Athena (retailer)

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Industry Retail
Founded 1964
Founder Ole Christensen
Defunct 1995
Products Posters, art prints, postcards

Athena was a British art retailer, and was formerly a large retail chain, famous for selling distinctive posters such as L'Enfant (a picture of a muscular man cradling a baby), the Hobbit from the 1970s by Jimmy Cauty,[1] the Tennis Girl poster from 1976 [2] and "Beyond City Limits," published in the 1990s.[3][4][5] 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.[6]

L'Enfant by Spencer Rowell

Athena's first shop was opened by Ole Christensen in Hampstead, London in July 1964, and then bought by E&O which expanded Athena to 60 shops, making sure to keep the ethos on fine art reprints.[7]

Eventually the chain was sold off by E&O in 1977 to the Pentos Group before Athena went into administration when it failed in 1995. The profitable stores were reopened by its former franchisees [8] but the last of these shops in Exeter, Devon ceased trading in September 2014, bringing its high street era to an end. This was due to rising shop rents and rates, plus increasing competition from internet retailers.

The e-commerce company Vivarti currently trades online with the byline powered by Athena, but it was never connected with Athena. With the rise of digital media, many of the famous prints that were sold by Athena like the Tennis Girl can be bought at other retailers like Amazon, AllPosters & King and McGaw which was described in August 2013 by The Daily Telegraph as the Athena for the internet age.[9]

Abigail Harman's images of teddybears were discovered by an Athena scout in Cambridge and 25 different images were subsequently published and sold worldwide as cards, posters and wrapping paper under the name 'Abigail's Bears' in the 1990s.[citation needed]



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