IOLAS: The Legacy, 2018 Marble, Acrylic, Liquid FE, Gold, 24x13x14cm, 7.5Kgr Designed and Crafted in collaboration with Theo Franstalis
My first contact with the Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art (MMCA) occurred 22 years ago when I arrived in Thessaloniki, when I was still trying to make my first steps in visual communication, typography and artistic creation. It was still too early to realize that the permanent collection of the Museum (donated by Iolas), composed of works of contemporary artists of international reputation such as Andy Warhol, Takis, Akrithakis, Jean Tinguely, Niki de Saint Phalle, Magritte, Man Ray and many others, would influence my thought and action for anything creative I would pursue in the years to come.
Sometime later, MMCA’s Board of Directors trusted me to design the museological content of Herbert List’s retrospective exposition curated by Ulrich Pohlmann and Matoula Scaltsa and that was enough to mark the beginning of an even deeper relationship with the museum’s people. Among them Thouli Misirloglou, still a student at the Historical–Archaeological Faculty of AUTh. Since then, our close cooperation, but above all friendship, continued with mutual love and respect for each other.
Until 2010, several collaborations with the Museum had already taken place, but the most important one was the design of the 580–page anniversary edition to mark the 30th anniversary of the MMCA since its founding. Initially, the study and sorting of archive material and, secondarily, the endless daytime work with Katerina Kamara and Thouli, was enough for me to learn not only the history of the MMCA, but also the life and work of the original collector from Alexandria, Alexander Iolas.
It was great to learn about his love for the arts and the artists, his contribution to the formation of the contemporary Greek artistic scene, the characteristics of his incompatible and eccentric personality, his globality and his love for the essential – and not empty of meaning– Hellas. An unclassified man of art, as Thouli very accurately says, a genuine cosmopolitan, a capital for the artistic community, who despite being recognized – still alive – by world figures such as Calas, Breton, Gavras, Cavafy, Sikelianos, Cocteau and others, was hunted and fought until the end of “Avriani” (greek gutter press of the 1980s) as no man of the arts to date.
It was great to learn about the collector who had the ability to select Andy Warhol before “Andy Warhol”, about the man who turned the painter Rene Magritte into a sculptor one night, simply claiming ... his ideas, because he thought that the second had run out of them on the paper and the two dimensions, about the man who dared to install the works of Takis on an ancient Greek capital, creating an unprecedented cultural dialogue.
As we all know, after his death, his home in Agia Paraskevi –a small museum in fact– was abandoned at the mercy of time and destruction, since there was no care on the part of the state for its preservation and cultural capitalization. 30 years later, it still lays abandoned despite the Mayor’s statement at the press conference that MMCA organised saying about his intentions to “clean the marbles and turn the house into a cultural space”. True ... (and as Chrysa Zarkali rightly put it in a recent debate). How do you clean up a nation’s timeless disgrace?
Today, as the budding audience like the one of next “Avriani” in coffee and social media, Iolas remains more relevant than ever. Together with the footprint he has left.
On the occasion of the design of the museological content of the exhibition, my favorite corbel (‘fourousi’), memento from Iolas’ home, turns 15 years later at “home” as an artwork. To find his place among the collector’s friends, who for years have been my friends too. As a small tribute to the spirit of Iolas, but also as thanks from my heart to the people of the Museum for all these years!