Bonhams auctioneers show Greek art in Athens

Greek 19th- and early 20th-century art may not have a huge, international following of buyers and art collectors but among a group of Greeks it is particularly sought after. This demand, which has actually grown through the years, partly because of the scarcity of Greek works on the market, is what led British auctioneers Bonhams to organize a sale of Greek paintings at its London offices on June 11 and to hold a viewing of the works in Athens before that, followed by one in London just before the sale. Currently in the pleasant, neoclassical interior of the Epistrofi Gallery at Psyrri (6 Taki Street), the exhibition provides the opportunity for a close inspection of the works by interested buyers but is also a chance for the art public to look at works that rarely come up for public viewing. Of the 70 lots (not all are on display in Athens), some are indeed quite unique. The newly discovered «First Music Lesson» by Georgios Iakovides (the work with the highest cost estimate of 100-150,000 pounds), is a fine example of the painter’s work, revealed to scholars and the public for the first time. A study of the child’s feet existed but the work itself was unknown. Other highlights include «The Harbor of Volos,» an unusually melancholy work by Constantinos Volanakis, the great master of seascapes (estimated at 75-95,000 pounds) and «Woman Sewing» (70-90,000 pounds) a genre scene by Nicolaos Gyzis. There are also some fine works by 20th-century painters, a spare «Window Scene» by Nikos Hadzikyriakos-Ghika, a small painting of sailors by Yiannis Tsarouchis, a colorful island view by Yiannis Spyropoulos, a pioneer of abstraction in Greece, and a large composition by Yiannis Moralis striking for its use of a bold red in the middle of the painting. By conducting the sale at its London offices, Bonhams hopes to expand the Greek art audience to include an international public. This plan reflects the profile of a growing company – Bonhams merged with British Brooks auctioneers two years ago and with Phillips UK in the fall of 2001. Since then, it has been the third power in the art market, with 40 offices around the world and an equal number of specialty departments. The Greek sale is part of one of the three sales on 19th-century art held by Bonhams each year. For the company, it may serve as a test run for further inroads into the field of Greek art. Until then, there are no plans for a steadier base in Athens. Irrespective of future developments, the Bonhams sale may contribute to shaping the Greek part of the international art market. Another benefit from sales of this kind is that they indirectly advance the study of the field by providing documentation of, and research into, the works. This is particularly valuable for Greek art in which, compared with other Western art, connoisseurship and research are not particularly strong areas. Viewing hours: 10.00 a.m.-9 p.m. to May 24. Information: 010.747.4333 or 0207.7393.3868.