Konstantin Kakanias

Kakanias Konstantin
© Stathis Orfanos

Born in Athens in 1961, Kakanias attended the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, majoring in Textile Design, until 1979 when he moved to Paris. He attended the Studio Berçot where he studied Fashion and Art (1981-1984). Kakanias moved to Luxor, Egypt to study Ancient Egyptian art (1983-1984). His drawings were published by New York Times, American Vogue, French Vogue, Italian Vogue, Vanity Fair, Vanity, Le Matin, House and Garden, Tattler among others. In 1996 Kakanias introduced his fictional heroine Mrs.Tependris for an illustrated “New York Times Magazine” article which gave him the Second Prize, an International Award. Moved to Los Angeles in 1997. He created textile designs for Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Lacroix, Todd Oldham, Jil Sanders and Emanuel Ungaro. In New York City he collaborated with Tiffany and Barneys New York. He collaborated with the “New York Times T” magazine (2013-2017). His work belongs to many private and public collections in Greece, France, Italy, United Kingdom and the United States. He lives and works in Los Angeles and Greece.


Solo Exhibitions


That’s Mine Bitch! Do Not Touch. Back Off. Rebecca Camhi Gallery Athens


That’s Mine Bitch! Do Not Touch. Back Off. Kalfayan Galleries Athens


Tependris Rising Rebecca Camhi Gallery Athens


Daniel Rebecca Camhi Gallery Athens


Split (Lower and Lower) Kalfayan Galleries Athens


Split (Higher and Higher) Kalfayan Galleries Thessaloniki (in association with the Thessaloniki International Film Festival)


Time Goes By…. So Slowly (After Madonna) Installation at the Museum of Cycladic Art Athens


Pearl’s Dreams Kim Light Gallery Los Angeles


Mrs Tependris …Just Before the Olympic Games in Athens Foundation of the Hellenic World Athens (presented by the Greek Ministry of Culture in association with Rebecca Camhi Gallery)


Konstantin Kakanias, Drawings Cano Estudio Madrid


Arizona Ashram Kalfayan Galleries Thessaloniki


Masterpiece Elizabeth Roberts Gallery Washington D.C. (co-sponsored by the European Commission Delegation)


Her Hollywood Years: Part II Galerie Jennifer Flay Paris


Flashbacks Works On Paper Inc. Los Angeles


New Paintings Paul Kasmin Gallery New York


Her Hollywood Years: Part II Works On Paper Inc. Los Angeles


A Collector? A Doyenne? A Muse? An Artist? – But Who Is She? Postmasters Gallery New York


Small Heroes Wigmore Fine Art London


Opere Recenti Ciocca Arte Contemporanea Milan


Yes, Yes, Yes! Rebecca Camhi Gallery Athens


Freedom or Death Jane Stubbs New York


Welcome to the Marl-Boro World Galerie Art et Public Geneva


Art 27 ’96 Basel (Rebecca Camhi Gallery)


Konstantin Kakanias Rebecca Camhi Gallery Athens


No More Stains Postmasters Gallery New York


Konstantin Kakanias Postmasters Gallery New York


Bastille Day Stubbs Books & Prints New York


Night Paintings Galerie Pierre Passebon Paris


Les Ruines des Plus Beaux Monuments de la Grèce Stubbs Books & Prints New York


Still Life with Chickens

What was one of the most contentiously fought-over objects in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s history? A treasure bought for a scandalous price and whose original owners demanded its return for over three decades before finally succeeding? Not a painting, not a sculpture – but the Sarpedon vase, a masterpiece of the Greek artist Euphronios. A work of painted ceramic.

If you are an artist as sophisticated as Konstantin Kakanias, you know that 200 years ago porcelain was considered an art form easily comparable in importance to painting or tapestry weaving (not to mention 2,000 years ago, when vase painting was basically the only game in town). So when the Greek-born artist was asked by several friends and patrons to create sets of painted ceramic plates 14 years ago, Kakanias seized the opportunity to revive this ancient art form.

Kakanias, a multimedia artist, lives in Los Angeles and Greece and is best known for his whimsical cartoonlike drawings and watercolors based on the lives of fictional characters. One of these, a posh Greek widow named Mrs Tependris, serves as a kind of alter ego inspired by various European aristocrats and 1960s Italian film stars. The couture-wearing, art-collecting Mrs Tependris engages in a series of madcap adventures across the globe.

For one of his first dinnerware collections for his close friend Christian Louboutin, Kakanias painted scenes from the designer’s own fabulous life – his shoes, his houseboat in Egypt, the mobile-disco-cum-shoe-boutique that Louboutin occasionally pilots through the Riviera. The playful subject matter is typically bordered with classical motifs like a Greek key or an anthemion pattern. Kakanias tops it all off with his clever, often ironic captions.

“I thought they would be too dainty to eat from,” says Louboutin. “That I needed them – you know – for decorative reasons first. Well, it ends up that I cannot eat off of other plates now. I need them like a junkie, and like I do with my favourite shoes – getting always two pairs – I had to order another set.” Kakanias likes that his plates are both objects of art and objects of everyday use.

For other friends, like the Los Angeles decorator Peter Dunham, Kakanias has riffed on inspiration as diverse as John Waters’s film “Pink Flamingos,” 18th-century French neoclassical architecture and even Egyptian hieroglyphics. (The artist studied in Luxor for a year.)

Chickens were the theme for a recent commission by a collector who raises exotic breeds on his Connecticut farm. As a gift for his partner’s 55th birthday, the collector ordered an equal number of plates. Kakanias took his inspiration from the term “poule de luxe” (rough translation: chicken cocooned in luxury), which, in certain European circles, is used to describe a sort of kept woman, not unlike the one played by Silvana Mangano in “Conversation Piece”, a film by Visconti and a favourite of the artist. The Duchess of Devonshire and her regal chickens served as another source of inspiration, among others.

With some preliminary sketches in hand, Kakanias headed to Paros, Greece, where he has been making the dishes since 1997. This may not be the most convenient place for his production, but certainly it’s the most romantic, according to Kakanias. “The only way on or off Paros requires several boat rides, and sometimes even donkey rides,” he explains. It is here that he will spend the next couple of months collaborating with his friend Monique Mailloux, an American expatriate who runs the local ceramics studio.

After the plates are thrown and baked once, Kakanias sits with the bare earthenware dish between his hands, not unlike his predecessor Euphronios. While classical vase painters used something like a pastry bag, Kakanias paints on the plate directly. Like a jeweller, he uses a loupe to achieve the ornate detailing along the borders. This is extremely refined stuff, as carefully painted as Sèvres but intentionally free-form in character.

Sometimes Kakanias lets an image sit for a while before adding his witty words – deciding on how best to label this merry band of aristochickens. “Which bird looks like a count? An archduchess? It takes some time to know,” he explains. “They all have a place and a position, and if you miscast them, they can be very cross.” So he bestows the fanciful creatures with titles like “Her Divinity”, “Miss Sublimity” and the “Duchess of Vulgaria”. After the painting is complete, the plates are baked again in the oven for a day and a half. (The larger dishes can cause much heartbreak as they inspire some of the more elaborate images but often crack during the firing process.)

Today the chicken plates are lovingly showcased in a display case – specifically designed for them by the owner – in the dining room. Though this might be the most grand commission, it is not his biggest one. Kakanias has made up to 300 dishes for one set, but he is adamant that he will not be transitioning into any kind of standardized production. “I refuse to put them in stores, because I want them to be accepted – and regarded – as only art,” says Kakanias, mercurial and generous all at once. “But they are also absolutely meant to be used.”


David Netto
* From WSJ Magazine, 11th October 2011.