Whether it’s Fix metro station in Athens, the Parisian walkway at La Defense, MoMA Barcelona or the Modern Tate in London, Takis’ floating metal objects mesmerise young and old with their audacious explorations of light, sound and sheer magnetism. Born Panayiotis Vassilakis on 29 October, 1925 in Athens, he died at the age of 93 on 9 August, 2019, leaving behind a legacy in kinetic art. Aged 17 he joined the resistance in Greece and, later, even though he had little formal education his first artworks appeared at the American Cultural Center in Athens in 1951, two busts, inspired after seeing sculptures by Picasso and Giacometti. Takis was recruited to move to Paris by art patron Caresse Crosby in 1953 and took Europe by storm. From 70s onwards his Sculptures Musicales attracted attention and he was a regular representative of kinetic art in major institutions. In 1995, he moved back to Greece and set up the Takis Foundation.
2) Costas Varotsos
His iconic ‘Runner’ masterfully made out of shards of glass was for years suspended in motion at Omonia Square before moving to Vas. Sofias street outside the Athens Hilton. Works like that one have ensured that Greek sculptor Costas Varotsis has left his artistic stamp on urban spaces around the world. His sculptures can be found in outdoor areas around Greece, Cyprus, Italy, Switzerland and the United States. He works with stone, iron and glass to create impressive multi-layered works.
3) George Zongolopoulos
Sculptor, painter and architect George Zongolopoulos, was called the internal teenager up until his death at the age of 101 in 2004 after having participated at the Venice Biennale, aged 99, with the mobile sculptures ‘Five Circles’ which were later installed at Omonia Square. A representative of the Generation of the 1930s, his work searched for harmony with the environment. His Monument for the Women Heroes at Zalongo (1954-1960) is iconic and a tourist sight in the region, whereas his umbrellas grace Syntagma Station and Thessaloniki’s promenade.
4) Yannoulis Chalepas
The son of a family of marble cutters in Panormos village on the island of Tinos, he studied sculpting despite his family’s wish for him to pursue life as a merchant. He studied at the Athens School of Fine Arts before heading to the Munich Academy on a scholarship from the Panhellenic Holy Foundation of the Evangelistria of Tinos. His work ‘Sleeping Female Figure’, near the entrance of the First Cemetery of Athens was placed on the tomb of Sophia Afentaki and is admired for its artmanship. At 37, mental illness knocked on his door after a breakdown that was triggered by his perfectionistic tendencies and his overworking habits. He began destroying some of his sculptures and made several suicide attempts. His parents sent him on a trip to Italy to recover, but the treatment he received was temporary. In 1888, he began to show signs of dementia and was admitted to the Mental Hospital of Corfu in 1888; as a result, he remained in complete creative inactivity for fourteen years (1888-1902). He was brought to Tinos from Corfu following his father’s death but his mother blamed his art for his mental illness and destroyed all his sculptures until her death in 1916. The period which followed from 1918-1930 was a long period of awakening to the light of sanity into the world of art.
5) Chryssa Vardea-Mavromichali
Chryssa, a Greek-American artist, worked in a wide variety of media. A pioneer of light art and luminist sculpture, her work is widely known for its interesting portrayal of neon, steel, aluminium and acrylic glass installations. She came from a cultured and educated family who sent her to study art in Paris at the Academie de la Grande Chaumiere in 1953, where she met wit Andre Breton, Edgard Varese and Max Ernst and Alberto Giacometti was a visiting professor. She worked from the mid-1950s in New York City. Worked since 1992 in the studio she established in Neos Kosmos, and died of heart-related problems on 23 December, 2013, aged 79.
6) George Lappas
The red and blue life-sized people sculptures of George Lappas appeared everywhere around Greece, with their focus on urban living, up until his death in 201aW6. He studied psychology at Reed College, Portland Oregon, and worked at state mental facilities before he accepted a Waston Fellowship to study Indian Architecture and Sculpture for one year in India. He continued studies at the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts n Paris and worked and travelled in France and the UK before he received a scholarship from the Cartier Foundation in Paris. His life was marked by countless journeys as he travelled the work.
7) Stephen Antonakos
Greek-American artist Stephen Antonakos is known for his abstract work. His family left Greece when he was aged four, so he grew up in Brooklyn. He enjoyed exploring works from the Russian avant-garde however neon was his main medium, which he started using from 1960. He called neon a “controlled paradise” – a phrase which indicates both the innate rigor of his vision and his readiness to discover new possibilities. His sculptures are based on light, scale, proportions and geometric form. He passed away in 2013, aged 88.
8) Jannis Kounellis
Greek-Italian contemporary artist Jannis Kounellis was a key figure associated with the arte povera movement. Born in Piraeus, in his earliest exhibitions he began by stenciling numbers, letters and words onto canvases. In 1960, he incorporated sculptural objects found on the street into his work. By 1961, he began to paint on newspaper to reflect his feelings towards modern society and politics. Later, he began to sculpt with unusual materials and met with worldwide success.
9) Costas Tsoclis
Costas Tsoclis studied at the Athens School of Fine Arts (ASFA) in the laboratory of G. Morali. From 1957 to 1960 he lived in Rome. In 1960 he moved to Paris, where he lived until 1984. Later, he moved to Berlin after receiving a scholarship. In 1973, he started his collaboration with A. Iola in Paris. In 1978, he created his first tree, a recurring theme, and moved to seascapes in 1980. In 1984 he returned permanently to Greece. In 1985, Tsoclis started experimenting with video. In recent years, he has been creating monumental constructions.
10. Babis Vekris
Greek-born American Babis Vekris is known for incorporating LEDs into his artworks. They move in a rhythmic motion and sequentially in his installations and sculptures He adopted the name Electros in 1990.