Panayiotis Vassilakis, known as Takis, is considered one of the most important figures of international contemporary art. Despite having no formal training and not beginning to practice art until the age of twenty, Takis became one of the leading artists of the twentieth and twenty-first century, in particular for his development of kinetic art from the late 1950s. His early work in the 1940s was strongly influenced by Picasso and Giacometti – their exaggerated, caricatural figures were particularly interesting to the young artist.
The 1950s saw Takis begin his instantly recognizable Signals series, one which he returns to throughout his career. It is said that his inspiration for this series arose while waiting for a train and becoming fascinated by the trackside signals, which provoked him to reject representational art and pursue sculpture that includes light and movement. These sculptures are imposing, otherworldly creations topped with metal shapes or flashing lights which sway in response to vibrations around them. This series would go on to include motors, bulbs, and fireworks and demonstrates his interest in researching movement and energies.
His interest in the interlacing potentials for energy was so prolific that he was awarded a scholarship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the Center of Advanced Visual Studies where he continued his studies into electromagnetic forces and the importance of energy binding us together. We are delighted to offer the important number 96 from Series 3 of the Signals series dating to 1968. This piece comprises two long enamelled aluminium poles standing over two metres high with flashing green, amber, and orange lights to the top. These long, flexible rods bend and move to create an almost musical harmony of colour and vibration.
Takis’s legacy is clear from his extensive career: from his first one-man show in London in 1955 to his retrospective at Tate Modern in 2019, months before his death at the age of 93. Not only remembered for his important contribution as a visual artist, in 1969 he was also a co-founder of the Art Workers’ Coalition who fought for economic and political rights for artists in New York. Moreover in 1986 he founded the Takis Foundation in Athens, a foundation whose mission is to research and develop the arts and sciences, continuing his work and ensuring his legacy.
The works of Panayiotis Vassilakis are important both in the development of a new aesthetic language exploring vibrations and light, and in their scientific exploration of energy. His work, and particularly his celebrated Signals series can be found in many important public collections such as Tate Modern in London, MoMA in New York, and in the UNESCO art collection in Paris.