Athena (retailer)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Industry Retail
Founded Hampstead, London, England (1964 (1964))
Founders Ole Christensen
Defunct 1995 (1995) (store chain)
Headquarters United Kingdom
Products Art, posters, cards

Athena was a British art retailer, and was formerly a large retail chain, famous for its distinctive posters and postcards


Athena's first shop was opened by Ole Christensen in Hampstead in July 1964, and then bought into E&O PLC, by Chairman, Douglas H. Bayle.[citation needed] He expanded Athena to some 60 shops, making sure to keep the ethos on fine art reprints.[1]

The company's popular success divided opinion amongst intellectuals and art critics who were uncertain as to whether these works were too vulgar and populist to be considered art.[2]

The chain was sold off by E&O, in 1977 and then was acquired by the Pentos Group before Athena went into administration when it failed financially in 1995.[3] Athena's last shop Exeter, Devon will cease trading on 21 September 2014, bringing it's high street presence to an end, e-commerce company under the brand name of Vivarti (with the byline "powered by Athena") continues to trade.

Notable works[edit]

Posters such as L'Enfant — a picture of a muscular man cradling a baby — became famous and sold millions, although it was the poster of Tutankhamun, which became the biggest selling poster in the history of Athena.[citation needed] Also popular were a poster of a Hobbit from the 1970s by Jimmy Cauty,[4] the Tennis Girl poster from 1976 [5] and "Beyond City Limits," published in the 1990s.[6][7][8]

The annual calendars, including the girl in the long red and white socks, and an image of Telly Savalas, were also a major feature.[9]


  1. ^ Sim Branaghan, Steve Chibnall (2006), British film posters: an illustrated history, p. 269 
  2. ^ Russell Keat, Nigel Whiteley, Nicholas Abercrombie (1994), The Authority of the consumer, p. 155 
  3. ^ Patrick Hosking (January 1, 1996), Athena sacrificed to keep Pentos solvent, The Independent 
  4. ^ Spencer, Neil, "A guerrilla raid on the arts establishment", The Guardian (Manchester) ISSN 0261-3077 , 31 October 1993, The Observer Review Page
  5. ^ "Serial killer's deucey poster". Sunday Mercury. Retrieved 2009-08-07. 
  6. ^ "Wonderwalls", The Guardian (Saturday 10 November 2001)
  7. ^ "The Curse of Man and Baby", The Independent (Tuesday 16 January 2007)
  8. ^ "Curse of biggest selling poster: Top of the shots", The Sun (Friday 19 January 2007)
  9. ^ Peter Jackson, Nick Stevenson, Kate Brooks (2001), Making sense of men's magazines, p. 185