Alexander Iolas Biogroupe

Constantinos Koutsoudis was born in the city of Alexandria in Egypt On the 25th of March 1908. He was the first son of Andreas Koutsoudis a cotton trader from the island of Chios and Persephoni a beautiful woman.

His godfather was Constantinos Tsaldaris a Greek politician and twice Prime Minister of Greece.

Early in life Iolas experiences the use of force, punishments and discipline by his father and grandmother. His other siblings are Niki, Dimitris and Iro.

Growing up in a bourgeois family he buys and studies books while he start learning the piano. A theatrical play by Kotopouli (a famous Greek actor of the time) positively influenced him about Greece which      he eagerly wants to visit. He gets to know Kavafis poet who gives him three recommendation letters addressed to Kostis Palamas, Aggelos Sikelianos and Dimitris Mitropoulos.

In November 1927 he runs away from home with little money from his savings and these three letters to arrive to Greece. He rents a room in Athens, Aristotelous Str, paid by Nausika Palama. He often visits the Acropolis where he likes to dance. In one of his visits famous photographer Nelly Seraidaris takes him photos.

Mitropoulos gives him a recommendation letter for Panos Aravantinos in Germany, while Sikelianos helps him to travel to romantic Italy where he stays for some time. Its the beginning of Moussolini’s era. Next stop is the cosmopolitan Berlin where he spends most of his time, dancing. After an audition he becomes the lead dancer of Salzburg’s  opera for Orpheus and Euridiki play.

In 1933, Christmas eve, he arrives in Paris and studies to the Engorova dance school with scholarship.

He is particularly sociable, being around Parisian high society, posing as a model for Raoul Difi,Giorgio De Kiriko, Baltis and photographer Herb Ritz. He gives his hair tips to Antoine for Garbo’s eyelashes, etc.

Iolas buys his first painting from De Kiriko himself, who had an art gallery called “four streets”.

He meets Coctau, with who he fells in love. In 1935, he arrives in New York after being invited by Flora Mayer. He gets an american passport.

He goes for a while to Amsterdam’s opera and returns to the States to be in charge of the Marquis De Quevas ballet, debut with Balansin and propose the surrealistic scenery of Miro and Difi.

In 1940 he dances for the last time.

His company with the french surrealists lead him towards art. Dancing tired him, art excited him. He leaves for New York and returns to Paris to meet Vols and Fotrie.

His life from now on is a continuous journey, mainly between Europe and America.

With the help of Duchess Maria De Gramon, he opens in 1944 his first art gallery in 55th street in New York by the name of “Hugo” since it belonged to the nephew of Victor Hugo.

Thedora Rouzvelt, inspired by the myth of Hercules, changes his name from Konstantinos Koutsoudis to Alexandros Iolas. Because of the war many artists go to the States. He gives money to artists on a monhly basis so that they will work for him, while he books contracts that they later become annual.

He is one of who inflicted surrealism to the States and later to the whole world. Some of the artists that he have worked with:

Renee Magrit, Man Ray, Max Ernst, Dorothea Taning, Fernan Leze, Copley, Jean Coctau, De Kiriko, Yve Klain, Mata, Fernandez, Victor Brauner, Marcial Rais, Andy Warhol, Pier Renault, Novello Finotti, Giannis Kounelis, Mara Karetsou, Leonor Fini, Arman, Pascali, Lalan, Roberto Kripa, Alekos Fasianos, Pavlos, Gounaropoulos, Takis, Marina Karela, Alexis Akrithakis, Giorgos Lazogas, Kostas Tsoklis, Kostas Paniaras….

After the end of war many of his associate artists return to Europe. Thus he needs to open galleries in Geneva, Paris, Zurich, Milan, Madrid, Rome, Athens (during the dictatorship or hunta in Greece in partnership with Tasos Zouboulakis), London (1981) and Beirut. He used to say that some artists “get tired and break their contracts and others didn’t and now are in museums”. He raises art pieces from 100 to 100.000 dollars.

Art critics blame him for being harsh with his artists. In 1943 he becomes an American citizen. His family has forgotten him. He only sees his sister Niki, who however is being jealous of him, quarrels with his business partners and friends. She becomes a huge barrier to his life from which he could never escape. She marries Arthur Staiffel who when needed he financially helps Iolas. His relationship with his sister could be characterized as addictive.

Iolas organizes the private collections of Dominique De Menill (today exists in Huston, Texas), Salberze, Gianni Anieli, shah of Iran, part of the Rockefeller collection, while he helps by donating art to the Metropolitan Museum of New York and Beaubourg in Paris.

In 1984 he donated 47 art works to the Macedonian museum of modern art.  The French government awarded him with the Legion of Honor.

In 1965 he buys an estate of 25 acres (full of vineyards) in Agia Paraskevi in Athens from Vrettos real estate owner. He begins the building of his villa with the cooperation of architect Pikionis who selected Tsarouchis as his assistant. In his own words: “I always wanted to return to Greece, to help the place that open the eyes of the world, it was the promise I have given to Sikelianos and Mitropoulos”. He wants to transform his house into an institute for modern art. He doesn’t completely agree with Pikionis designs and he takes in charge for the internal decoration. He brings columns from Ravenna for the garden, a lion and a ram statues decorating the entrance made out of gold and bronze crafted by Kardamatis, silk curtains from Lyon.

His parents arrive from Egypt and his father becomes the estates’ superintended. The architect Pikionis is replaced by Metzelopoulos. Iolas is dreaming that the villa will stand as a unique monument of modern art. He gives part of his land to become a road to the area.

He starts closing down his galleries. The one of New York is given as a present to the lover of Bruce Jackson. All of the athenian high society passes by his villa. Artists and others keep arriving to his villa, redecorated every time depending on his guests. He plans to give part of his land to the artists so that they can be close to him.

The first artist is Pavlos. In 1981 hehas his first stroke, goes to surgery and permanently lives in Greece. To fulfill his dream of creating a Museum of Contemporary Art, he contacts the architect Nam Yu Pei.

He receives threatening calls to leave Greece.

In 1983 Iolas is being interviewed by Gynaika magazine and Olga Bakomarou journalist. This will be fatal. From that interview onwards a media war against him begins in order to smear him. He is being accused among other for illicit antiquities trade, prostitution, drugs and these terribly wears him out.

A transexual named Antonis Nikolaou, or “Maria Kallas” is the one who spreads a bad name for Iolas.

He gives away 3 acres to the municipality of Agia Paraskevi so that it will become the “square of art” for children to play among statues.

Greek artists feared of the press start avoiding him. Kostas Gavras has the initiative to write a plead to greek artists. The plead is signed by 150 worldwide personalities (artists, ministers of culture, museum directors to Miteran). No greek newspaper puplished it! Only Kathimerini. Iolas discovers he suffers from AIDS. In 1985 Andy Warhol is preparing his masterpiece Last Supper after Iolas inducement. This will be exhibited to the anti gallery place Palazzo Stelline. The day after the exhibition’s inauguration Iolas discovers the existence of a company named “General Trade Alexander Iolas” which was founded to take advantage of Iolas name and profit by. He acts legally against it. In February of 1987, his health deteriorates and his sister Niki forbids visitations at his house.

During the same period Iolas signs a private contract with the journalist Nikos Stathoulis where he sets him his sole official biographer.

Iolas travels to Italy for medical examinations and he is being admitted to a New York hospital.On the 10th of March his sister Niki, asks from the County court to seal his house while on the 8th of April she asks that herself and her daughter become and they did, commissioners.

Iolas returns to Athens but now stays at his sister’s house. Since his sister becomes commissioner, the Villa starts getting empty, work of art is transferred to her house or moved abroad. On the 21st of April Iolas is readmitted to the NY hospital and on the 8th of June he passes away.

He has been cremated and his ashes were kept to the Agia Paraskevi’s cemetery to a special place for benefactors