A painter’s colorful world

His art and life are seen as inseparable, one a reflection of the other. The reputation of the late artist Alexis Akrithakis blends his imaginative work, his unusual, youthful personality and his bohemian, adventurous and – as his untimely death in 1994 proved – self-destructive life. Alexis Akrithakis is remembered for having the sensitivity and ebullient, daring disposition of a young man. Not surprisingly, one of his wishes was to illustrate Saint Exupery’s «Little Prince.» He never did, but the happy, vibrant colors of his realized paintings – as well as the bold outlines and simple motifs of arrows, boats or suitcases that recur in those works – come close to the tale’s melancholy yet optimistic message. Strangely, Akrithakis’s art and Saint Exupery’s tale have something in common. Just like «The Little Prince» the art of Alexis Akrithakis invokes magic, regardless of one’s taste in art. This likely led gallery owners Roupen and Arsen Kalfayan to recall the Akrithakis paintings they have sold in the past decade and bring them together into one single exhibition, currently on view at their gallery in Athens. The exhibition is as much a retrospective of the choices the gallery has made on the works of Akrithakis as it is an occasion to look closely at paintings which, in several cases, have never been shown before. An example is «4 Versions of Fascism in Greece,» a gouache from 1967, when Akrithakis was just emerging as a young artist. A statement of derision against the Greek junta, the work was in the hands of a friend of Akrithakis until quite recently, when it finally emerged on the market and caught the attention of specialists. «The Universe,» another early work by the artist, is a large painting dense with motifs and schematically painted figurines, a mosaic of interlacing images bursting with a rich palette in which vibrant yellows and fiery reds stand out. It was discovered by the Kalfayan just a few months before the large retrospective of the artist’s work opened at the National Gallery in 1997. Forgery has plagued the work of Akrithakis. There are plenty of fake paintings signed «Akrithakis» on the market. Though expert Maria Kotzamani has studied his work in detail and helped document it (a catalogue raisonnee is under way), the production of fake paintings cannot be checked. So this Athens exhibition can help document the great artist’s work and familiarize the public with his unique style. Kalfayan gallery (6 Kapsali, 210.721.7679). To December 5.

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