June 21, 2018 - State Museum of Contemporary Art in Thessaloniki - Thessaloniki. The Costakis Collection. Restart
June 21, 2018

State Museum of Contemporary Art in Thessaloniki

George Costakis in his apartment in Moscow. Photo: Igor Palmin. © State Museum of Contemporary Art – Costakis collection.

Thessaloniki. The Costakis Collection. Restart
Russian avant-garde in Greece
June 29–September 16, 2018

State Museum of Contemporary Art in Thessaloniki
21, Kolokotroni str., Stavroupoli
Moni Lazariston
56430 Thessaloniki


On June 29 the State Museum of Contemporary Art in Thessaloniki is opening a new page in its history by the highly anticipated exhibition Thessaloniki. The Costakis Collection. Restart which will be held by September 16.

The famous collection which George Costakis assembled in the Soviet Union in the second half of the last century embraces Russian avant-garde art of the 1900s-1940s, including all its diverse styles, genres and techniques: new impressionism and symbolism, cubofuturism, suprematism and non-objective art, organic culture and analytic art, cosmism and electro-organism, constructivism, post-avant-garde.

How did such a large collection of Russian avant-garde appear in Greece? On the eve of the opening of the exhibition Museum’s director Maria Tsantsanoglou tells about the history of this collection.

“In his autobiography George Costakis makes the following statement: 'To make the long story short, I decided to become a collector of the avant-garde art.' For at least three decades he methodically collected works of the Russian avant-garde, assembling a remarkable collection, which rescued from destruction and oblivion this vital component of the European art of the 20th century. In 1981, when a big part of the collection was brought to the Guggenheim Museum in New York, where it was documented and exhibited, the art historians came across a new, bright and to a big extent unstudied chapter in the history of art, the chapter of Russian Avant-garde.

In the 1960s and 1970s the apartment of George Costakis in Moscow was connected with the forbidden art of the avant-garde and was functioning as an unofficial Museum of Modern Art.

In 1977 Costakis left Moscow giving as a donation to the State Tretyakov Gallery a significant part of his collection. He got permission to take the other part with him and he settled in Greece.

During the 1980s, works from the Costakis collection were presented with great success in many museums all over the world.

In 1995, the first exhibition of the Costakis collection in Greece was held at the National Gallery in Athens. Costakis always wanted to see the works of his collection exhibited in Greece but unfortunately he did not live to see this exhibition at the National Gallery. He died in Athens in 1990.

A great deal has already been said and written about the collector’s perceptiveness and the wealth of his collection, which spreads over the whole length and breadth of the phenomenon called Russian Avant-garde. Despite the fact that his collection was divided into two main parts in 1977, Costakis managed, even when dividing his collection, to maintain a unity and coherence in both parts of the collection.”

On March 31, 2000, 1277 works the Costakis Collection were finally purchased by the Greek State and given to the State Museum of Contemporary Art, based in the city of Thessaloniki at the Moni Lazariston, a renovated Catholic monastery dating from the late 19th century.

Through the steady and continuous support of the collector’s daughter, Aliki Costaki a rich and interesting archive came additionally from the Costakis family to the museum as a donation.

The Costakis collection and archive at the SMCA include works and archival material that are representative of all the periods of the Russian Avant-garde and cover almost the whole spectrum of artists, schools and movements.

State Museum of Contemporary Art in Thessaloniki
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