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Originals

Gina Mamidakis
The Art of Crete,
the Passion of Home

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  • Words Ken Baron
  • Images Robbie Lawrence

If you come upon a crowd talking enthusiastically about Greek art or wine at Minos Beach Art Hotel, there’s a very good chance that Gina Mamidakis is standing at the center of it.

A longtime hotelier who studied Political and Economic Science at the University of Athens, received a master’s degree at the University of Manchester in England, and completed special hotel programs at Cornell University and Harvard Business School, Mamidakis could have lived quietly off the success she was having as the managing director of bluegr Hotels & Resorts in Greece. However, in 1988, she set out to promote the work of Cretan artists, as well as the island’s rich cultural experiences. Soon, the George and Aristea Mamidakis Foundation was born, and with it came environmental and cultural events that have made modern art much more accessible to Greeks and visitors from all over the world.

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A work of art: the island itself, as seen from a three-bedroom villa at the hotel

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Towering palms and Mediterranean scrub thrive in Crete’s moderate climate

Why is strengthening the link between tourism and culture so important to you?

Greece is defined by art, literature, traditions, music, language, wine, and food. The ancient Greeks implemented the values of loyalty, glory, intelligence, and hospitality into everyday life. They effectively shaped an entire civilization into a culture that is one of the most referenced in history. And this is what I want to give to our guests: A holistic Greek cultural experience.

 

How specifically do you do this?

By creating the George and Aristea Mamidakis Foundation, which I named in honor of my parents, I was able to bring 32 local and internationally renowned sculptors to Minos Beach to create works inspired by the environment. The result transformed the hotel’s grounds into a true sculpture garden with 54 art installations. Since then, the Foundation has hosted exhibitions featuring diverse forms of artistic expression, each enriching the hotel’s permanent collection.

 

You also have an Art Prize?

Yes, the Foundation’s Art Prize was born three years ago out of our need to support and promote free artistic expression. It awards creativity, innovation, and originality, expressing the Foundation’s core values.

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Costas Tsoclis’ provocative piece "Danger"

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Artisanal and handcrafted jewelry and goods abound in the Minos Beach orbit

“We transformed our grounds into a true sculpture garden with 54 art installations.”

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Lynda Benglis’ "Drawing"

And there’s an Artist in Residence Program at the hotel, too?

Yes, it stems directly from my love for art and culture, and it includes emerging Greek and International artists, as well as designers, composers, writers, and curators who are invited to embark on a 10-day immersion at Minos Beach. We want this residency to become one of the best opportunities for artists and creatives in Europe, a dream gig for practitioners working in the cultural arena.

 

Why is art so important to your guests?

People want special moments that they will remember for years to come. We don’t believe in bubbles of luxury. We believe in authentic and surprising experiences. Luxury for us is defined as integration into the natural landscape and environment. We also encourage our guests to get involved with the local community. We want them to live the experience and feel the connection to the locals and the place. For us, what’s important is connection, not exploitation.

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A connoisseur of life and Greek traditions, Gina cherishes local Cretan cuisine

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And sustainability? How is the hotel giving back to the island’s local community and ecosystem?

Sustainability is all about giving more than you take, and a priority for us. We use only local products and have adopted a philosophy based on environmental awareness. We support local health, educational, and mental institutions; the Neapolis orphanage; and a social grocery; and we give back through donations, volunteer work, sponsorships, free meals, and complimentary use of our hotel’s services and facilities.

 

You are a trained sommelier? How did your passion for wine come about?

Wine is life. Wine is love. Wine is my passion. For me, it is like exploring human personalities. They have age, gender, sexual orientation, and color. They can be introverts or extroverts, visible or invisible, balanced or unbalanced.

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The fruit of the vine makes for delicious local wine

“Sustainability is all about giving more than you take.”

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Gina with local winery owner Yorgos Lyrarakis

Who was the most influential person in your life?

My father, George Mamidakis. I was inspired by his passion, his ethos, his knowledge and education, his authenticity and humanity, and of course by his courage. All these values are essential to my daily life.

 

Who is inspiring you today?

Nature! The ultimate inspiration. Nature is holiness. Nature has a great simplicity and therefore timeless beauty. Nature is never vain.

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Is it true that you practice karate?

Karate is my dopamine. I started it for self-defense and to build confidence. It absorbs my “super energy.” On the other hand, I do ballet and classic dance, which balance my yin characteristics.

 

And diving is also a passion, right?

Yes, being away from human voices and noise creates my most peaceful, holy moments.

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If you could instill just one value in your children, what would it be?

I have three children and the most important value I want to share with them is ethos, followed by passion, courage, justice, integrity, and modesty.

 

Do you travel a lot?

“To travel is to live” and I want to enjoy every moment. I have created a big list of places to visit, cultures to experience, and educational and self-development goals to achieve before I die. I love Asia, Latin American, Japan, Australia, discovering cultures, enjoying nature, meeting authentic people, and living the true experience.

 

What does the future hold for you?

As an “adult teenager” and a “homo superius,” I will always treat life as a lover, bringing happiness, joy, and wisdom to my society.

“People want special moments that they will remember for years to come. We don’t believe in bubbles of luxury.”

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