Takis, 93, Greek artist who harnessed the power of magnetism

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Her death was confirmed by Menia Kouli, director of public affairs for the Athens-based Takis Foundation, a non-profit organization promoting the arts and sciences that the artist founded in 1986. Further details were not available. available immediately.

A self-proclaimed “instinctive scholar,” Takis began creating sculptures in his twenties, following World War II, drawing inspiration from sources as diverse as ancient Greece and the modernist masterpieces of Pablo Picasso. .

He mainly worked with plaster and wrought iron before becoming fascinated with magnetism, electricity and sound – and how these invisible forces animate the physical world and how they could bring his artistic creations to life as well.

” For Takis, ” a description of his work on the Artsy online database reads, ” electromagnetism is a unifying force, which runs through all bodies, and which he celebrates in art which, according to his words, ‘bind together in space, objects, metals, stray particles of the cosmos.’ “

With his interest in movement in art, Takis joined the movement known as Kinetic Art, sparked in 1913 when French artist Marcel Duchamp had what he called ‘the happy idea of ‘tie a bicycle wheel to a kitchen stool and watch it spin,’ ‘bicycle wheel’ artwork.

Takis spent much of his artistic career in Paris and London and established himself in the mid-1950s with a series of sculptures called ‘Signals’. pieces of industrial refuse. They “could be imagined,” according to a description of one of these pieces at Tate Modern, “to be receiving and transmitting messages from distant cosmic events.”

Magnets and magnetism would become defining elements of his work for decades. The same was true of sound, like the haunting noise created by a nail pulled by a magnet on a guitar string, or by a piano string blown by the wind.

“It’s hard not to use the word ‘magic’ about Takis’ art,” British art critic Jonathan Jones wrote in a Guardian review of the Tate Modern exhibit. A nail floats motionless in space. A cylinder and a ball dance jerky with each other. Angelic music is played without any sign of a human hand. Yet none of this is the work of the supernatural, and neither does Takis try to fool anyone into believing that it is. The strength that gives his art its innocent joy is part of the fabric of the universe. ”

“Takis,” he wrote, “is like a curious kid who keeps investigating what we jaded adults take for granted.”

Takis’ works, although better known in Europe than in the United States, have been exhibited in institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Menil Collection in Houston, as well as at the Center Pompidou and at the Jeu de Paume in Paris. They fetched more than $ 100,000 at auction, according to the Wall Street Journal.

“ I felt like I was in the presence of some sort of shaman, someone who had a much finer awareness of the soup of signals we are all swimming in now, ” Toby Kamps, commissioner a 2015 exhibit at the Menil Collection, said the Houston Chronicle. “Takis knows who he is, and I believe him.”

Panayiotis Vassilakis was born in Athens on October 29, 1925. His family did not support his artistic ambitions, according to a biography published on his foundation’s website, and yet he went ahead, settling in Paris in mid-1950s and joining an artistic circle that also included Jean Tinguely, another pioneer of kinetic art.

In 1960, he caught the attention of the Parisian art world by using a large magnet to suspend South African writer Sinclair Beiles in the air during a dramatic performance at the city’s Iris Clert Gallery.

“Our collaboration was to show that after all, you don’t need to go to space because we are already in space ourselves,” Takis told the Journal. “Thinking this way, we went into space faster than Yuri Gagarin,” the Soviet cosmonaut.

In the late 1960s, Takis was recruited to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where, during a fellowship, he developed the scientific foundations of his artistic work. The following year, he gained attention when he and friends forcibly removed one of his installations from MoMA to protest museum policies he considered unfair to artists. He has become a staunch defender of artists’ rights.

He had two children – a son, Thanos Vassilakis, from a marriage to artist Liliane Lijn which ended in divorce, and a daughter, Anna Fell, from a relationship with artist Sheila Fell. . Complete information on his marriages and the people he is leaving was not immediately available.

“The magnet and the pull of love are one and the same,” Takis once said, according to Forbes magazine. “A magnet is not just an idea; it is something very concrete and alive: this link, this attraction which is established between two forms or two objects, constitutes a fantastic force of communication. ”


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