A British art critic’s ties with Greece

The British art critic Charles Spencer had never planned to come to Greece until 1958, when his friend Patrick O’Keefe suggested they spend a summer visiting Athens, the islands and the Peloponnese. After that, Spencer kept returning to Greece, making the country into a second home and embracing Greek artists and intellectuals as his family. Spencer’s relationship with Greece was, in his own words, an «unforeseen love affair.» It provided him with an in-depth exploration of Greek art. But he also provided Greek artists with friendship, a critic’s perspective on their art, and exposure of their work to the British press. «Charliko in Greece: Memoirs of an English Art Critic in Greece» was written by Charles Spencer and recently published by Gema publications in separate English and Greek language editions (Stathis Sklavounakos translated the Greek edition). The book documents Spencer’s special affinity with Greece. It is a warm, unpretentious account blending the author’s memories of his friendships, his reading of his artists’ personalities, and excerpts of his articles on Greek art. His articles offer his perspective as an art critic but also let the reader know how Spencer helped artists become known abroad. When Spencer visited Greece, he was an art critic for The New York Times European edition, the London Daily Mail and a contributor to art journals in Britain and abroad. He later became editor of Art & Artists. Giorgos Bouzianis was the first Greek artist he wrote about. His article appeared in The Studio Magazine in 1960. The first Greek artist he met and befriended was Yiannis Spyropoulos, who introduced him to other artists. Gradually, Spencer became involved in the heart of the Greek artistic milieu. Spencer writes about Christos Capralos, Apergis and Giorgos Zongolopoulos. There are chapters on expatriate Greek artists in Paris as well as artists including Niki Kanagini, set designer Nikos Georgiadis, Frosso Michalea, Fassianos and Takis, and a section on Cypriot artists. Spencer is not trying to be exhaustive in documenting Greek art or artists on their artistic merit alone. His book is a memoir, a story of a man who, more than anything else, appreciated the value of friendship.