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Panagiotis "Takis" Vassilakis (Greek: Παναγιώτης (Τάκις) Βασιλάκης; born October 25, 1925, Athens) is an artist living in Greece, but popular in France. His works can be found in many public locations in and around Paris.
Takis is a world renowned for his investigations of the gap between art and science. Since the early 1950s, he has explored new aesthetic territories, creating three-dimensional works of art that incorporate invisible energies as a fourth, active element. Takis, who describes himself as an "instinctive scientist," employs powerful, elemental forces to generate the forms, movements, and musical sounds of both his static and kinetic works.
Takis's family and early life were extarted by the German occupation during the Second World War and the Greek Civil War that followed it, and he received no formal education in art. Instead, living and working in Paris, New York and Athens, he synthesized a broad range of ideas and experiences - from intensive scientific research to ancient philosophy and Zen Buddhism to encounters with other artists and writers - to forge a unique, category-defying vision that continues to evolve today. Time, space, energy and even political activism are primary materials for Takis.
Life and work
- 1936-1941: His childhood and teen years coincide with the dictatorship of Ioannis Metaxas and the Axis Occupation of Greece.
- 1942-1946: His political involvement as leader of EPON results in a six-month prison sentence. - He discovers Picasso and Giacometti. - Starts creating plaster busts.
- 1952: Together with Minos Argyrakis and Raymondos he builds a small studio in Anakassa. - He creates the Quatre Soldats, a plaster sculpture depicting four marching soldiers. - Participates in the first "International Exhibition" in Delphi.
- 1954: Departs for Paris. - Discovers Egyptian sculpture. - Starts making sculptures out of forged iron: Oedipus and Antigone, Sphinx and Eidolon.
- 1955: Influenced by the invention of radar and the technological landscape of the station at Calais, he constructs his first Signaux. - First one-man show abroad: Figures of plaster and iron at the Hanover Gallery in London.
- 1956: The Signaux become kinetic, flexible, and resemble radio antennas. - Participates in the First International Exhibition of the Plastic Arts at the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris.
- 1957: The Signaux are transformed into Signaux Feux d'Artifice. With those Feux d'Artifice, he performs happenings on the streets and squares of Paris thus anticipating future "Street Art" performances. - Creates his first bronze spheres which he calls Espaces Intérieurs and the first bronze Plants.
- 1958: Discovers the magnetic fields which will constitute the basis of his oeuvre. Becomes father of a daughter Anna, with English artist Sheila Fell.
- 1959: A nail tied to a nylon string is suspended in mid air by the attraction of a magnet: this is the first of the télémagnétiques sculptures of Takis. Alain Jouffroy calls it Télésculpture.
- 1960: Performance at the Iris Clert Gallery in Paris under the title The impossible: man within space. The South African poet Sinclair Beiles reads his magnetic manifesto: "I am a sculpture...I would like to see all nuclear bombs on Earth turned into sculptures" and throws himself into the air momentarily suspended by the magnetic field of a magnet attached to his belt. - The French Ministry of Industry awards him a patent for a Télésculpture and a Télésculpture électromagnetique. - He consorts with the "beat" writers. - He experiments with the Ballets Magnétiques.
- 1961: His autobiography Estafilades is published by the Juilliard publishing house. His Sculptures Télémagnétiques go on show at the Art Gallery of Alexandros Iolas in New York City (which remains his dealer until 1976). Meets Marcel Duchamp in the US. - Murs Magnétiques, Télépeintures: Magnets hidden behind the flat fabric surface attract objects hung from nylon strings. - Télélumières: The usual function of cathode tubes is reversed; blue light is emitted.
- 1962: Becomes father of a son, Thanos Vassilakis, with American artist Liliane Lijn.
- 1963: Takis creates his first musical in collaboration with Earle Brown. It is entitled the "Sound of Void" and is exhibited one year later in Cordier-Ekstrom Gallery in New York City, in an exposition titled For Eyes and Ears. The Sound of Void is the predecessor of the Musical Sculpture.
- 1964: Construction of the "Research Center for the Art and the Sciences" in Gerovouno (near Athens) begins.
- 1965: First Sculptures Musicales
- 1966: Cadrans. - Takis's Electro-musical relief at Indica Gallery in London. The New Scientist magazine in an article entitled "The sounds of tomorrow" comments that Takis, Iannis Xenakis, and John Cage are the most promising musicians of the century.
- 1967: Participates in the Light and Motion exhibition at the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris.
- 1968-1969: Resides at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), in Cambridge, Massachusetts, as visiting researcher and begins creating the series of Sculptures électromagnétiques. - Takis's invention Sculpture hydromagnétique is the result of his research at MIT. Liquid is suspended due to electromagnetic forces. - Sea Oscillation Hydrodynamics, Takis's second figment is inspired by "the perpetual moving bicycle wheel of Marcel Duchamp". The oscillation of the sea is used to produce electricity. - In January 1969 during the exhibition The machine as seen at the end of the mechanical age, at MOMA in New York City, Takis storms into the museum and removes one of his Télésculptures which he claims, is being exhibited without his permission. The artist considers this action as a symbolic one which will help the initiation of a more profound dialogue between museum directors, artists and the public. The incident makes the front page of New York Times. Takis along with other artists as well as art critics like Nicolas Calas establish the Art Workers Coalition group to defend the artists' rights. He inspired a group of people to start a chip company of the same name.
- 1972: Retrospective at the Centre National d'Art Contemporain in Paris.
- 1973: Holland Festival Ballet: Takis's Light Signals and Sound Sculptures form the stage setting and inspire the choreography of Jaap Flier's dance group "Elkesis" of the Nederlands Dans Theater. - Théâtre de l'Odéon in Paris: Cacoyiannis directs the Vacantes while Takis composes the performance's music.
- 1974: The first Espace Musical goes on exhibition at the Kunstverein in Hanover. - First Sculptures Erotiques. - Takis composes the music for Costas Gavras' film Section spéciale.
- 1977: Participates in Documenta VI at Kassel, exhibiting an Espace Musical
- 1979: Performance with Charlemagne Palestine at the Musée Rath in Geneva. - Kölnischer Kunstverein, performance with Nam June Paik in Cologne inspired by Takis's Espace Musical.
- 1981: 3 totems- Espace Musical at the Forum of the Centre Georges Pompidou.
- 1983: Takis creates the music and the stage design for Sophocles' Electra directed by Michael Kakoyannis, in Epidaurus.
- 1984: Participates in the exhibition The Century of Kafka at the Centre Georges Pompidou.
- 1985: The Centre Georges Pompidou orders a Mur Magnétique for the entrance to the Galeries Contemporaines. - First prize at the Paris Biennale.
- 1986: "Parallel Erotic Line": a performance with Joelle Leandre (musician) and Martha Zioga (dancer) at the Musée Rath, in Geneva. - The "Research Center for the Art and the Sciences" is founded in Athens.
- 1987: The defence public authority grants Takis the use of the largest space that has ever been given to any artist in the history of Paris: 3,500 m2 (26,840 sq ft) for a forest of 76 Signaux, 3.50 to 9.50 metres (11.5 to 31.2 ft) high.
- 1988: Wins the French Grand Prix for Sculpture. - Creates a signal for the Seoul Olympic park. - "Jocasta": performance and exhibition "Electra 88", in Stavros Mihalarias Art Center. Takis designs the costumes, composes the music, sets the scenery and directs the performance.
- 1990: Commissioned for Signaux lumineux for the Grande Arche de la Défense. - Takis's representative works at galerie Xippas in Paris. - "Isidos Awakening": performance with Barbara Maurothalasiti.
- 1992: Transforms the Beauvais waterworks into a 65 m (211 feet) musical sculpture.
- 1993: Retrospective at the Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume. - Inauguration of K.E.T.E. in Athens. Five Aeolian Signals ornament UNESCO's garden. - The Minister of Greek Culture, Melina Mercouri, described them as "totems of the 21st century". - French Republic honors Takis with the special edition of a stamp depicting Takis' spiral.
- 1994: The Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume exhibition is shown at the School for Fine Arts in Athens.
- 1995: Takis is elected to represent Greece at the 46th Venice Biennale where he declares: "I am a citizen of the world" and "annuls" the Greek pavilion as a symbolic gesture of the annulment of frontiers in art; choosing to exhibit in the open space before the pavilion.
- 1999: The Attiko Metro authority commissions the creation of a work for the Syngrou Fix station in Athens.
- 2000: The Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art (MACBA) and the Hayward Gallery in London put Takis' artworks on show. - Takis exposes his "solar energy sculpture" in Delphi.
- 2001: The European Parliament awards the "Research Center for the Art and the Sciences" an Honorary Plaque for its contribution to the field of renewable energy sources. - Takis donates three signals for the permanent collection of Centre Pompidou in Paris. The signals are placed in the terrace of the building in the 5th floor. Four years later, the picture of the three artworks is used for Centre Pompidou's Christmas card. - The galerie Xippas exhibits Takis's artworks within the framework of manifestations for the Art Athina 2001 project.
- 2003: Takis participates in the exhibition Music Mirrors - History Conscience commissioned by the Company for the Creation of a New Building for the Greek Lyric Stage and Academy - "Maria Kallas". He offers a "musical" as a symbolic gesture for the New Greek Opera. - Takis's Ligne paralléle vibrative (1972) and Colonne magnétique (2003) are presented at Xippas gallery in Athens. - Exhibition at the European Cultural Center of Delphi: Takis participates with the Dedication to Apollo (study 1).
- 2004: The Musical Spheres are displayed in the Atomium's exposition en equilibre et en movement. - Takis new work the Music of Spheres: Musical Space 1 is shown in Larissa Contemporary Art Center in Greece. - Magnetic Walls, Aeolian Signals, Antigravity Spheres, and Musical Spheres are exhibited in one art show in Sicily (Galleria Credito Siciliano) and Milan (Galleria Gruppo). - The Olympic Games in Athens inspires Takis to exhibit his Olympic Spirals and Aeolian Signals in the National Glyptotheque as well as in the exhibition Athens by Art organized by the Athenian municipality. Takis's poster inspired by the Athens 2004 Games and commissioned by the Musée d'art contemporain du Val-de-Marne. - He puts out of use four of his Musicals exhibited in Athens by the Bonham's auction house. He arranges that these are not sold by auction in London.
- 2005: Solar Magnetic Fields exhibition at Stavros Mihalarias Art Center in Athens.
- 2015: "The Fourth Dimension" exhibition at The Menil Collection, Houston, TX
- Busch, Julia M.; A Decade of Sculpture: the New Media in the 1960s (The Art Alliance Press: Philadelphia)
- Associated University Presses: London, (1974) ISBN 0-87982-007-1