The internationally-renowned Greek sculptor Panagiotis Vassilakis, professionally known as “Takis,” passed away on Thursday at the age of 93.
The Takis Foundation announced his death on Friday morning.
“With deep sorrow the Takis Foundation announces the loss of international sculptor Panagiotis Vassilakis, known as Takis. A true pioneer, revolutionary and legend. He will always be remembered. A productive and creative mind whose ingenuity, passion and imagination were endless, Takis explored many artistic and scientific horizons, including music and theater, and redefined the boundaries of art,” the statement said.
The Foundation’s announcement continued, “Thanks to his multi-dimensional creative genius, his generosity and his great intuition, Takis was ahead of his time, contributing to his international success… The biggest tribute we can pay today is to continue to follow his visionary path, where – using Takis’ words – ‘Everything is mind and movement,’ so as to perpetuate his unique legacy.”
Born on October 29, 1925 as Panagiotis Vassilakis, the sculptor was one of the main representatives of the contemporary art scene, especially kinetic art, in which he was a pioneer, both because of the materials and techniques he used and the ideas he shared.
He was the sixth child in a family of seven children. His childhood and adolescence coincided with the Metaxas dictatorship and the German occupation, during which he was a leading member of the resistance, which resulted in his arrest and sentence to six months in prison.
Takis created his first atelier in 1952 with childhood friends and artists, Minos Argyrakis and Raimondos, in the area of Anakassa, Attica. His early sculptures consisted of plaster busts and wrought iron works inspired by ancient Greek culture, as well as contemporary artists such as Picasso and Giacometti.
Takis left Greece for Paris in late 1953, and for the next three years, he traveled between the French capital and London, where he was inspired to create his first kinetic works. Impressed by radar antennas, he created his first “Signals,” pieces of metal art which, as they turn, gradually change form.
Fireworks were sometimes placed on top of the structures, and he also used them to perform various street art events on the squares of Paris. After the artist began to adorn the structures with “objets trouvés” (found objects), he discovered that they swayed with every breath of wind and produced unique sounds reminiscent of the chords of a harp.
From 1955 and until the end of 1965, Takis, already considered an artistic genius by then, experimented with all the environmental and natural elements that surround us, but are unable to be identified with the naked eye. These elements would come to form the basis of his artistic exploration.
He explored magnetic forces and the energy of magnetic fields, which become one of the foundations of his research. He experimented with electricity, sound and light, like some other artists of the Neo-Realist generation of the 1960s in Paris. Thus, through his art, he rendered visible all these invisible elements.
In 1968, he moved to Massachusetts, where he accepted a researcher’s scholarship from the Center for Advanced Visual Studies at MIT. While there, he created a series of electromagnetic sculptures. He also studied hydrodynamic energy, which prompted his conception called the “Oscillation of the Sea,” which inspired an entire series of Hydro-magnetic sculptures.
Radical and subversive, during that time Takis co-founded the “Art Workers Coalition,” with the aim of defending artists’ rights against exploitation by galleries, curators and museums.
He returned to Greece in 1986, where he established the Research Center for the Art and the Sciences in Gerovouno, Attica, which was officially opened in 1993.
Takis’ works are in the permanent collections of the most important modern art museums in the world, including the George Pompidou Centre for Contemporary Art in Paris, the MOMA and the Guggenheim Museums in New York, the De Menil Collection in Houston, the Tate Modern in London, and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice.
In France, the Jeu de Paume Museum, the Palais de Tokyo and the Fondation Maeght have organized large retrospective exhibitions dedicated to the artist. His work is also exhibited in the gardens of UNESCO as well as at La Defense in Paris, where the French government granted him the largest public space ever to be given to an artist in the history of Paris, for a “forest” of 49 Signaux Lumineux.
The Greek artist participated twice in the Documenta event in Kassel, once in the Venice Biennale and also in 1985 in the Paris Biennale, where he was awarded first prize. In 2001, the European Parliament awarded the Takis Foundation-K.E.T.E. with an honorary plaque for the artist’s discoveries in the field of renewable energy, as exemplified in with his pieces called “Electric Barrels.”
Takis also pioneered in the creation of sets for plays, films and dance performances. He collaborated with Costa Gavras for the film “Section Spéciale” (Special Court) in 1975 and with Michael Kakogiani for Sophocles’ play “Electra” in the ancient theatre of Epidaurus in 1983.
He also worked with artist Nam June Paik in 1979, with Joelle Léandre and dancer Martha Zioga for the performance titled “Ligne Parallèle Erotique” (Parallel Erotic Line) in 1986, and with Barbara Mavrothalassiti for the performance “Isis Awakening” in 1990.