Takis, Musical Sphere, 1985, aluminum, iron, metal spring, metal wire, paint, polyester. © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2019. Photo: Hlias Nak.

Takis (1925–2019)

The Greek artist Takis—who, as a leading figure of the kinetic art movement of the 1950s and ’60s, incorporated light, sound, and magnets into his sculptures over the course of a seventy-year career—has died. He was ninety-three years old.

A self-taught artist with a keen appreciation for Picasso and Giacometti, Takis moved to France in 1954 after being born and raised in Athens and began producing dozens of his telemagnetically manipulated metal sculptures in 1959. “Pulled toward electromagnets yet restrained by wires, the suspended metal cones and needles of Takis’s ‘Télésculptures’ seem to quiver with absurd and frustrated desire,” wrote Tyler Cann in the January 2015 issue of Artforum. “[The galleries] hum with what William S. Burroughs described as Takis’s ‘cold blue mineral music of thinking metal.’”

Takis continued to incorporate magnets, radar, and other technologies into his sculptures throughout the 1960s and ’70s, often approaching his work with the methodology of a scientist or an engineer investigating the mysteries and concepts of energy. “I cannot think of my work as entirely my work,” he once said. “In a sense, I’m only a transmitter, I simply bathe in energy. The artist must preserve this intense receptiveness. The real artist you cannot touch.” 

Brought up during the German and Italian occupations as well as the Greek Civil War, Takis was active politically in both his life and his work. In 1969, the artist was included in “The Machine as Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age” exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, for which he—along with several other artists—physically removed their work, which had been exhibited without their permission. The action resulted in the establishment of the Art Workers’ Coalition, and the group, which included Takis, Carl Andre, Hans Haacke, Lucy Lippard, and John Perreault, went on to advocate for artists’ rights and protest exclusionary museum policies and the Vietnam War. In the 1980s, he founded the Takis Foundation, Research Center for the Art and the Sciences on the edge of Athens.

The artist’s work is currently the subject of a major survey at London’s Tate Modern, on view through October 27, 2019, and is in the collections of the Menil Collection, Houston; the Palais de Tokyo, Paris; the Centre Pompidou, Paris; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; and the Museum of Modern Art, New York.