protected]

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