Ο Αλέξανδρος Ιόλας (1907-1987)

When Andy Warhol and Philip Pearlstein's sublease was up, they found another apartment through the New York Times classifieds - a large second floor room at 323 W. 21st Street which they rented from the dancer Franziska Marie Boas who shared the space with her friend Jan Gay and their large sheepdog named "Name."1 Boas was the daughter of the Prussian-born anthropologist, Franz Boas, who was the first professor of anthropology at Columbia University - a position he held for 37 years. In 1927 he had written a book, Primitive Art, which proposed a theory of dance as an emotional outlet and challenged the racial bias of the then prevalent theories of physical anthropology.2 His daughter, Franziska, also challenged racial bias by organizing multi-racial dance groups and classes. From 1933 to 1950 she ran the Boas School of Dance, with sessions held at the 21st Street apartment. She had divided the large room with a proscenium arch with Warhol and Pearlstein on one side of the arch and her dance classes on the other side. She was particularly keen on improvisational dance and sometimes invited artists to sketch the dancers while they improvised although it is not known whether Warhol participated in any of these sessions.

74 WEST 103RD ST.

In April 1950 Boas was evicted from the commercially zoned property and Warhol and Pearlstein were, again, forced to move. They went their separate ways. In August 1950, Pearlstein married an ex-classmate from Carnegie Tech, Dorothy Cantor, and Warhol was part of the wedding party. One of the first places that Philip and Dorothy lived in was an apartment they got from the artist Lester Johnson on East 4th Street between Avenues A and B.3 Pearlstein returned to school, studying for a Master of Arts degree at New York University's Institute of Fine Arts with a thesis on the Dada artists, Francis Picabia and Marcel Duchamp.4 By the time of Pearlstein's wedding Warhol was living at 74 West 103rd Street.

Warhol shared the 103rd Street apartment with other classmates from Carnegie Tech. including Ellie Simon and Leila Davis. Although Ellie soon returned to Pittsburgh, Davis stayed in New York and took some rare photographs of Warhol during his early years. Another flatmate was Elaine Finsilver who had met some of the other people living in the apartment at a ballet class. Finsilver remembered that Warhol "shared his room with Tommy Quinland, and when Jack Hudson came, Jack moved in. And depending on who came last, there were three beds in the room. It was just a large, bare room except for usually three unmade beds, and Andy had his drawing table, I remember, on the left as you walked into the room... [The drawing table] was a nice taboret. It was like an architectural draftsman table, and he had a light over it. And all over it, he had all of his pens, and ink things were all neatly placed, and everything was in its place, and a lot of masking tape, and that's all... I used to got to my dance class. They [the other flatmates] usually never got up until two or three in the afternoon. So, by the time I got back, they were ready to have breakfast, which was, like six o'clock in the evening... Andy was not at that point in his life what one would call a 'hard worker.'6 Finsilver's characterization of Warhol is the opposite of what Philip Pearlstein remembered when he and Warhol were living together. According to Pearlstein, Warhol was "always a workaholic, obsessive" who worked into the night after Pearlstein had retired to bed.7

One of Finsilver's dates, Robert Fleisher, later recalled his own impressions of Warhol and the other people who lived at 103rd Street.

Andy Warhol, Victor Reilly and 103rd St. Gang
The 103rd Street Gang - New York 1950
Top row (L): Mata (a girlfriend of Victory Reilly's) and Jack Hudson
Second Row: Joey Ross, Victor (Buddy) Reilly,
Tommy Quinlan, Dale Blosser and Ellie Simon
Kneeling front: Jack (Mitch) Beaber and Andy Warhol

(Photo: Leila Davies Singeles)

Robert Fleisher:

"The first time that I ever saw Andy... he was working at this little desk doing sketches that he was trying to show to the editor of Park East. But in the room were very large canvases in oils. Serious painting somewhat... in the late thirties there was a newsreel of a bombing in China... and on the railroad track, there was a baby screaming - world famous... Andy did a version of that in pastel oils. It was a very large canvas... I thought it was spectacular, and it was partly line drawing with the blotted-line, but it was pastel oils. Now that's very early, way before he was a successful illustrator. I mean, when he had one pair of pants and [was] living in a cellar at 104th Street [sic] and Manhattan Avenue with six people... I became part of their crowd through Elaine and I saw them quite often..."8

Fleisher, as the stationery and gift buyer for Bergdorf Goodman, would later commission Warhol to design stationery for the department store. Henry Kaiser (of Kaiser Aluminum) was so impressed by Warhol's butterfly stationery that he purchased all of the first 60 boxes.9

Robert Fleisher:

"I was a buyer at Bergdorf. When I became the stationery buyer, I thought it would be great for Andy to do stuff for us... I had bought the Butterflies from Andy myself for my own personal collection. I think they were 10 dollars. They were among those that I helped hand paint myself. He had a stack of Butterflies this high, and we were all sitting there filling in, and so forth. But, I remember waking up one morning, racking my brain for a stationery design, looking at the wall, and there was this Andy Butterfly thing, and I said, 'Oh, my god!' and called Andy and he said we would love to do it. And we fixed a price, which Bergdorf paid. And we decided that he would do some party invitations and Christmas cards, and so forth, and he got paid and got the cards - a certain amount of stationery cards and invitations that he wanted for his own use. He complained bitterly for weeks afterwards that he had been taken advantage of and that we had to pay him more after he had signed and agreed and everything was fine. He did that over and over and over again - that he was being cheated, that he should have gotten more, that he had done it as a favor, blah-blah-blah."10

Another person who shared the apartment was Margery Beddow who, like Victor Reilly and Elaine Finsilver, was a dancer. Reilly and Beddow would appear together in the Broadway musical revue Two on the Aisle, which ran from July 1951 to March 1952. Prior to appearing in that production, Reilly had also appeared in the musical comedy, Where's Charley, at the Broadway Theatre. Beddow, who would later write a book on choreographer Bob Fosse, remembered Warhol sketching his roommates and then surprising them with a gift of the drawings in a loose-leaf notebook.11


According to another ex-student from Carnegie Tech., Joseph Groell, Warhol moved in with him for "a month or two" beginning in November 1950, "until his mother came to New York and he found an apartment, I think in the 70s." According to Groell, "Andy was stuck paying the rent [at 103rd Street] and I think he was the primary tenant. And there were all these bizarre people who came and went and ran up a huge phone bill. And finally Andy, I guess, had too much of it, and couldn't cope with it, and he moved into my place."12

Groell's apartment was located at 24th Street between First and Second Avenue. He remembered Warhol adopting a novel approach when phoning art directors for work. Groell heard Warhol begin his telephone conversations with "Hello, I'm just sitting on my bed here, playing with my yo-yo," and joking with potential employers before asking for commissions: "I planted some bird seed in the park yesterday... would you like to order a bird? And do you have any work for me?"13 By adopting such novel approaches Warhol guaranteed that his name would be remembered by art directors in the highly competitive field of commercial illustration.

1951 - 1952: EAST 75TH STREET

By June 1951, Warhol was living in another apartment registered in Victor Reilly's name at 218 East 75th Street.14 By 1952, Warhol was living next door at 216 East 75th Street. It was while he was living on 75th Street that his mother, Julia, moved in with him from Pittsburgh. She would continue to live with Warhol until the autumn of 1970 when she returned to Pittsburgh for health reasons.15 In June 1952 Warhol had his first exhibition in New York at the Hugo Gallery.


Andy Warhol's first pre-Pop exhibition featured a series of drawings inspired by Truman Capote's short stories. Capote's first book, Other Voices, Other Rooms was published in 1948 when Warhol was still at college. Two months prior to Warhol's exhibit at the Hugo, Capote's play, The Grass Harp, had premiered on Broadway at the Martin Beck Theater, with sets and costumes designed by Cecil Beaton.


Truman Capote
Photograph of Truman Capote used on the
book jacket of Other Voices, Other Rooms

(Photo: Harold Halma)

Truman Capote:

"When he was a child, Andy Warhol had this obsession about me and used to write me from Pittsburgh... When he came to New York, he used to stand outside my house, just stand out there all day waiting for me to come out. He wanted to become a friend of mine, wanted to speak to me, to talk to me. He nearly drove me crazy."16

The photograph of Truman that appeared on the dust jacket for Other Voices Other Rooms showing him seductively staring at the camera with his right hand resting above his groin, generated a considerable amount of controversy when it was published. According to Robert Fleisher Warhol was "madly in love" with Capote and "there was a photograph of Truman Capote on a couch, stretched out in a plaid vest, and that's what sent him [Warhol] off provisionally. As I remember, he had that around all the time and talked about it... it's from the back of Other Voices, Other Rooms..."16a

Truman Capote:

"I started writing when I was eight - out of the blue, uninspired by any example. I'd never known anyone who wrote; indeed, I knew few people who read... By the time I was seventeen, I was an accomplished writer... I sent off stories to the principal literary quarterlies, as well as to the national magazines... and stories by me duly appeared in those publications. Then, in 1948, I published a novel: Other Voices, Other Rooms. It was well received critically, and was a best seller. it was also, due to an exotic photograph of the author on the dust jacket, the start of a certain notoriety that has kept close step with me these many years. Indeed, many people attributed the commercial success of the novel to the photograph."16b

Warhol and Capote did eventually become friends. In 1973 Rolling Stone magazine commissioned Capote to write an article about the band, The Rolling Stones, and sent him on tour with them. When he came back without having written anything, the magazine asked Warhol to interview Capote about the tour. Warhol was accompanied by Bob Colacello who was, at the time, a contributing editor of Interview magazine. Early in the interview Warhol explains to Colacello that, "I used to write to Truman every day for years until his mother told me to stop it." When Truman says that he doesn't remember his mother doing that, Warhol responds, "She did. She called me up and said it. She was really sweet." Capote then replies, "She was drunk."17 Later in the interview Capote explains his reaction to Warhol's questioning:

Truman Capote: "You said something to me that really startled me when you came to the house today... You said that my mother telephoned you. I was absolutely startled. Really startled."

Andy Warhol: "You were? Why?"

Truman Capote: "Because my mother really was an alcoholic."

Andy Warhol: "But I met your mother."

Truman Capote: "I know you met my mother. But my mother was a very ill woman, and a total alcoholic... she was an alcoholic when you met her. She had been an alcoholic since I was 16, so she was an alcoholic when you met her... she had this sort of sweet thing, and then suddenly she'd - well you know she committed suicide."

Andy Warhol: "She did? Oh, I didn't know that. I thought she just got sick."

Truman Capote: "No, no, no, no. She committed suicide."18

It is interesting to note that neither Andy nor Truman mention meeting each other prior to the death of Capote's mother, Nina, who committed suicide in 1954.19 In the Rolling Stone interview, Warhol says that he met Capote's mother but does not claim to have met Truman during the same period. Yet several Warhol biographers have maintained that they did meet each other during Warhol's early years in New York.


The exhibition of Warhol's Capote inspired drawings ran at the Hugo Gallery from June 16 - July 3, 1952. The Hugo had been founded in 1944 by Robert Rothschild, Elizabeth Arden and Maria Hugo who was married to author Victor Hugo's grandson. In 1947 the gallery had hosted Bloodflames, a show of Surrealists which included work by Gorky and Matta. At the time of Warhol's show, the director of the gallery was Alexandre Iolas, assisted by David Mann, the gallery's manager. Iolas would also be responsible for Warhol's last exhibition when, in January 1987, he showed Warhol's Last Supper paintings in Milan at the Palazzo delle Stelline, across from the Church of Santa Maria della Grazie which housed Leonardo's Last Supper. Iolas had commissioned Warhol to do his version of Leonardo's painting in early 1986.

Alexandre Iolas
As a dancer in 1929(L)/With his doberman, Frida (R)

Alexandre Iolas (ca. 1984):

"Early on, I did an exhibition of Andy Warhol in my gallery... The boy is a very important artist, Andy, because he helped America. He mixes very much with youth, and with all the chic people - you know, the bums. When you have such a stupid expression as Andy has - when he is being silent, before the smile starts - when you look like that, you can do anything you want in the world. As Christ said to all those priests, 'Suffer the little children to come unto me,' and Warhol is a horrible child. He has helped America to get rid of its puritanism, either with his half-pornographic, half esthetic films or else with his portraits of the fake stars he has around him and the real stars he has always liked. He's an amazing person, and probably someday he will be considered a saint."35

Iolas, born in Alexandria, Egypt in 1908, came from a dance background. After studying ballet in Berlin he fled to Paris during Hitler's rise to power in the 1930s. In Paris he continued to study dance and socialized with artists such as Jean Cocteau, Georges Braque, Pablo Picasso, Max Ernst and Man Ray. After moving to New York he was able to draw on these artistic contacts when he quit dancing in order to concentrate on his career as an art dealer. After working at the Hugo gallery, he founded the Jackson-Iolas Gallery in 1955 with former dancer, Brooks Jackson and later opened galleries in Paris, Milan, Madrid and Mexico City. He died of AIDs in June 1987 - just four months after Warhol had died in the same hospital in New York.

At the time of his death, Iolas was embroiled in his own Greek tragedy. Anonis Nikolaou, a transvestite who called himself Maria Kallas, had been employed by Iolas at his home in Greece. In 1985 Iolas fired Kallas for "acute alcoholism, pathological lying," and stealing "small but valuable" objects from Iolas' collection. Kallas fought back. He publicly accused Iolas of "antiquities smuggling, drug peddling, and the prostitution of young men," naming the former president, Konstantine Karamanlis, as a frequent visitor to orgies hosted by Iolas. The Greek daily newspaper, Avriani, published Iolas' home number and urged readers to phone him and "curse" him. Greek film director, Costa Gavras circulated an open letter in support of the art dealer signed by 150 cultural and political heavyweights, including French president Francois Mitterand. In spite of this, the district attorney told Iolas that he would be charged with prostitution, possession of drugs and smuggling antiquities. He was ordered to present himself to the Greek courts on July 17, 1987, but by the time the court date came up, he was already dead.38

Ο Αλέξανδρος Ιόλας (1907-1987) ήταν Έλληνας γκαλερίστας και σημαντικός συλλέκτης έργων μοντέρνας τέχνης.

Γεννιέται στην Αλεξάνδρεια της Αιγύπτου ο Κωνσταντίνος Κουτσούδης, γνωστός αργότερα ως Αλέξανδρος Ιόλας. Γόνος ευκατάστατης οικογένειας βαμβακεμπόρων, ο Ιόλας δείχνει δείχνει από νωρίς την κλίση του στις τέχνες και το 1927 μετακομίζει στην Αθήνα, όπου συναναστρέφεται με όλες τις μεγάλες προσωπικότητες της εποχής. Στην Αθήνα ξεκινά και τα πρώτα του μαθήματα στο χορό και τη μουσική.

Στα 1931 φεύγει με προτροπή του Μητρόπουλου για το Βερολίνο, με ένα σύντομο σταθμό στην Ιταλία. Αφιερώνεται στις σπουδές χορού, γνωρίζεται με προσωπικότητες του χώρου όπως η Kyra Nijinsky, κόρη του διάσημου χορευτή, και δύο χρόνια αργότερα, το 1933, υποχρεώνεται λόγω της ανόδου του ναζισμού να εγκαταλείψει τη Γερμανία. Μετακομίζει, λοιπόν, στο Παρίσι, όπου συνεχίζει με επιτυχία τη χορευτική του καριέρα και έρχεται σε στενή επαφή και με εικαστικούς καλλιτέχνες και ποζάρει ως μοντέλο π.χ. για τους Raoul Dufy, Τζόρτζιο ντε Κίρικο και Χέρμπερτ Λιστ.

Μετά τα μέσα της δεκαετίας του 1930 φεύγει για τη Νέα Υόρκη. Γίνεται κορυφαίος χορευτής στη νεοσύστατη Ballet Theatre Company της Νέας Υόρκης και συνεργάζεται ως χορευτής με τον Τζορτζ Μπαλανσίν, την Υβόν Γκεόργκι - για μια συνεργασία με την οποία πάει για λίγο στο Άμστερνταμ - και αργότερα αναλαμβάνει τη διεύθυνση των μπαλέτων του Μαρκησίου de Cuevas στη Νέα Υόρκη. Επιδιώκει να φέρει σε συνεργασία τον de Cuevas με τους Μπαλανσίν, Προκόφιεφ, Ιγκόρ Στραβίνσκι κ.α.

Το 1944, εγκαταλείπει το χορό με αφορμή ένα τραύμα στο πόδι και δραστηριοποιείται στο χώρο του εμπορίου τέχνης. To 1944 ανοίγει την πρώτη του γκαλερί στη Νέα Υόρκη, την Hugo Gallery. Χωρίς να διαθέτει χρήματα ο ίδιος στο ξεκίνημα, βασίζεται αφενός στην υποστήριξη της Maria Hugo, δούκισσα του Gramont και τέως συζύγου του εγγονού του Βίκτωρ Ουγκό, στην Ελίζαμπεθ Άρντεν, στους συλλέκτες Jean και Dominique de Menil και αφετέρου στις προσωπικές φιλίες του με καλλιτέχνες.

Σημαντική υπήρξε η συμβολή του στην καθιέρωση στις ΗΠΑ των εξόριστων λόγω του Πολέμου σουρεαλιστών. Αν και ήδη ώριμοι και καταξιωμένοι οι σουρεαλιστές στην Ευρώπη, οι εκθέσεις τους δεν είχαν βρει ακόμη ανταπόκριση στο κοινό της Αμερικής. O Ιόλας θα παραμείνει αποκλειστικός αντιπρόσωπος του Μαξ Ερνστ και του Ρενέ Μαγκρίτ για τις Η.Π.Α. μέχρι το θάνατο τους.

Το 1953 διοργανώνει για τον Άντι Γουόρχολ την πρώτη ατομική του έκθεση και συνδέεται στενά με το κίνημα της Ποπ Αρτ. Αργότερα συνεργάζεται με τους Nouveau Realists (Niki de Saint Phalle, Jean Tingueli, Martial Raysse κ.α.), με καλλιτέχνες της Arte Povera (Γιάννης Κουνέλλης, Pino Pascali κ.α.) και πολλούς άλλους.

Ο Αλέξανδρος Ιόλας αποτέλεσε έναν από τους πρωτοπόρους στην ανάπτυξη ενός «δικτύου» από αίθουσες τέχνης δορυφόρους μιας κεντρικής γκαλερί: ανοίγει νέες Alexandre Iolas Galleries σε Γενεύη (1963), Παρίσι (1964), Μιλάνο (1965), Ζυρίχη, Μαδρίτη και Ρώμη, καθώς και περισσότερες στη Νέα Υόρκη. Εκδίδει επίσης και καταλόγους τέχνης στους οποίους προλογίζουν μεταξύ άλλων ο Andre Breton και o Pierre Restany καθώς και συλλεκτικά βιβλία καλλιτεχνών και ποιητών σε περιορισμένο αριθμό αντιτύπων (Μαξ Ερνστ, Γιάννης Ρίτσος, Οδυσσέας Ελύτης κ.α.). Παράλληλα, προώθησε στο εξωτερικό Έλληνες καλλιτέχνες, όπως τους Χατζηκυριάκο-Γκίκα, Βαγή, Γουναρόπουλο, Μόραλη και Τσαρούχη. Συνεργάζεται και με τη νεότερη γενιά Ελλήνων όπως οι Τσόκλης, Παύλος, Τάκις και η Μάρα Καρέτσου, οι οποίοι είχαν ήδη ξεκινήσει μια καριέρα στο εξωτερικό. Κάποιοι από αυτούς θα επιστρέψουν «παρασυρμένοι» από τον Ιόλα πίσω στην Ελλάδα, προκειμένου να δώσουν ώθηση στην τοπική παραγωγή της σύγχρονης τέχνης.

Δωρίζει και πουλάει έργα σε μεγάλα μουσεία, όπως τα Metropolitan Museum of Art και Museum of Modern Art στη Νέα Υόρκη, το Κέντρο Ζορζ Πομπιντού στο Παρίσι (δωρεές 1977), αλλά και η Εθνική Πινακοθήκη της Αθήνας (δωρεά 1971). Το 1976, κλείνει όλες τις γκαλερί του εκτός μιας στη Νέα Υόρκη, κρατώντας έτσι την υπόσχεση που είχε δώσει στον Max Ernst, να σταματήσει όταν εκείνος θα πέθαινε.

Από τη δεκαετία του 1960 περνάει όλο και περισσότερο χρόνο στην Ελλάδα. Συνεργάζεται με διάφορες γκαλερί όπως οι Ζουμπουλάκη-Ιόλα, Μέδουσα, Βίκυ Δράκου, Αίθουσα Τέχνης Αθηνών, Σκουφά. Χτίζει στην Αγία Παρασκευή Αττικής ένα σπίτι, για τα δεδομένα ιδίως της Ελλάδας ένα ανάκτορο, όπου μεταφέρει την τεράστια προσωπική συλλογή του από έργα αρχαίας, βυζαντινής και σύγχρονης Τέχνης, καθώς και άλλα κομμάτια όπως ταπισερί, έπιπλα και σερβίτσια μεγάλης καλλιτεχνικής και χρηματικής αξίας. Από το 1983 αντιμετωπίζει την κακεντρέχεια μερίδας του ελληνικού τύπου ενάντια στον εκκεντρικό και επιδεικτικό τρόπο ζωής και συμπεριφοράς του. Το φαινόμενο παίρνει από το 1984 διαστάσεις σκανδάλου.

Λίγο πριν πεθάνει η επιθυμία του να δωρίσει την αμύθητη συλλογή του από έργα τέχνης στο ελληνικό κράτος δεν εκπληρώθηκε ποτέ. Η ελληνική κυβέρνηση αρνήθηκε την προσφορά του και έτσι το μεγαλύτερο μέρος της συλλογής του χάθηκε. Το 1984, δωρίζει στο Μακεδονικό Κέντρο Σύγχρονης Τέχνης 45 έργα σύγχρονης τέχνης από την προσωπική του συλλογή, ενώ υπόσχεται να προσθέσει και άλλα στη δωρεά. Το 1987 ωστόσο πεθαίνει και δεν προλαβαίνει να εκπληρώσει το όνειρο του.

Σήμερα τα περισσότερα έργα της συλλογής του έχουν κλαπεί από την έπαυλη του στην Αγία Παρασκευή Αττικής.

Art Dealers

Dealers of Castelli’s ilk, erudite and with experience in areas other than art—Castelli started as a banker—guided collections as well as careers. Another of these larger-than-life figures was Sidney Janis, the trendsetting 57th Street, New York, dealer and onetime vaudevillian who in the 1950s and ’60s promoted such American Abstract Expressionists as Rothko, de Kooning and Gorky, along with European modernists like Picasso, Mondrian and Klee. He was also one of the first anywhere to show Pop art.

“Sidney Janis was graduate school for me,” says the New York collector Barbara Jakobson, reminiscing about her initiation in art in the 1950s, when Janis inculcated her with his passion for it even though she was not yet prepared to become a client. “I was in my early 20s and he loved to teach,” she says. “Few art dealers now have time to spend with the merely curious.”

How about the world’s most powerful dealer in contemporary art today, Larry Gagosian, who claims all artists are naturally magnetic? Some say Gagosian is charming only as long as it takes to sign a check. Jakobson demurs, calling him “completely extraordinary … very intelligent and well-read.” While admitting that he can also be distant, she says that “what makes you decide to invest these people with magical power has to do with their sense of authority. A lot of the most successful have no charisma whatever. But they must be willing to act in loco parentis by taking on the artists, [who can be] narcissistic and more demanding than one’s children. They have to be incredibly good liars and say they love everything their artists do. And they have to be able to suffer fools instead of telling them to go home and write a check.”

Other old-school collectors grumble that high-powered gallerists today never sit still long enough to regale their clients with art stories the way Castelli and Janis did. But the brisk pace may be imposed by the new collectors, many of whom have time neither for leisurely conversation nor for prepurchase deliberation. Those who want top pieces snap them up quickly, particularly at art fairs, where discussions are not just brief but also impersonal.

Yet stories keep surfacing about dealers with a Rasputin-like influence on the people around them. One of these was Alexander Iolas. A significant force in Surrealism, Iolas had galleries in Paris, New York, Geneva and Milan before he retired to Athens, where the British-born collector Pauline Karpidas, who has spent most of her adult life in Greece, met him in 1975.

“He was like the Countess of Graumont,” says Karpidas, “trailing this Fortuny cape. I first found him having his hair dyed in the sink by his housekeeper. With the flick of a finger encircled by a 48-carat-diamond ring, he pulls a turban around his head like Marlene Dietrich as Catherine the Great and starts winding a diamond necklace around the turban. I was totally enamored. And he says, ‘Darling, do you have any idea what it takes to form a collection?’ Long story short, it took 10 years. But the fun we had!”

Karpidas played Eliza Doolittle to Iolas’s Henry Higgins. He not only started her collecting contemporary art but also introduced her to another aspiring patron, Dominique de Menil, and, later, to Charles Saatchi, as well as to Andy Warhol, who did her portrait. “If you’re going to collect a certain period, you have to buy in depth, and that’s where mentors come in,” says Karpidas, who includes among her tutors both Castelli and Robert Fraser, the rocking British Pop-art dealer who introduced Yoko Ono and John Lennon. “But the one who gave me real entrée into the world of art was Iolas. ‘You will always think of me,’ he said, ‘because I taught you how to focus.’ ”

The Swiss dealer Thomas Ammann is another whom many in the art world still regard with awe as well as affection. Famously discreet, he would never reveal the names of his blue-chip clients, although Giovanni Agnelli, Gustavo Cisneros and Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza de Kaszon are all linked with him. By the time he died, in 1993, Ammann had made a place for the early work of such modern masters as Cy Twombly, Andy Warhol and Brice Marden in European and American collections. (His sister Doris Ammann runs Thomas Ammann Fine Art today as a prominent secondary-market shop.)

The writer Bob Colacello met Ammann in the 1970s while working at Interview with Warhol. “[Ammann] was the first person I knew to have Belgian slippers—the first to put soles on them so he could wear them outside,” Colacello recalls. “He was always smiling. Five minutes in his presence, and I was relaxed and cool and happy.”

Ammann easily persuaded many to pay high prices for artists he represented in Europe— Twombly and Marden among them. “If you were discovered by Thomas,” Colacello says, citing Ross Bleckner and Eric Fischl, “that was a huge boost. People wanted to do what Thomas was doing. He bought Clementes, so others did too.”

Such dealers could affect artists as much as they did the public. According to the New York painter Donald Baechler, the late Neapolitan gallerist Lucio Amelio was simply magical. “He had a stentorian voice and spoke many languages,” Baechler says. “He acted in Lina Wertmüller films and wanted people to believe he was a CIA agent. He’d fly you to Paris on the Concorde and throw lavish dinners for 40 and then not pay you for a painting. Then you realized that the painting had paid for the trip.” But it was well worth the missed check: Amelio’s high profile in the ’80s helped young American artists like Baechler, Keith Haring and George Condo replicate their domestic success in Europe.

Today’s primary-market brokers in contemporary art tend to be of the same generation as their artists, at least when starting out. The aristocratic Jay Jopling was as young as Hirst, the Chapman brothers and Gary Hume when he presented their early works in 1993 at Jay Jopling/White Cube, the immensely profitable London gallery that began as a project space. With his upper-crust accent and ability to hold the floor, Jopling is a commanding personality. “Jay has power, and power itself can be charismatic,” says Hume. “But look at what he was like before, and you see he always had it. He built White Cube from nothing, and you can’t do that without some sort of engagement.”

There is no one way to decode charisma, much less distinguish it from the glow that comes from success. “I think it’s chemistry and attitude,” says Lucy Mitchell-Innes, a British-born dealer who began her career in New York at Sotheby’s in 1983, when Schnabel’s first plate painting came up for sale. “Julian called me,” she says, describing a scenario that would be unthinkable now, “and told me we couldn’t put that painting in an auction. ‘I’ll swap you,’ he said. ‘I’ll show you another one just as good, and then I’ll buy the first and you can still have a great painting.’ Well, he did keep that painting, and we sold the other for a record price. He made that happen by sheer personality.” On the other hand, she says, Chris Martin, the Brooklyn-based abstract painter, “has a following like a religious sect, but that’s because of his work. If an artist’s work doesn’t hold up, charisma won’t help, even if it does raise the tide of public perception.”

Obviously, the art world is full of competing personalities and compelling eccentrics whose public images make their work more tantalizing. Or perhaps it’s the other way around. Take Jean-Michel Basquiat, whose aura derived in part from his distinctive dreadlocks and an engaging smile. Yet he was often brusque and confrontational. “There was no separation between what went into his paintings and what you connected with in his persona,” says the dealer Jeffrey Deitch, a former consultant who has played a significant role in the careers of many artists, including Koons and Cecily Brown. With his round glasses and crisp suits, Deitch is no slouch at calling attention to himself. But he puts Basquiat in another category altogether. “A conversation with Jean was not a passive experience. He really did embody his artistic vision. ‘OK,’ he would say, ‘let’s lock horns.’ It was electric to be in his presence.”

The artist Matthew Barney, whom many regard as a visionary, can go into a gallery unnoticed, yet he exercises a fascination on art world denizens. It probably helps that he married a rock star, Björk, and has retained the matinee-idol looks that made him a successful J. Crew model while in college and the star of his own video and film productions. In person, though, he is anything but ostentatious and seems driven by his work.

Andy Warhol (1928-1987)
The Last Supper (Camel/57)
Price Realized
(Set Currency)
  • $4,002,500
  • Price includes buyer's premium
    $4,000,000 - $6,000,000

Sale Information

Sale 2167
Post War and Contemporary Evening Sale
13 May 2009
New York, Rockefeller Plaza

Lot Description

Andy Warhol (1928-1987)
The Last Supper (Camel/57)
synthetic polymer and acrylic ink on canvas
118 x 348 in. (300 x 883.9 cm.)
Painted in 1986.

Pre-Lot Text



The Estate of Andy Warhol and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc., New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner


D. Hickey et. al., Andy Warhol "Giant" Size, New York, 2006, p. 592 (illustrated in color).


Munich, Staatsgalerie Moderner Kunst, Andy Warhol, The Last Supper, May-September 1998, pp. 68-69, 143, no. 11 (illustrated in color).
New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Soho Branch, Andy Warhol, The Last Supper, September 1999-July 2001.

Lot Notes

Andy Warhol painted The Last Supper (Camel/57) in 1986. This monumental picture, which is almost ten meters long, shows a line-drawing version of Leonardo da Vinci's famous mural of the same name. The painting, and indeed this subject, allows Warhol to participate in a range of conceptual and artistic somersaults. This picture invokes an industrial, print aesthetic yet is largely hand-painted and therefore unique. It is at once religious and sacrilegious, deferential and irreverent, religious and brazenly commercial. The Last Supper (Camel/57) presents the viewer with a colossal enigma, which is only apt in the work of Warhol, an artist who made it constantly impossible to be pinned down or trapped by one meaning or interpretation. Was this an attack on the act of painting, by which Warhol reduced the toil of his famous predecessor to a series of lines painted with the use of a projector, or was it an act of worship that showed his debt to the great da Vinci? The presence of the logos on the surface might be an attack on organised religion, or is the practising worshipper Warhol (who attended church on a regular basis) breathing new life into contemporary religious painting, which John Richardson suggested in his eulogy to the artist the following year?

Warhol's religious background, rooted in part in his childhood within the Ruthenian community in Pittsburgh, had stayed with him throughout his life. The Ruthenians were a branch of the church from Eastern Europe that was affiliated with the Catholic, not the Orthodox, Church (albeit with a brief hiatus after 1945), and Warhol was brought up within its fold. This was to be reflected in pictures such as The Last Supper (Camel/57) and in his life as well, not least in his concerted effort to attend an audience with the Pope in Rome.

Warhol's The Last Supper (Camel/57) owes its inception in part to the legendary dealer Alexandre Iolas. It was Iolas who had, as early as 1952, seen potential in Warhol's drawings, and who had arranged his first solo exhibition. It is a strange coincidence that Iolas' exhibition of Warhol's Last Supper pictures would be the artist's last. For it was in 1986 that Iolas had approached Warhol and asked if he would create a series of works based on da Vinci's Last Supper, in part because he wished to hold an exhibition in his new premises in Milan in the Palazzo delle Stelline. This gallery was across from the church and convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, in whose dining hall da Vinci's original is housed, and so the subject appeared an ideal one. Warhol leapt at the chance, as the subject contained many aspects that were perfectly suited to him. Showing the final meal that Christ ate with his disciples, its valedictory content possibly reflected Warhol's own concerns about his mortality during this period (it would prove a form of tragic irony that he would in fact die the following year from complications during a routine gallbladder operation).

Crucially, Leonardo's Last Supper is also a proto-Pop masterpiece. It is one of the most recognized works in the world by one of the world's most recognized and celebrated artists. That Leonardo's work has been reproduced in so many strange reincarnations such as kitchy ceramics or black velvet paintings is somehow Warholian in itself. Indeed, Leonardo had already been the subject of, or even victim of, artistic appropriations, be it in Marcel Duchamp's moustachioed L.H.O.O.Q. or in Warhol's own version of the Mona Lisa (he had also used a detail of the Renaissance painter's Annunciation as a source). Thus, the image was already loaded with a vast range of references, associations and implications.

Of Warhol's various different versions of the Last Supper, the present work is one of the most striking, not least for the one-upmanship by which he has made this work larger than the original. This magnification of the line-drawing source has resulted in the complete removal of da Vinci's celebrated sfumato and of the delicately-handled features, which are here replaced by almost schematic, illustration-like, comic-book style faces and expressions. Warhol has deliberately created a mass-media version of the The Last Supper (Camel/57) that is big, brash and bold. He has created his The Last Supper (Camel/57) on an industrial scale, with an industrial look, and yet it has been painted in a technique that paradoxically reveals the traces of brushwork, of the artist's touch.

While on the one hand Warhol has expanded upon da Vinci's original, perhaps in some form of oblique homage, he has also superimposed the number 57 and the image of a camel, introducing the deliberately crass realm of advertising to the realm of the holy. Is this a critique of Capitalism, and its inclusion in a formerly too-hallowed realm? He is ever-evasive, conceals layers of meaning behind the faux-ingenuous persona he so carefully cultivated. It was essentially a diversion when Warhol stated that, "If you want to know all about Andy Warhol, just look at the surface of my paintings and film and me, there I am. There's nothing behind it" (A. Warhol, quoted in K. Honnef, Andy Warhol 1928-1987 Commerce into Art, Cologne, 2000, p. 45). Similarly, Warhol's manoeuvers in Italy when the Last Supper exhibition opened early in 1987 show his deliberate denial of any cultural tribute or even knowledge belying his clear acquaintance with Leonardo and Italian art at large. Daniella Morera recalled:

We had a press conference in the morning before the show. The journalists said, "Why are you doing Leonardo da Vinci, are you very much in touch with Italian culture?" And he said, "Oh, Italian culture- I only know really the spaghetti but they are fantastic!" (D. Morera, quoted in V. Bockris, The Life and Death of Andy Warhol, London, 1989, p. 484).

Department Information
Artist/Maker/Author Information


Paul Thek_

1933 Born in Brooklyn, New York
1988 Died in New York, NY


Art Students League, New York
Pratt Institute, Brooklyn

Cooper Union School of Art, New York

Fulbright Fellowship

National Endowment for the Arts Grant

Solo Exhibitions

Paul Thek Luzern 1973/2005, Kunstmuseum Luzern

Collection Lab, Kunstmuseum Lucerne
Paul Thek: Paintings 1980-1987, Mai 36 Galerie, Zürich

Paul Thek: Paintings of the 1980’s, Alexander and Bonin, New York

Paul Thek, Camden Arts Centre, London
The Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin
Newlyn Art Gallery, Cornwall; Mai 36 Galerie, Zurich
Paul Thek: Selected Drawings 1966 – 1988, Alexander and Bonin, New York

Paul Thek: Paintings, Works on Paper and Notebooks 1970 – 1988 The Arts Club of Chicago, IL

1995 Paul Thek: The wonderful world that almost was, Witte de With, Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam; Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin; Fundacio Antoni Tapies, Barcelona; Kunsthalle Zürich/ Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zürich; MAC, galeries contemporaines des musées de Marseille, Marseille
Etchings, XX Multiple Gallerie, Rotterdam

Paul Thek: Skulpturen und Zeichnungen 1964-1976, Mai 36 Galerie, Zürich
Paul Thek: Paintings of the 1970's and 1980's, Brooke Alexander, New York

Paul Thek: Sculpture and Drawings, Castello Di Rivara

Paul Thek: Newspaper and Notebook Drawings, Brooke Alexander, New York
Galerie Jollenbeck, Cologne

Paul Thek: Sculpture 1965-1976, Brooke Alexander, New York
Galerie Samy Kinge, Paris

Paul Thek: The Technological Reliquaries, The Clocktower Gallery, New York

Some New Works, Mokotoff Gallery, New York
Paul Thek: Selected Works 1987-1988, Brooke Alexander, New York
Paul Thek, Greenville County Museum of Art, SC

Mokotoff Gallery, New York

Barbara Gladstone Gallery, New York

Little Paintings, Galerie Samy Kinge, Paris

A Procession in Honor of Aesthetic Progress, Galerie Jollenbeck, Cologne
cityscapes, seascapes, other ideas, etc., Brooks Jackson Gallery Iolas, New

Drugs, Kruiden van hemel en hel, Museum voor Land en Volkenkunde, Rotterdam
The Personal Effects of the Pied Piper, Brooks Jackson Gallery Iolas, New York
Galleria Fante di Spada, Rome

Small Paintings, Brooks Jackson Gallery Iolas, New York

Jack's Procession: What's Going on Here?, Lijnbaancentrum, Rotterdam

Paul Thek/Processions, Institute of Contemporary Art, University of

The Personal Effects of the Pied Piper, Galerie Alexandre Iolas, Paris

Galerie Staehli-Langenbacher und Wankmüller, Lucerne
Ark, Pyramid-Easter, Kunstmuseum, Lucerne
Ark, Pyramid-Christmas, Wilhelm-Lehmbruck-Museum der Stadt Duisburg, Duisburg

A Station of the Cross, Galerie M.E. Thelen, Essen

Stable Gallery, New York
Pyramid/A Work in Progress, Moderna Museet, Stockholm

Creche, Mickery Galerie Loenensloot, Loenen, The Netherlands

The Procession/The Artist's Co-op, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam
Fishman, Stable Gallery, New York
The Procession/Easter in a Pear Tree, Mickery Galerie, Loenersloot, The Netherlands
Work in Progress at Brusseler Platz, sponsored by Galerie M.E. Thelen, Essen

A Procession in Honor of Aesthetic Progress: Objects Theoretically to Wear, Carry, Pull or Wave, Galerie M.E. Thelen, Essen

The Tomb, Stable Gallery, New York
The Tomb-Death of a Hippie, The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

Pace Gallery, New York

Stable Gallery, New York

Galleria 88, Rome

Mirrell Gallery, Miami

Selected Group Exhibitions

Looking at Words, Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York

Klütterkammer, Institute of Contemporary Art, London
Kolumba, Diözesanmuseum, Cologne

Fuiro Uso 2003 “Great Expectations”, Associazione Culturale Arte Nova, Pescara, Italy
Global Village: The 1960s, The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
Paul Thek and Peter Hujar, Kunstparterre, München
My People Were Fair…, Team, New York

A document made by Paul Thek and Edwin Klein, Janos Gat Gallery, New York

Imagine, You Are Standing Here in Front Of Me., Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam
My Head Is On Fire But My Heart Is Full Of Love, The Modern Institute, Glasgow
Charlottenborg Udstillingsbygning, Copenhagen
The Object Sculpture, Henry Moore Institute, Leeds
From the Observatory, Paula Cooper Gallery, New York
Manifesto, or: Emotion – what is this? Early Standards since 1960, Galerie Daniel Blau, München, Germany

The Devil is in the Details, Allston Skirt Gallery, Boston
Painting at the Edge of the World, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis
(Self) Portraits, Alexander and Bonin, New York
A Baroque Party: Moments of Theatrum Mundi in Contemporary Art,
Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna
Prodigal Prodigy, White box, New York

Face To Face: works on paper from The Museum Overholland Collections, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam
Sweet’N Low, presented by Mixed Greens and Kenny Schachter/Rove, New York
Full Serve, presented by Mixed Greens and Kenny Schacter/Rove, New York

Circa 1968, Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art, Porto, Portugal

From Warhol to Mapplethorpe: Three Decades of Art at ICA, Institute of
Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania

Belladonna, Institute Contemporary Arts, London
Drawings, Museum of Modern Art, New York

Bringing It All Back Home, Gracie Mansion/Fred Dorfman Projects, New York

Sacred Geometry, Galerie des Beaux-Arts Galerij, Brussels
Duck!, Edward Thorp Gallery, New York

Contemporary Art from the Collection of the Federation of Migros
Cooperatives. Museo Cantonale d'Arte, Zürich
Drawn in the 1970's, Brooke Alexander, New York
Significant Losses, The Art Gallery, University of Maryland at College Park

Abject Art: Repulsion and Desire in American Art. Whitney Museum of American Art, NY
Already Buddha, Greenville County Museum of Art, SC
Nachtschattengewachse/The Nightshade Family. Museum Fredericianum,
Kassel (catalogue with text by Diedrich Diedrichsen, Jan Avgikos, and Veit Loers).
Sculpture & Multiples, Brooke Alexander, New York
Vito Acconci, Bruce Nauman, Paul Thek, Brooke Alexander Editions, New York
Wiederbegegnung mit Unbekanntem. Ein Rundgang, Erzbischofliches Diozesanmuseum (catalogue)

Drawings, Brooke Alexander, New York

Mssr. B's Curio Shop, Thread Waxing Space, New York
Word & Image, Brooke Alexander Editions, New York

(Dis)member, on the Hundredth Anniversary of Gericault's Death, Simon Watson, New York

Word as Image: American Art 1960-1990, Milwaukee Art Museum;
Oklahoma City Art Museum; The Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston,
(catalogue with essays by Russel Bowman, Dean Sobel, and Gerry Biller)
Contemporary Assemblage: The Dada and Surrealist Legacy, LA Louver, Los Angeles
Fragments, Parts, Wholes: Body and Culture, White Columns, New York
human concern/personal torment: The Grotesque in American Art Revisited* (*after the exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art, 1969), Phyllis Kind Gallery, New York. Traveled to Phyllis Kind
Gallery, Chicago (1991)

The Success of Failure, Independent Curators Incorporated, Exhibition
traveled to: Laumeier Sculpture Garden and Park, St. Louis; University Art Gallery, North Texas State University, Denton; Johnson Gallery, Middlebury College, VT; and University of Arizona Museum of Art, Tucson
The Pyramid Show, Mokotoff Gallery, New York

Chambre d'Amis Museum van Heedendaagse Kunst, Ghent (catalogue)

The Gathering of the Avantgarde: The Lower East Side, Kenkelba House,
New York
18th International Bienal of Sao Paulo

Content: A Contemporary Focus 1974-1984, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC

Urban Pulses: The Artists and the City, Pittsburgh Plan for Art
New Art at the Tate Gallery 1983, The Tate Gallery, London

Tendenzan der Americanischen Zeichung, Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich
Tableaux. Nine Contemporary Sculptors. Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati (catalogue with text by Michael R. Klein and Robert Stearn).

Drawing Distinctions, American Drawings of the Seventies Louisiana
Museum of Modern Art, Denmark. Traveled to Kunsthalle Basel; Stadtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich; Wilhelm-Hack-Museum, Ludwigshafen
Westkunst: Zeitgenossische Kunst seit 1939, Messehalen, Cologne (catalogue)
Herbs from Heaven and Hell, Museum voor Land en Volkenkunde, Rotterdam, traveling exhibition
Contemporary Art Since 1939, (Death of a Hippie), International Exhibition, Cologne
Figurative Sculpture, The Institute for Art and Urban Resources, P.S. 1, Long Island City, NY

Continuous Creation, Rooms by Robert Filliou, Bruce Lacey and Jill Bruce, Anna Opperman, Paul Thek, Serpentine Gallery, London

Art of the 70s, La Biennale di Venezia, Venice (catalogue)
Tedenzen amerikanischer Zeichnung in den siebziger Jahren, Kunsthalle Basel, Kunstverein, Switerland
A Feast for the Eyes, Hecksher Museum, Huntington, New York

La Biennale di Venezia, Venice (catalogue)

Galleria Schmela, Florence

Documenta 5, Kassel (catalogue)
Galerie M. E. Thelen, Cologne (catalogue)

Funf Sampler, Wuppertal: Von der Heydt Museum
Continuing Surrealism, La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art, La Jolla, CA (catalogue with essay by Lawrence Urutia)
Depth and Presence, The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (catalogue)
The Riderless Boat, Willard Gallery, New York

Figures/Environments, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (Circulated in the United States) catalogue with essay by Dean Swanson.

Human Concern/Personal Torment-The Grotesque in American Art, The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (catalogue with essay by Robert Doty)
Kunst der sechziger Jahre, Collection Ludwig, Wallraff-Richartz-Museum, Cologne (catalogue)
Galerie 20, Amsterdam

1968 The Obsessive Image 1960-1968, The Institute of Contemporary Arts, London
Documenta 4, Kassel
Painting and Sculpture Today, Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indiana

The Pittsburgh International Exhibition of Contemporary Paintings and Sculpture, Museum of Art, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh (catalogue)

Art in the Mirror, The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Contemporary American Still Life, The Museum of Modern Art, New York (Circulated in the United States and Canada)

The Other Tradition, The University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia (catalogue with essay by G.R. Swensen)

Αλέξανδρος Ιόλας: Ο ιδιοφυής μαικήνας

Γνώρισε τη λατρεία και την κατακραυγή, τη δόξα και την απέχθεια, την αποθέωση και τη μικροπρέπεια. Ενας μαικήνας με παγκόσμια αναγνώριση και επιβολή, ένας πολίτης του κόσμου με αλάνθαστο καλλιτεχνικό αισθητήριο και -πάνω απ’ όλα- ένας διορατικός συλλέκτης, ο οποίος ήταν -ταυτόχρονα- ασυνήθιστα ευφυής ως έμπορος.

Αλέξανδρος Ιόλας: Ο ιδιοφυής μαικήνας

Πολλά από τα μεγάλα ονόματα της τέχνης οφείλουν -λίγο ή πολύ- την καθιέρωσή τους σε εκείνον: Ο Μαξ Ερνστ, ο Τζόρτζιο ντε Κίρικο, ο Ρενέ Μαγκρίτ, ο Αντι Γουόρχολ, ο Ιβ Κλάιν, ο Τάκις, ο Ακριθάκης, ο Τσαρούχης, ο Φασιανός, ο Χατζηκυριάκος-Γκίκας. Μία ιδιαίτερα έντονη και αντιφατική προσωπικότητα που συνδύαζε μοναδικά όλες εκείνες τις ιδιότητες που θα του επέτρεπαν να πετύχει: Οξυδερκής και τολμηρός, αδίστακτος και εκρηκτικός, είρων και στοργικός, ραδιούργος και τυχοδιωκτικός, αλλά και γοητευτικός, απρόβλεπτος, υπερβολικός, εκκεντρικός, σίγουρα πολυτάλαντος και -εν τέλει- αξεπέραστος

Ο Κωνσταντίνος Κουτσούδης, όπως ήταν αρχικά το όνομα του Αλέξανδρου Ιόλα, γεννήθηκε στην Αλεξάνδρεια της Αιγύπτου το 1908 και ήταν γόνος μιας ευκατάστατης οικογένειας εμπόρων βαμβακιού. Εκείνη την εποχή η ανατροφή μέσα σε ένα «αυστηρών αρχών» οικογενειακό περιβάλλον σήμαινε ξύλο, τιμωρία, επιβολή της τάξης από τον πατέρα, μία δυσβάσταχτη και συχνά αποτρόπαιη πειθαρχία. Κάτω από αυτές τις ασφυκτικές συνθήκες το νεαρό αγόρι διαβάζει συνεχώς, μαθαίνει πιάνο και δείχνει έγκαιρα μία μεγάλη ευχέρεια στην εκμάθηση ξένων γλωσσών- μιλούσε άπταιστα αγγλικά, γαλλικά, ιταλικά, γερμανικά και αραβικά.

Ηταν ήδη εμφανές ότι επρόκειτο για μία -δίχως άλλο- ξεχωριστή περίπτωση: Ενα παράξενο μείγμα ρεαλισμού και ονειροπολήσεων, που ενώ οι συμμαθητές του μπροστά στην πυραμίδα του Χέοπα θαύμαζαν την κορυφή της, αυτός φανταζόταν τους αμύθητους θησαυρούς τέχνης και χλιδής οι οποίοι κρύβονταν στους ανήλιαγους βασιλικούς τάφους.

Ο πατέρας του, ωστόσο, επιθυμούσε ο γιος του να ασχοληθεί με τις επιχειρήσεις, αλλά εκείνος από πολύ νωρίς ανακάλυψε ότι ο προορισμός του ήταν διαφορετικός: Είχε έντονες καλλιτεχνικές ανησυχίες. Βέβαια, αργότερα θα διαπίστωνε ότι ήταν γεννημένος και για τα δύο -με τα γνωστά εντυπωσιακά αποτελέσματα. «Θυμάμαι σαν τώρα», είχε πει κάποτε, «όταν σκαστός από το σπίτι μου είδα τη Μαρίκα Κοτοπούλη που ήρθε στην Αλεξάνδρεια και έπαιζε την Κλυταιμνήστρα. Οχι μόνο μαγεύτηκα, άλλαξε η ζωή μου. Κατάλαβα ότι ήμουν γεννημένος για την τέχνη».

Κάπως έτσι, ακολουθώντας μία βαθύτερη εσωτερική παρόρμηση και με βαρύτιμο εφόδιο τρεις συστατικές επιστολές του Καβάφη προς τους Σικελιανό, Παλαμά και Μητρόπουλο, ο μικρός τυχοδιώκτης εγκαταλείπει το σπίτι του και με τις λιγοστές οικονομίες του μεταβαίνει, τον Νοέμβριο του 1927, στην Αθήνα. Μένει σε ένα δωμάτιο στην οδό Αριστοτέλους, επισκέπτεται συχνά την Ακρόπολη όπου του αρέσει να χορεύει, ενώ κάποια στιγμή τον φωτογραφίζει εκεί η Nelly’s.

Είναι από εκείνη την εποχή που -ανάμεσα στις άλλες του ικανότητες- ξεχωρίζει μία: Η κοσμοπολίτικη, περισσή -θα έλεγε κανείς- άνεση με την οποία θα κινείται σε όλη του τη ζωή στους καλλιτεχνικούς κύκλους ανά τον κόσμο.

Πάντως, αν και ο Ιόλας είχε καλλιτεχνικές τάσεις, δεν διέθετε κάποιο εμφανές ταλέντο και όλο αυτό το απόθεμα ευαισθησίας που είχε μέσα του δεν είχε βρει ακόμα μία διέξοδο. Επειτα από παρότρυνση του Αγγελου Σικελιανού, φεύγει τελικά για την Ευρώπη και επειδή τον βοηθούσε το καλοσχηματισμένο, ανάλαφρο σώμα του, στρέφεται πιο σοβαρά στον χορό.

Σύντομα, η ευκολία με την οποία γνώριζε τους «κατάλληλους» ανθρώπους αποδίδει καρπούς και -ακολούθως- συνεργάζεται με το Θέατρο Σάλτσμπουργκ, με την Οπερα του Βερολίνου και την Κίρα Νιζίνσκι- την κόρη του διάσημου χορευτή. Ολα έδειχναν ότι θα μπορούσε να εξελιχθεί σε έναν από τους σημαντικότερους χορευτές του κόσμου. Αλλά δύο χρόνια αργότερα, το 1933, υποχρεώνεται λόγω της ανόδου του ναζισμού να εγκαταλείψει τη Γερμανία. Μετακομίζει, λοιπόν, στο Παρίσι, όπου συνεχίζει τη χορευτική του καριέρα, ενώ -παράλληλα- έρχεται σε επαφή με εικαστικούς καλλιτέχνες και ποζάρει ως μοντέλο για τον ντε Κίρικο και τον Χέρμπερτ Λιστ.

Ενα απρόσμενο γεγονός, όμως, θα σταθεί η αφορμή να εγκαταλείψει για πάντα τον χορό και να ασχοληθεί με τη συλλογή έργων τέχνης. «Μια μέρα εκεί που περπατούσα στον δρόμο, είδα σε μια βιτρίνα έναν πίνακα και χωρίς να ξέρω γιατί σταμάτησα μπροστά του σα μαγεμένος», θα εξηγήσει χρόνια αργότερα, με την αλήθεια -ωστόσο- να είναι λίγο διαφορετική.

Στην πραγματικότητα, εγκαταλείπει τον χορό εξαιτίας ενός τραυματισμού στο πόδι. Απ’ την άλλη, η συναναστροφή του με τους Παριζιάνους σουρεαλιστές τον ενθουσιάζει και του δίνει την ιδέα: να ασχοληθεί με το εμπόριο έργων τέχνης. Και εδώ ακριβώς είναι που διαφαίνεται η ιδιοφυΐα του Αλέξανδρου Ιόλα: Σε καιρούς πραγματικά ανυποψίαστους, αντιλαμβάνεται έγκαιρα ότι οι μεταπολεμικές Η.Π.Α. ήταν έτοιμες να υποδεχθούν την ανήσυχη Ευρώπη.

Η τέχνη πλέον όχι μόνο αποκτούσε την αγορά της, αλλά και τη δική της χρηματιστηριακή αξία, με τον Ιόλα να πρωτοστατεί σε αυτό. Βασίζεται αποκλειστικά στο ένστικτό και στις γνώσεις του και το έμπειρο μάτι του διακρίνει τα πάντα- αναξιοποίητα ταλέντα, παραγνωρισμένους καλλιτέχνες, νέες τάσεις: πατρονάρει, επιλέγει, αναθέτει, αγοράζει, προωθεί.

Ωσπου, το 1944 ανοίγει την πρώτη του γκαλερί στην 55η λεωφόρο της Νέας Υόρκης, την περίφημη Hugo Gallery. Αν και δεν είχε ο ίδιος την οικονομική δυνατότητα για ένα τέτοιο εγχείρημα κατάφερε χάρη στις φιλίες του με καλλιτέχνες και συλλέκτες, αλλά και στη γνωριμία του με τη δούκισσα Maria Hugo, να βρει το απαραίτητο κεφάλαιο. Από εδώ και πέρα, η ζωή του γίνεται ένα συνεχές ταξίδι μεταξύ Ευρώπης και Αμερικής. Μία περίοδος στην οποία τα έχει όλα: Νιάτα, ταλέντο, πάθος για δουλειά, επιτυχία, αναγνώριση.

Δουλεύει πυρετωδώς, οργανώνει εκθέσεις σε όλο τον κόσμο, ανοίγει τη μία γκαλερί πίσω απ’ την άλλη και -πρωτίστως- συμβάλλει καίρια στην καθιέρωση στην Αμερική των εξόριστων -εξαιτίας του πολέμου- σουρεαλιστών, οι οποίοι βρίσκουν, επιτέλους, ένα ευρύ κοινό. Ο Ιόλας, διαβλέποντας την προοπτική αυτής της νέας -και με εξαιρετικές προοπτικές- αγοράς, δραστηριοποιείται δυναμικά και γίνεται από τους πρωτοπόρους στην ανάπτυξη ενός «δικτύου» από αίθουσες τέχνης-δορυφόρους μιας κεντρικής γκαλερί: Το 1963 ανοίγει την πρώτη του γκαλερί στη Γενεύη, το ’64 στο Παρίσι, το ’65 στο Μιλάνο και λίγο αργότερα στη Μαδρίτη.

Είναι, πια, πολλοί οι καλλιτέχνες που πηγαίνουν στην Αμερική, αναζητώντας την επιτυχία και ο «δαιμόνιος» Ιόλας -σχεδόν πάντα- τους την εξασφαλίζει: Τους δίνει χρήματα με τον μήνα ώστε να τους κάνει να δουλεύουν μόνο γι’ αυτόν, ενώ τους κλείνει αποκλειστικά συμβόλαια. Μάλιστα, θα παραμείνει ο αντιπρόσωπος του Μαξ Ερνστ και του Ρενέ Μαγκρίτ -στις Η.Π.Α.- μέχρι τον θάνατο τους, ενώ το 1953 διοργανώνει την πρώτη ατομική έκθεση του Αντι Γουόρχολ και συνδέεται στενά με το κίνημα της Ποπ Αρτ.

Μερικοί ακόμη από τους καλλιτέχνες με τους οποίους θα συνεργαστεί -όλα αυτά τα χρόνια- είναι οι Μαν Ρέι, Ζαν Κοκτό, Ντε Κίρικο, Μπράουνερ, Ρενό, Φινότι, Κουνέλλης, Μόραλης, ενώ -σταδιακά- εστιάζει και στη νεότερη γενιά Ελλήνων όπως οι Τσόκλης, Παύλος, Τάκις, Καρέτσου, Ακριθάκης, οι οποίοι είχαν ξεκινήσει καριέρα στο εξωτερικό.

Από τα μέσα της δεκαετίας του ’60 περνάει περισσότερο χρόνο στην Ελλάδα, συνεργάζεται με διάφορες γκαλερί και χτίζει, στην Αγία Παρασκευή Αττικής, ένα σπίτι -ακριβέστερα, ένα ανάκτορο- όπου μεταφέρει τη σπουδαία προσωπική του συλλογή: έργα αρχαίας, βυζαντινής και σύγχρονης Τέχνης, τεράστιας καλλιτεχνικής και χρηματικής αξίας. Ομως, αυτή η επάνοδος στην ιδιαίτερη πατρίδα του σε συνδυασμό με τον εκκεντρικό και επιδεικτικό τρόπο ζωής και συμπεριφοράς του, θα συνοδευτεί -τελικά- με την πτώση του.

Ο Ιόλας δεν δίστασε ποτέ να δηλώσει ανοιχτά την ομοφυλοφιλία του, αλλά αυτή του η ειλικρίνεια θα αντιμετωπιστεί με κακεντρέχεια από μερίδα του ελληνικού τύπου που -το 1983- θα διασύρει ανεπανόρθωτα το όνομά του. Τα πρωτοσέλιδα της εποχής έγραφαν για «ρωμαϊκά όργια στο σπίτι του ανώμαλου συλλέκτη» και το θέμα δεν θα αργήσει να πάρει διαστάσεις σκανδάλου και να φτάσει μέχρι τα δικαστήρια, με τον Ιόλα να κατηγορείται για παραβίαση του νόμου περί ναρκωτικών, ακολασία με νεαρούς άντρες και παράνομη εμπορία αρχαιοτήτων.

Ο Αλέξανδρος Ιόλας έφυγε από τη ζωή στις 8 Ιουνίου 1987, πτοημένος, εξαντλημένος και εξευτελισμένος από έναν λαό που ο ίδιος -σε όλη του τη ζωή- τον είχε στο μυαλό του εξιδανικεύσει. Λίγο πριν από τον θάνατό του, η επιθυμία του να δωρίσει την αμύθητη συλλογή του από έργα τέχνης στο ελληνικό κράτος δεν εκπληρώθηκε ποτέ. Η ελληνική κυβέρνηση αρνήθηκε την προσφορά του και έτσι το μεγαλύτερο μέρος της συλλογής του χάθηκε!

Οσο για το όνειρό του να δημιουργήσει ένα «Μουσείο Ιόλα» στη Θεσσαλονίκη, έμεινε μόνο στα προσχέδια- τον πρόλαβε το ανάξιο τέλος του. Εάν, πάντως, κάτι μένει από την ιστορία του Ιόλα δεν είναι τόσο το παράδειγμα ενός ανθρώπου που ήξερε -στο μέτρο του δυνατού- να καταφέρνει ό,τι ήθελε. Αλλά, κυρίως, ότι αυτή η -άνευ όρων και ορίων- επιτυχία συνήθως δεν συγχωρείται από κανέναν. Κάτι που στην περίπτωσή του είναι όχι μόνο προφανές, αλλά και ανησυχητικά θλιβερό...


Ο πρώτος του πίνακας

«Μία μέρα, στάθηκα μπροστά σε μία γκαλερί στο Παρίσι. Ενας παράξενος πίνακας είχε τραβήξει την προσοχή μου. Ηταν ένα έργο του Ντε Κίρικο, το πρώτο μοντέρνο ζωγραφικό έργο που έβλεπα στη ζωή μου. Παρίστανε μία πλατεία άδεια, στη μέση είχε ένα άγαλμα, στο βάθος ένα τρένο με το φουγάρο του που περνούσε. Τίτλος του πίνακα "Μελαγχολία". Μπήκα στην γκαλερί και ρώτησα τι είναι αυτό. Μου απάντησαν, είναι ένα αριστούργημα του Ντε Κίρικο, μπορείτε να το αγοράσετε με 2.000 δολάρια. Περνούσα, λοιπόν, από την γκαλερί δίνοντας λίγα-λίγα τα χρήματα. Τελικά, ύστερα από πέντε ολόκληρα χρόνια ο πίνακας έγινε δικός μου. Από τότε άρχισε να μου μπαίνει η ιδέα να κάνω και εγώ κάποτε μια γκαλερί».

Αλέξανδρος Ιόλας

Η διπλή όψη του

Ο ίδιος έλεγε για τους καλλιτέχνες του πως «άλλοι κουράζονται και σπάνε τα συμβόλαιά τους, αλλά εκείνοι που δεν τα "σπάσαν" μπαίνουν σε μουσεία». Και ενώ ανέβαζε τις τιμές των έργων μέσα σε μια νύχτα από 100 σε 100.000 δολάρια, οι κριτικοί τον κατηγορούσαν ότι συμπεριφερόταν σκληρά στους καλλιτέχνες του. Ο Κώστας Τσόκλης ήταν ένας από εκείνους που κάποια στιγμή απηύδησε από την προσωπικότητα του Ιόλα. «Εχω μέσα μου κάτι μεταξύ θυμού και αηδίας για τον Ιόλα.

Ηθελε όλους τους καλλιτέχνες σαν παιδιά της παρέας του, τους χρησιμοποίησε ανενδοίαστα» έχει πει σε συνέντευξή του. Απ’ την άλλη, όμως, όπως παραδέχεται και ο ίδιος: «Με έπαιρνε τηλέφωνο και μου ’λεγε: ?Κώστα, έχεις λεφτά παιδί μου; Ελα να σου δώσω 10.000 δολάρια. "Αυτά δεν τα έκανε άλλος άνθρωπος»"

Ο Κώστας Τσόκλης για τον Ιόλα