Friday 1 May 2015

Cosmas Xenakis

Cosmas Xenakis

at the Benaki Museum, Pireos, Athens.

The retrospective of an artist who was greatly appreciated in his lifetime but who has fallen out of favour since. The exhibition is trying to regress this and to show Xenakis' contribution to the regeneration of Greek visual art. His work is multi-faceted and includes painting, sculpture, architecture and urban planning. Combining painting and sculpture with theatre and dance, he created avant-garde performances that he called Polytechna.

The exhibition is divided in two parts: his early work on the first floor, which predominantly consists of figurative work, and the abstract work and photographs of the Polytechna performances on the second.

The first part of the exhibition presents brightly coloured oil paintings in the tradition of 'Greekness', a movement that flourished in the 1930s and was influenced by the work of Yannis Tsarouchis. This was the foundation that led to Xenakis' more exciting works of the later period.



Iasonas (Jason)





The second part: 

When we moved to the next gallery space on the second floor, we saw this group of children who were totally engrossed in their work. They were so intent, so quiet and well behaved that when we finished looking I went up to them to congratulate them and their teachers on their excellent behaviour. All the children came up, eager to show me their work and I was duly appreciative. It was a pleasure watching them.
The work on this floor included  Xenakis' abstract paintings, some sculpture, some prototypes of reliefs he did for various buildings and photographs of the Polytechna happenings.








We found out that one of his commissions was a sculpture or relief, I am not sure which, by the entrance of a pharmaceutical factory which is in our area. We visited the next day and asked if we could go in and see the work. Entry was refused. A pity that such work is not available for public view.

 A photograph of one of the Polytechna.

As we were leaving, we saw the children having a well-deserved break in the form of lunch.


  1. Fascinating. I had not heard of this Xenakis (only of Iannis, the composer) - and very much like his early paintings of women. I particularly like the woman with her feet up, facing away - very influenced by Matisse, but reminiscent of so many hot afternoons in my youth.

  2. He is Yannis' brother, Olga - obviously a very talented family. And I agree with you about the paintings of women - they are the best. There were a lot more of women, but my photographs did not come out right unfortunately.