We all want a piece of the ” Picasso of Greece ”

Alekos Fassianos’s strong colors, Hellenic symbolism and experimental forms have never been hotter

The Athens suburb of Agios Pavlos is no Montmartre. There is no sign, as you stroll past the graffitied metro station and housing blocks, that it is the domain of one of Greece’s most famous artists. But behind a conspicuous copper door on Neofitou Metaxa street is the former family home of Alekos Fassianos, the man once nicknamed ”the Picasso of Greece”.

Fassianos was renowned in his home country for his paintings, sculptures and furniture throughout his lifetime. And his works made their way into the permanent collections of the Benaki Museum, the Centre Pompidou and the Fondation Maeght.

”People love his sculptures of birds or cyclists”

Yet despite his national-treasure status, Fassianos never achieved widespread global recognition. But since his death in 2022,at the age of 86, there has been a wave of renewed interest. Last year, Tommaso Calabro in Milan held a solo exhibition of his paintings and works on paper, and he appeared as part of Ithaca , a show about Greek artists at London’s Herald St gallery. His childhood home and atelier on the island of Kea have been converted into a two-floor museum. ”My father has evidently found a new audience; we’ve had an unexpected track record of visitors to the museum who are young, new-age Fassianos lovers,” says Viktoria Fassianou, who is in charge of the Alekos Fassianos Estate. 

Collector interest has been on the rise as a result. Hotelier Yiannis Retsos, who, along with his wife Ioanna Dretta, owns a collection of Fassianos’s paintings, has already noticed this upward trend. ”Prices have gone up significantly over the past few years”, he says. In November 2022, La photo oubliée (1975), an orgy of red shapes and figures in a salon, commanded more than 170,000€ at an auction by Bonhams Paris, up from an estimate of €80,000-€120,000. Says Titi Angelopoulou, Who is responsible for curating Greek art at Bonhams: “Fassianos is like Andy Warhol in Greece. Everyone knows him, and his popularity is rising elsewhere.” 

The most popular pieces for collectors are the blue and red paintings he began making in the late ’90s, depicting “Fassianic” symbols, “like the wind blowing through scarves and people’s hair”, says Viktoria. At the Bonhams Greek sale in Paris last year, the dreamy Monsieur le vent, a pink sunset scene showing a figure holding a windswept scarf over their head, sold for €63,900 (estimate €20,000-€30,000). The seaside scene Le Chasseur de mer went for €44,800 (estimate €12,000-€18,000). 

But Herald St’s director Émilie Streiff suggests looking for paintings from the late 1960s, characterised by broad‑bodied figures against flat expanses of vibrant colour. The 2D figures and shapes are obscure, surreal almost, and there is a strong sense of experimentation in the way he used a single colour. “I find these to be the most stylistically beautiful,” says Streiff. Retsos concurs, gravitating towards work from the ’60s and ’70s. “People tend to invest in the more recognisable works, but I like his early phases where I can observe his evolution.” Fassianos’s sketches from this period are more moderately priced, including the charming beach scene Solitude, sold at a Bonhams auction in April for €12,800. At the lower end of the market, a lithograph poster of his Thinker with a Watch (1978) is on 1stDibs for €490.

You can recognise his hand in “everything he made, from expansive and detailed paintings to small toys cut out of sheet metal”, says Streiff. For his design work, Viktoria notes that “people love his bronze sculptures of birds, cyclists, or his various figurines, as well as his tables and chairs with their unique shapes and colours”. Most of his furniture designs were unique, and are all owned by the Fassianos Estate, but you can buy limited-edition reproductions. Carwan Gallery in Athens currently has a selection, including a magnificent wicker bench (€12,000; limited to 100 pieces), a sofa with two painted serpent heads in the centre (€18,000), a glass table with red wooden legs (€15,000), and a selection of lamps decorated with bronze cut-outs of Fassianos motifs (between €2,500 and €3,000).

But you don’t need to spend. Browsing the small antique shops in bohemian quarters of Athens such as Pangrati or Exarchia, you’ll find trinkets bearing his signature scattered everywhere: ashtrays painted with profiles of gods, or the books he designed for Olympic Airlines that were once gifted to passengers (though Viktoria is quick to mention that some of these are fake).  And some of his pieces can’t be collected, only enjoyed. Retsos’s proudest work by Fassianos is an installation that he privately commissioned, cut out of sheet metal and spread over three walls around a staircase. “Light metallic shapes represent the heads and shoulders of a boy and a girl – myself and my wife Ioanna, surrounded by flowers,” he says. “The pigeons symbolise the feeling of escape.”