Alexander Iolas (1907-1987) was a Greek art gallerist and collector. Born in Alexandria, Egypt to Greek parents, he went to Berlin in 1924 as a pianist. Soon, he moved to Paris to study ballet. There, he socialized with artists such as Jean Cocteau, Giorgio de Chirico, Georges Braque, Pablo Picasso, Man Ray, Rene Magritte and Max Ernst and bought his first works of art.
In 1944 he gave up ballet and got involved in the art world. He opened galleries in New York, Paris, Milan, Madrid and Geneva. In his galleries, he represented artists such as Andy Warhol, René Magritte, Roberto Matta, Ed Ruscha, Jean Tinguely, Joseph Cornell, Yves Klein, Jannis Kounellis, Takis, Victor Brauner, Jules Olitski, and Niki de Saint-Phalle. In fact, he was the one who organized Warhol’s first and last shows (during the artist’s life) in New York. Known primarily for his exclusive representation of the major European Surrealists in the United States- primarily Max Ernst and René Magritte – Alexander Iolas helped to form more than one important collection.
Alexander Iolas built between 1951-1972 a 1300 square meter Attica-stylle villa on a 7000 square meter lot in Agia Paraskevi, a suburb of Athens. It was designed and built by the Greek architect Dimitris Pikionis, along with artistYiannis Tsarouhis. There, he started exhibiting his collection, together with ancient Greek and Roman antiquities.
In his last years, he tried to donate the villa along with his whole collection to the Greek state, the government at that time though denied the deal. Iolas died in 1987 and his villa became property of his heirs who sold it to a real estate developer. The construction plans however, were held up by the Ministry of Culture that marked it as a site of Greek cultural heritage in 1998 and promised to acquire the villa from its owners. Since then, no progress has been made and the property has remained abandoned. The villa nowadays has been heavily vandalized and most of his collection of art works has been stolen or dispersed. A part of the collection had been already donated by Iolas himself to the Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art. The only items that remain in the villa today are artefacts too heavy to take away, like roman columns and other marble vanities.
Photos credit: 1-25 Filopappou Group, 26 -29 greekarchitects.gr, 30 protothema.gr, 31 nationalgelleries.org