Alexis Akrithakis

Alexis Akrithakis



Alexis Akrithakis was born in Athens in 1939. His father was a son of a refugee from Izmir and his mother was a well-known businessman in the haute couture industry. From an early age he started painting and was influenced by intellectuals and men of letters such as Yannis Makris and Kostas Tachtsis. During the period from 1956 to 1960, he lived mainly in Paris, where he enrolled in the Académie de la Grande Chaumière. While studying, Akrithakis enjoyed the Parisian life of the era that brought him close to personalities such as Alberto Giaccometi and Jean Seeberg. In 1961, he returned to Athens where he was drafted into the army but was later relieved of his military duties. In 1963, he held his first solo exhibition at Anna Veltsou’s gallery in Thessaloniki, while at the same time, he was designing posters and stage sets for theater plays, as well as decorating album, book and magazine covers. The exhibition, that marked the official beginning of his career, took place in 1965 at the French Institute of Athens; the catalog’s preface was written by Nanos Valaoritis. In the same year, he participated in the 2nd International Exhibition of Objective Poetry and Painting in Copenhagen. During the 1960s, his work gradually evolved from black and white ink and pencil drawings into the characteristic labyrinth motifs and poetic symbols with bold outlines and colors. In 1968, he held a solo exhibition at the Goethe-Institut in Athens and, in the same year, he secured the DAAD’s scholarship and moved to Berlin. There, alongside with his wife Fofi Koutselini, owner of the famous Fofi's bar, and their daughter Chloe, he experienced the most productive period of his life. He met Alexander Iolas, who had a catalytic influence on his career and, with his support he participated in exhibitions in Geneva, Turin, Venice, Düsseldorf, Berlin, Munich, Cologne, Athens and Thessaloniki. In 1972, he participated in Christos M. Joachimides’ exhibition Scene-Berlin and, in 1977, he collaborated with the Karen & Jean Bernier Gallery in Athens. During this period, he focused on the production of paper collages from torn Marlboro cigarettes packs and of woodwork from pieces of wood found on beaches and roads. The highlight of this practice is the installation Bar (1981), a natural-sized construction-environment presented at the Bernier-Eliades Gallery, where he associated art with lived reality. Later, he incorporated other materials such as light bulbs, mirrors and plastic flowers into his wooden constructions, giving them a sarcastic and at the same time pop character. In 1984, he permanently returned to Athens. Despite his physical and mental health problems, he remained artistically active. After 10 years, in 1994, he died in Athens. Important exhibitions and series of work of that period are: The Circus in collaboration with Giorgos Lappas (1986), My flowers for my suicide friends (1990), The monsters (1992). After his death, a retrospective exhibition was held at the Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art in Thessaloniki, and at the National Gallery – Alexandros Soutsos Museum of Athens in 1997 and, in 2003, at the Neue National Galerie in Berlin. More recent exhibitions with his work were organised by the Organization of Culture, Sport and Youth of the Municipality of Athens (2018) and the Benaki Museum (2019) in Athens. The personal pursuits and experiences of a turbulent life are reflected even from Alexis Akritakis' early works, a fact that contributed to the myth of his personality and made him one of the most recognizable and iconic creators of his generation.