For the first time, the Cycladic Shop – the gift shop of the Museum of Cycladic Art, will be selling rare items from a private collection.
As a warm-up to the upcoming exhibition “Picasso and Antiquity. Line and Clay”, beginning June 20th, the items for sale are selected pieces from the impressive collection of Greek ceramics acquired over decades by Dimitris Xanthoulis‘, a curator, journalist and one-time antique trader.
Most of the pieces are from the second half of the 20th century, made by artisans from Athens and the Aegean islands. The selection will be presented at the Cycladic Shop in sections, curated by Xanthoulis himself, along with Tina Daskalantonaki.
The first section, which is now on display and for sale in the shop, consists largely of ceramics made in the workshops of Marousi, in Athens, in the 1950s-60s. During that time, intellectuals of the city preferred ceramics with a nostalgic “back to nature” style, which spoke to Xanthoulis.
Other works for sale, from the same period, include painted ceramics from Agiaso, on the island of Lesvos, and examples of the trademark ceramic jugs of Aegina, prized for their ability to keep water cool.
Xanthoulis has been collecting ceramics his whole life. Over the years, his collection has grown to include thousands of items; so many, in fact, that not even the collector himself knows the exact number. This is the first time that a part of his collection is for sale.
I know you became a collector gradually, without noticing, as you put it, but do you remember the first ceramics you ever purchased, and why?
When I was younger I had a weakness for Chinese ceramics and porcelain, so I began collecting those first.
How difficult is it to find pieces like the ones at the Cycladic Shop?
My collection consists of humble items which often ended up broken or tossed out by their owners. They weren’t considered valuable, and in the end, there are few left.
You’ve said that you keep much of your collection in storage, where you usually never see it. Which are the ceramics that you have on display?
The main body of my collection, which consists of ceramics made by Ira Triadafyllidi, a ceramicist active in the second half of the 20th century. You won’t see those pieces at the Cycladic Shop. I’m studying them, and preparing a book about the artist.
Your collection encompasses many different styles. Do you have a favorite?
I love the products of the Athenian workshops – especially the post-war styles.
Tell us about the ceramic makers of Marousi. How did you first come across their work?
I saw it in various homes. In the 60s, they were everywhere, especially in the “alternative” homes of members of the Athenian bourgeois. That’s when I fell in love with them.
Will it be hard for you to part with some of your collection?
Hard but at the same time, a relief. Clearing out some space means I can buy new pieces…
Will you ever stop collecting?
Collecting is a work in constant progress. You’re always finding new items to add to your collection, meaning it will always be difficult to stop…