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The Art of the Great Takis, Soon at Tate Modern

  • Takis - Radar
  • Takis - Signal
July 1, 2019
Balasz Takac is alias of Vladimir Bjelicic who is actively engaged in art criticism, curatorial and artistic practice.

Kinetic art has a history of its own which can be traced back to the late 19th century. The some of the first kinetic artworks, or moving three-dimensional objects, or mobiles (naturally or machine operated) however were made during the 1920s by the avant-garde pioneers such as Laszlo Moholy Nagy, Alexander Rodchenko, Vladimir Tatlin, and Alexander Calder. The interest in art-science experiments remerged once again during the 1960s in light of vast technological advancement and of conquering the space.

One of the most significant proponents of this particular art phenomenon is the Greek-born Parisian artist Takis. Throughout his more than six decades-long career, this notable figure has been exploring magnetism, light, and sound and his innovative deeds transcended the very notion of an artwork.

Tate Modern will open a vast Takis retrospective including over seventy works aimed to underline the artist’s pioneering role in the development of kinetic art.

Takis - Telepainting
Takis – Telepainting, 1959. Acrylic paint on canvas, magnets, metal, nylon thread, 2800 × 6100 × 3500 mm. Collection of Liliane Lijn © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2019

An Impressive Biography

Takis is a self-taught artist born Panagiotis Vassilakis in Athens in 1925. In 1954 he moved to Paris and quickly became affiliated with the international artistic and literary circles. Takis’ kinetic experiments made to be controlled by invisible natural forces were noticed and admired by the likes of William S. Burroughs and Marcel Duchamp.

In the late 1950s, the artist became dazzled by radar and started exploring magnetism as a new element significant for the reinvention of sculpture. Takis even released a sort of a happening in 1960 called The Impossible – Man in Space, in which the poet Sinclair Beiles was suspended in mid-air through a system of magnets while the artist recited the poem “Magnetic Manifesto”.

Alongside the constant experimentation, Takis was politically active and was a leading participant of the Art Workers’ Coalition. In 1986, he founded the Takis Foundation – Research Center for the Art and the Sciences in Athens, which became a significant hub for his research.

Takis - Magnetic Wall 9
Takis – Magnetic Wall 9 (Red) 1961. Acrylic paint on canvas, magnets, metal, cloth, nylon thread180 × 220 × 10 cm. Centre Pompidou, Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle, Paris © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2019

The Selection of Works

This exhibition will include Takis’ famous telemagnetic works consisting of metallic objects floating with the use of magnets (such as Magnetic Wall 9 (Red), 1961). The artist used various electronic devices in order to achieve suspense within his art.

A highlight will be the installation Magnetic Fields made by the artist in 1969, in which magnetic pendulums cause the movement of almost a hundred sculptures. The curiosity is that Takis used to collect materials from flea markets and military second-hand shops (salvaged airplane gauges, the radio antennas of US army jeeps, etc.). For instance, a 1970s work titled Signals was made from various bomb fragments from the Greek Civil War gathered in the area around the artist’s Athens studio.

The show will feature musical devices made by Takis from 1965 onward. Magnets, electricity and the physical presence of the viewer produce sounds aimed to evoke the sound of cosmos. The pieces Musical Sphere (1985) and Gong from (1978) made from the rusted wall of a tanker will close the installment.

Photograph of Takis and Guy Brett
Clay Perry – Photograph of Takis and Guy Brett 1966 © Clay Perry, England & Co gallery, London

Takis at Tate Modern

The team consisting of the writer and curator Guy Brett (who collaborates with Takis since the 1960s), and the Tate Modern curators Michael Wellen and Helen O’Malley curated the exhibition which will be followed by an extensive catalog including new scholarly essays.

Takis will be on display at the Tate Modern from 3 July until 27 October 2019, and then it will be on view at the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona from 21 November 2019, and finally, it will travel to the Museum of Cycladic Art, Athens, where it will open on 20 May 2020.

Featured images: Takis – Radar (detail) 1960. Aluminium, magnet, 67.5 × 74 × 15cm. Takis Foundation © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2019; Takis – Signal (detail)1964–5. Lamp, paint, steel, 256 × 25.5 × 19.5 cm. Tate © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2019. All images courtesy Tate Modern.