CULTURE

Exhibition pays tribute to a 20th century great and remembers his influence

A blend of tradition and modernity was an important aspect of Greek interwar art and what is actually thought of as having defined the work of an entire generation of artists: the so-called Thirties generation that is considered to have sought a Greek identity in art. Nikos Nikolaou was one of the most important artists of this generation, a contemporary and close friend of Yiannis Moralis, another great figure from this group. Nikolaou was part of an entire artistic and intellectual milieu in what is often thought of, not without a certain nostalgia, as one of the better periods in 20th century Greek culture. An exhibition that pays tribute to the work of Nikolaou serves as a reminder of this time but also reveals the particular style in which the painter worked. Currently on display at the Benaki Museum, the exhibition includes 70 paintings that span the career of the artist, hundreds of drawings and a large number of the artist’s works for costume and theater set design. There are also his trademark paintings (mostly portraits) on stone that Nikolaou made in Aegina, the island on which he settled in the early 1960s. All the works belong to the Nikos and Angela Nikolaou Foundation and were presented to the museum on a loan agreement. The present exhibition actually marks the beginning of an exclusive collaboration between the Nikolaou Foundation and the Benaki Museum, aimed at exhibiting and studying the work of the artist. Nikos Nikolaou was mostly interested in painting the human figure, the female figure being his favorite subject matter. He rendered the human figure in a schematic way through large, flat areas and broad color surfaces delineated with bold outlines. He valued and studied the potential of line and contour and was greatly drawn to ancient Greek painting and Faiyum portraiture. Nikolaou’s fondness for ancient Greek painting comes through in his paintings and is probably one of the strongest features of his art. It marks his particular style but also reflects the attempt of an entire generation of artists at «reinventing» aspects of Greek cultural history and using elements from it to create a modern style of painting. The works on view will soon be moved to the Kriezotou branch of the Benaki Museum, a building that Nikos Hadzikyriakos-Ghika donated to the museum and is currently being renovated. The annex will serve as an exhibition space for the work of some of the greatest names in Greek art; painters of the Thirties generation among them. The presentation of the works of Nikos Nikolaou at the Benaki Museum exhibition space is one aspect of a collaboration between the Nikos and Angela Nikolaou Foundation with the museum. Another involves a project concerning the artist’s atelier on Aegina, a place that served as a meeting place for artists and intellectuals in Nikolaou’s lifetime. At the Benaki Museum (1 Koumbari, 210.367.1006) through May 8. Thursdays open until midnight.