A collector’s love for painting

In the 1980s, a number of young, Greek painters who worked in a figurative style became a strong presence on the local artistic scene. Of roughly the same age, they were not tied to any official artistic group, yet they all shared a love for pure painting and figuration and soon became known as the «new figurative painters.» In time, the term has become synonymous with one of the most clearly defined movements in contemporary Greek painting. Broadly speaking, this movement is seen as a continuation of the art produced by some of the most classic names in 20th century Greek painting, as well as being an influence on a younger generation of figurative painters. Paintings produced by this generation of Greek painters (now aged anywhere between their early 40s and early 50s) are at the heart of a private art collection that belongs to Antonis Hadjioannou – an Athens-based lawyer – and his wife Azia Dimotaki-Hadjioannou, a philologist. The couple has been collecting figurative Greek paintings for almost three decades, yet decided to go public only recently. Almost half of the collection is presented in «Aspects of the Figure, Semantics of the Landscape,» an exhibition which just opened at the Municipal Gallery of Hania and is curated by art historian Iris Kritikou. The exhibition is as much an expression of the collectors’ taste as it is a broader presentation of a particular, ongoing movement in contemporary Greek painting. In spite of the omissions – not all artists that work in a figurative style are included – it captures an important aspect of contemporary art production in Greece which, despite its commercial success and a devoted following of art collectors, is often snubbed by the trendier part of the art establishment, on the grounds that it lacks the edge or innovation supposedly contained in much of contemporary art. The Hania exhibition comes as a riposte. It proclaims the value of figurative, Greek painting, makes its presence felt and provides an occasion to appraise its importance and the role that it will hold over the course of 20th century Greek art. Thematically, the works in the exhibition are either landscapes or depictions of figures. «Dreamlike Landscape,» painted by Giorgos Gounaropoulos in 1940, is the oldest work included in the exhibition. It was one of the first works acquired by the collectors, who started off with more «classic» works but gradually became interested in the work of younger artists. The works included in the exhibition were made in the past 10 years and mostly from 2000 onward. However, the artists represented belong to different age groups. The late Giorgos Mavroidis, for example, belonged to the Thirties Generation, along with artists such as Yiannis Tsarouchis or Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghikas. Panayiotis Tetsis is also among the senior artists of the exhibition. He is known for his large landscapes and his use of color to depict volume and light. The exhibition moves from the ground floor to the mezzanine and gathers force on the first floor. Here, the large portraits by Stefanos Daskalakis have a rawness and physicality that is overwhelming. The way that the artist works with color and light is also impressive. The warm but glowing red in a full-figure portrait by the younger Savvas Georgiadis creates a nice, chromatic contrast. A painting by Maria Giannakaki shows the artist’s skill in combining line and color. Among the smaller works, the portrait of a reclining woman by Yiannis Palaiologos resonates a sense of austerity, elegance and sensuality. «Old Woman with a Headdress,» painted by Stathis Petropoulos, seems as realistic as a photograph. It also shows the artist’s skill in capturing light. There are also the small, surreal-like compositions of Manolis Bitsakis. For those who appreciate the properties of painting – color, line, volume – the exhibition on the Hadjioannou collection will offer several hours of visual pleasure. The preponderance of figurative works may perhaps seem a bit too classic, maybe a trifle conservative. Yet the fact that the collection centers on a particular style of painting gives it focus and personality. Moreover, at a time when much of art has become too conceptual and people have to have a work of art explained to them before they can appreciate it, to see an exhibition that has a direct impact on the eye is a welcome change. The Hania Municipal Gallery Located at the entrance of Hania’s old city, a five-minute walk away from the old port, the Municipal Gallery of Hania (98-102 Halidon, 28210.92294) was established around five years ago in a renovated building that was erected in 1910. The gallery has organized modern and contemporary art exhibitions and has also collaborated with others of its kind, Greek museums such as the State Museum of Contemporary Art in Thessaloniki (for the exhibition on the Costakis collection of the Russian Avant-Garde) and the Averof Gallery in Metsovo. It has presented the work of important Greek artists, among them Vlassis Caniaris, Yiannis Spyropoulos, Valerios Kaloutsis and Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghikas. The exhibition on the Hadjioannou collection will be presented through mid-July.

Subscribe to our Newsletters

Enter your information below to receive our weekly newsletters with the latest insights, opinion pieces and current events straight to your inbox.

By signing up you are agreeing to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.