Poster, Vintage, "Man Ray", Alexandre Iolas

‘Villa Iolas’ and its melancholy history
Late art collector’s house is in desperate need of restoration, as bureaucracy and foot-dragging are raised as obstacles

Designed as a museum by Dimitris Pikionis, the now-derelict house was once filled with works of art by the world’s greatest painters and sculptors. Most were looted after Iolas’s death in 1987.

By Dimitris Rigopoulos - Kathimerini

On a quiet suburban street in Aghia Paraskevi, northeastern Athens, where new apartment blocks alternate with a few older, well-cared-for private homes and gardens, the former residence of the late Alexandros Iolas stands out like a sore thumb. One has to try and imagine what the area was like in the 1960s, when Iolas decided to abandon the glittering world of cocktail parties and opening nights, trips to London and Paris. Back then Aghia Paraskevi was almost countryside, traces of which are even today still evident in a few scattered outreaches.

It was Dimitris Pikionis, Greece’s most well-known architect at the time, who designed the 1,250-square-meter country home-museum on a 7,000-square-meter property, thickly planted with vegetation. Artist Yiannis Tsarouchis also played a considerable part in the final design.

Iolas, whose tastes tended toward the grandiose, created a luxurious home in the fullest sense of the word. Once, on a visit to the abandoned house, we were surprised to see hidden under a pile of dust and timber beams a superb marble table, the sole object left behind by looters (probably because it was too heavy to shift) after Iolas’s death in 1987. Everything else, including works of art by Picasso, Max Ernst, Giorgio de Cirico and Andy Warhol, had disappeared from what had become famous in Athens as the “Villa Iolas.”

Next year marks the 20th anniversary of the collector’s death. The only things that have changed in that quiet street in the Kontopefko district of Aghia Paraskevi are that the house itself is disintegrating and the neighborhood has become a city suburb. The only thing that betrays its origins as a country house is the large garden surrounding it.

Yet even that is not certain. In 1998, the Iolas house was listed as an historic monument by the Culture Ministry, and perhaps more importantly, two years later as a Cultural Activities Center by the Environment and Public Works Ministry. The latter action guaranteed that the building would be used in accordance with the expressed will of the Municipality of Aghia Paraskevi that led the movement to have the zoning plan amended. The final plan provided for the house to be the site of the municipal cultural organization.

This was when Athens was being readied to host the 2004 Olympics and every project, large or small, had been included in the pre-Olympic budgets. So in 2002, a joint ministerial decision (Economy and Finance, Environment and Public Works, Culture) ordered the expropriation of the property for the needs of the Cultural Olympiad. A court set the compensation price at 17 million euros, but the final compromise reached with the property’s apparent owner, Spyros Georgiou, dropped to 9 million euros.

It appeared that the situation was in hand, and with some reason. Two installments of the compensation payment were entered into the state budgets of 2003 and 2004 (2.5 and 6.5 million respectively). However, not a single euro was ever paid out and the expropriation process was forgotten.

After a new government was elected in 2004, the deputy culture minister at the time, Petros Tatoulis, decided to take up the issue, from a completely different angle: The Culture Ministry would buy the property itself. According to the law, the previous evaluation was no longer valid. The new compensation amount was even lower, at 5 million euros. The owner, naturally, did not accept and Tatoulis returned with a new proposal: an exchange of properties via the State Property Assets Company (KED). However Georgiou was unimpressed and negotiations once more reached a stalemate.

Even after questions were raised in Parliament by a group of deputies including Maria Damanaki and Stavros Benos of PASOK and Fotis Kouvelis of the Left Coalition, Culture Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis did not commit himself, but claimed that the government had done everything it could.

Michalis Gavras, head of the local Environmental and Cultural Association, is concerned at what he says is the Culture Ministry’s “unwillingness” to take any new action.

At the moment the only possible solution appears to be a new set of negotiations with Georgiou, who is certain to try and extricate himself as soon as possible from the current stagnant situation. A contractor by profession, Georgiou has allegedly submitted an application to the Environment and Public Works Ministry’s zoning department (Department III) to have the property declassified. The issue has turned into an endurance race, that is, over who will tire first and give in. The way things are at the moment, this looks likely to be the Culture Ministry, although such an outcome is in neither side’s interest.

Although the focus of attention is on Iolas’s house, the greatest issue for local residents is not the house itself but the property it stands on. Looking from above, one can see why. According to a local resident, there is a gardener who does what he can to care for the trees and shrubs, although the house itself has been left to its fate. So if the house itself is saved, 7,000 meters of greenery will also be saved, a small remnant of what Aghia Paraskevi once was.

From Alexandria to the world, from dance to art collecting

Alexandros Iolas was born into a wealthy family in 1908 in Alexandria, Egypt, where he was to meet Constantine Cavafy and the Cypriot writer and artist Nikos Nikolaidis.

In the 1930s he came to study dance in Athens and then moved to Berlin. He became premier danseur in Salzburg and then went to New York, where he danced at the Metropolitan Opera.

It was in the USA that he began his art collection and became friends with Giorgio de Chirico and other major surrealists Rene Magritte and Max Ernst. He introduced previously unknown artists such as Otto Vols and Jean Fortrier to the public. After a serious accident forced him to give up his dancing career, he devoted himself fully to collecting art. He opened his first gallery in New York and then in other major cities around the world. During the 1970s he was considered one of the most important gallery owners in the world. Over time, he accumulated a huge collection of works of ancient sculpture and modern art. He was one of the 10 co-founders of the Georges Pompidou Modern Art Center in Paris and the National Gallery in Athens.

In 1965, he decided to move to Aghia Paraskevi, where he built his home to the specifications of a museum. During the early 1980s he donated works from his collection to the Macedonian Museum of Modern Art, including paintings by Andy Warhol, Lucio Fontana, Eizeo Mattiaci, Alexis Akrithakis and Taki, among others. His unquestioned ability to handle the international art market with such ease led him to acquire an excellent collection. It contrasts starkly with the Greek state’s inability to make the best use of people like Iolas. The result was inevitable; most of the works in this collection are now outside Greece.

Alexander Iolas, Ex-Dancer And Surrealist-Art Champion

Alexander Iolas, known internationally first as a ballet dancer and later as a leading art dealer who specialized in the Surrealists, died on Monday at New York Hospital. He was 80 years old.

Known primarily for his championship of the major European Surrealists - Max Ernst and Rene Magritte, above all - Mr. Iolas helped to form more than one important collection, in the United States and in Europe. In particular, Mr. and Mrs. John de Menil bought extensively from him, with results that caused general admiration when the Menil Collection was put on permanent public view in Houston last week.

Matta, Victor Brauner, Joseph Cornell, Yves Klein and Niki de Saint-Phalle were among the artists whom Mr. Iolas championed from the 1940s onward in his galleries in New York, Paris, Milan and Geneva. In promoting work that initially found few to favor it, he was able to reassure the potential client by his hierophantic manner, his often sensational mode of dress and his mischievous and sometimes irresistible charm. Played Piano in Berlin

Alexander Iolas was born in Alexandria, Egypt, on March 25, 1907, Andreas and Persephone Coutsoudis, who were Greek. In 1924, he went to Berlin as a pianist, and later became a ballet dancer who toured extensively with the Theodora Roosevelt Company and later with the company formed by the Marquis de Cuevas. In the 1960s, above all, his gallery was one of the liveliest and most active in Paris. In later years, Iolas retired to Athens.

He is survived by his sister, Niki Stifel of Athens, and by two nieces, Sylvia de Cuevas of New York and Lina Nation of Athens.

A memorial service will be held on Sept. 17 at 11 a.m. in the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, 319 East 74th Street.


A former dancer, of Greek origin, converted to dealing art in New York, Alexandre Iolas benefitted from early support on the part of Elizabeth Arden and the De Menil family. In February 1946, Iolas makes contact with Magritte, being aware of growing American interest in surrealism, which had benefitted from the diaspora of artists from this group to New York during WWII. The painter and dealer quickly came to an agreement and, in April 1947, Magritte has an exhibition at the Hugo Gallery in New York. In touch with the particularities of the American market, Iolas encourages Magritte to produce copies and variations of earlier gouaches and oils. It was Iolas, too, who in 1967 suggested Magritte transpose his works in three-dimensions. Unfortunately, casts in bronze could only be made after the artist’s death.


ΜΕΤΡΟ ΣΤΗΝ ΑΘΗΝΑ (σταθμός Φιξ)

video - ΦΩΤΟΒΟΛΤΑΪΚΗ ΕΝΕΡΓΕΙΑ (Takis στο σταθμό του μετρό Φιξ)

video - ΦΩΤΟΒΟΛΤΑΪΚΗ ΕΝΕΡΓΕΙΑ (Takis στο σταθμό του μετρό Φιξ)

ΦΩΤΟΒΟΛΤΑΪΚΗ ΕΝΕΡΓΕΙΑ (Takis στο σταθμό του μετρό Φιξ)


ΦΩΤΟΒΟΛΤΑΪΚΟ ΣΤΟΙΧΕΙΟ (Παραφωγής ηλεκτρικής ενέργειας) ΦΩΤΙΣΤΙΚΗ ΠΗΓΗ

Takis «Signals» 1954 -

Takis, Signals 1954 -

In 1955 influenced by the invention of the radar and the technological landscape of the station of Calais, Takis constructs his first Signal sculpture.

Takis' Signals are his most renowned trademark. They are an ongoing series of tall rods springing from a base on the ground and tapering towards a finial at the top. Generally speaking, these finials are of particular symbolic significance and consist of either sculptures or found-objects. The sculptures are various elements, whose form and shape evoke primordial symbols. In response to their interpretation, Takis said: «I am responsible only for manufacturing the symbols. Their meaning depends for interpretation on each and every one of us.»

Takis, Signals 1954 -

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With regard to the found-objects in particular, they are either machine parts, i.e. batteries, carburators, radiators, ventilators, or parts of war-time equipment, i.e. bombs, guns, bayonets, that Takis transforms according to his needs. Speaking about these found objects, Héléna and Nicolas Calas remark that «Takis cannot identify the hardware nor does he seek to, for the pieces were merely required to serve as anchors appropriate to the composition.» Takis' signals are wonderfully ambiguous; somewhere between organic reminiscent of botanical stems and artificial reminiscent of labarums used at war.
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In actual fact, Takis' signals are either discarded street and railroad signs from municipal depots, antennae from discarded war-time vehicles. As Héléna and Nicolas Calas observe "Takis found an alternative to the utilitarian use of safety signals." In Calais early in the 1960s Takis writes «The station was a huge feral center, a forest of signals. Monster-eyes went on and off, rail, tunnels, a jungle of iron… I drew all those phenomena… man constructs for his own use tunnels and exits, symbols for his evasion of death… For a long time now my Signals had been transformed into rockets, antennae and radio receivers.»
Takis, Signals 1954 -
Some years later he recorded «A frequent traveller by plane, I was always enchanted by aerodromes and their great radars… It is as if they were monster instruments recording cosmic events… My last Signals took the form of electric antennae, like lightning conductors. But they still remained symbolical, they constituted a modern hieroglyphic language which had to be translated to be understood. Radar was a great active signal.»
Takis, Signaux Lumineux Arche de la Defence Paris
Signaux Lumineux, Arche de la Defence, Paris.

Thinking about Takis' entire production of signals, there is an entire forest of them - differing from one another in terms of height and form - and they all vary on the theme of energy emission and code transmission. The unique character of each signal is fundamentally due to the randomness in timing and/or orientation. This feature makes every signal stand on its own. It is worth noting that Takis creates 'other' signals, which transmit messages of an existential value, at a peculiar frequency, and of cosmological significance. Such signals function on an emotive plane than on an instrumental level. And they are as much there to stand on their own - independently of humanity - as they are there to salvage the cosmos.

Bassin de Takis, La Défense

Bassin de Takis, La Défense by alexH3o.

How does it work ? TAKIS

How does it work ?

The General Conference is the primary decision-making body, comprising representatives of all Member States. It meets every two years to determine the policies and main lines of work of the Organization. Following the principle of one vote per country, it approves UNESCO’s programme and budget. Every four years, it appoints the Director-General on the basis of the recommendation of the Executive Board.

The Executive Board, composed of 58 Member States, meets twice a year to ensure that decisions taken by the General Conference are implemented. It is also responsible for preparing the work of the General Conference and examining the Organization’s programme and budget.

The Secretariat consists of the Director-General and staff. The Director-General is the executive head of the Organization. He or she formulates proposals for appropriate action by the Conference and Board and prepares a draft biennial programme and budget. The staff implements the approved programme. There are over 2000 staff members from some 160 countries (April 2003). Under a new decentralization policy, more than 640 staff members work in UNESCO’s 53 field offices around the world.

UNESCO is the only UN agency to have a system of National Commissions in its Member and Associate States. The Commissions form a vital link between civil society and the Organization. They provide valuable insight concerning the Organization’s programme and help implement many initiatives including training programmes, studies, public awareness campaigns and media outreach. The Commissions also develop new partnerships with the private sector, which can provide valuable technical expertise and financial resources.

UNESCO plays an integral role in the UN system and works closely with a wide range of regional and national organizations. Some 330 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) maintain official relations with UNESCO and hundreds more work with the Organization on specific projects.

How is it financed?

The regular two-year budget is financed by Member States through assessed contributions. The proposed regular budget for 2004 and 2005 is US$610 million. UNESCO also receives from substantial extra-budgetary funding to strengthen its programmes, especially in the field, and to increase its outreach activities. In 2002-2003, these extra-budgetary resources amounted to some US$400 million.

Les signaux lumineux de Takis

Les signaux lumineux de Takis by chaweemek.

«Ελπίζω να ζήσω λίγο ακόμα για να κάνω κι άλλα δώρα»

«Θα συνεχίσω να βοηθώ, όσο ζω, ανθρώπους που φέρονται ηρωικά. Οι «Γιατροί Χωρίς Σύνορα» είναι ήρωες για μένα, αφού πηγαίνουν στην Αφρική και γιατρεύουν τον κόσμο που υποφέρει», μας λέει ο διεθνούς φήμης γλύπτης Τάκις.

«Υπάρχει μια ατμόσφαιρα κατάπτωσης στον κόσμο της τέχνης, αλλά η τέχνη θ' ανθήσει ξανά. Καλλιτέχνες γεννιούνται κάθε μέρα σε όλα τα μέρη του κόσμου», λέει ο Τάκις «Υπάρχει μια ατμόσφαιρα κατάπτωσης στον κόσμο της τέχνης, αλλά η τέχνη θ' ανθήσει ξανά. Καλλιτέχνες γεννιούνται κάθε μέρα σε όλα τα μέρη του κόσμου», λέει ο Τάκις Διαθέτει 100 καινούργια έργα του («Μαγνητικοί Τοίχοι 2009») στην ανθρωπιστική οργάνωση που παρέχει ιατρική και ανθρωπιστική βοήθεια στους πληθυσμούς που πλήττονται από επιδημίες, φυσικές καταστροφές ή υφίστανται τις συνέπειες εμπόλεμων συγκρούσεων. Θα παρουσιαστούν από 25 Νοεμβρίου έως 5 Δεκεμβρίου στην γκαλερί Xippas, λεωφόρος Δημοκρατίας 196, Αχαρναί (έξοδος 7, Αττικής Οδού).

Μόνο την ημέρα των εγκαινίων τα έργα του Τάκι θα πωλούνται στο 1/3 της αξίας τους. Το 80% των εσόδων θα διατεθούν για την ενίσχυση της οργάνωσης. Η προσφορά του έχει και μια άλλη, περισσότερο προσωπική σημασία. «Είναι και μια προσφορά στη μνήμη της μάνας μου, που ήταν τραυματιοφορέας στην πρώτη γραμμή του αλβανικού μετώπου. Είχε, μάλιστα, παρασημοφορηθεί».

Οι μαγνήτες, θεμελιώδες υλικό της τέχνης του, βρίσκονται αυτή τη φορά κρυμμένοι ή διασκορπισμένοι πίσω από πολύχρωμους καμβάδες (κόκκινους, κίτρινους, άσπρους, μαύρους, γκρι και πράσινους) και συγκρατούν ντίζες, ρινίσματα ή ατσάλινες βέργες επάνω στην επιφάνειά τους. «Οι μαγνήτες, ακόμα και τοποθετημένοι στον τοίχο, επηρεάζουν θετικά τη διάθεση των θεατών», λέει με βεβαιότητα ο γλύπτης.

Ο Τάκις έχει χορτάσει αναγνώριση και τιμές, κυρίως εκτός Ελλάδας. Εργα του βρίσκονται κι έχουν παρουσιαστεί στα σημαντικότερα μουσεία του κόσμου. Το περίφημο Ινστιτούτο Τεχνολογίας της Μασαχουσέτης (ΜΙΤ) τον είχε προσκαλέσει ως ερευνητή το 1968, όπου και άρχισε την ενότητα των «υδρομαγνητικών γλυπτών» του. Τη δεκαετία του '60, το περιοδικό «New Scientist» τον συμπεριελάμβανε, μαζί με τους Τζον Κέιτζ και Γιάννη Ξενάκη, στους σημαντικότερους μουσικούς(!) της πρωτοπορίας στον 20ό αιώνα. Εχει λάβει επίσης δίπλωμα ευρεσιτεχνίας από το υπουργείο Πολιτισμού της Γαλλίας, ενώ ο Φρανσουά Μιτεράν τον τίμησε με τη διάκριση του Ταξιάρχη Γραμμάτων και Τεχνών. Το 1987 ο Δήμος του Παρισιού τού παραχώρησε 3000 τ.μ., τη μεγαλύτερη έκταση που δόθηκε ποτέ σε καλλιτέχνη στην ιστορία της πόλης, για να στήσει στην Ντεφάνς το «δάσος» με τα 39 σινιάλα του.

Οταν η κουβέντα φτάνει στη σχέση του με την Ελλάδα, λέει νηφάλια: «Αγγίζετε πολύ ευαίσθητα θέματα. Ο μόνος υπουργός Πολιτισμού που ενδιαφέρθηκε για την τέχνη μου, μετά τη μεγάλη Μελίνα Μερκούρη που βοήθησε να φτιαχτεί το ίδρυμά μου, ήταν ο Ευάγγελος Βενιζέλος. Αγόρασε ένα έργο μου και το έβαλε έξω από την Πινακοθήκη. Ολοι οι άλλοι με κατατρέξανε. Ο Δήμος Αθηναίων "πέταξε" μάλιστα από την αρχή του πεζόδρομου της Διονυσίου Αρεοπαγίτου τα τρία αιολικά έργα που του είχα δωρίσει. Ο Δήμος Περιστερίου κοπιάρει τα έργα μου και τα βάζει στην πλατεία. Δεν είμαι, όμως, πικραμένος για τίποτα. Δεν έχω ανάγκη κανέναν. Κάνω πλέον το καθήκον μου. Δώρισα και κάποια έργα στο Νέο Μουσείο Μπενάκη, προσφέρω τώρα αυτά στους "Γιατρούς Χωρίς Σύνορα". Ελπίζω να ζήσω λιγάκι ακόμα για να τους κάνω κι άλλα δώρα».

Ο γλύπτης διαπιστώνει, τέλος, ατμόσφαιρα κατάπτωσης και έλλειψη ενθουσιασμού στον κόσμο της τέχνης, παγκοσμίως. Γνωρίζει, όμως, ότι καλλιτέχνες γεννιούνται κάθε μέρα σε όλα τα μέρη το κόσμου. «Γι' αυτό δεν αποκλείεται να δούμε, ξανά, την τέχνη να ανθεί». *