The National Library of Greece presented the exhibition: “Hero Kanakakis: the consistency of the painting process” in January 2024 (duration of the exhibition: 23/1/2024 – 22/3/2024).

The digital exhibition with the same title consists of three sections: “Art and Politics (1972-1979)”, “The Influence of English Art (1980-1989)”, and “The Greek Period; a period of maturity (1990-1997)”.

Hero Kanakakis was one of the most significant figures in the artistic sphere during the period of the Greek Hunta (1967-1974) and the post-hunta years in Greece. Thanks to her early works, which conveyed strong political messages expressing both her democratic ideals and the oppressive atmosphere of the dictatorship (1967-1974), she established herself in the public consciousness as a political painter. This was not far from reality at the time. Among other things, she was the bold artist who designed the first cover of the magazine Anti, which was published in May 1972 and immediately banned by the regime of the Colonels.

However, Kanakaki’s painting career was extensive and marked by many changes: an innovative engraver in the 1970s, a painter with international presence in the 1980s, and a teacher with a significant impact on the students of the Vakalo School in 90s. Although initially shaped by the oppressive atmosphere of the “Hunta”, her trajectory was later influenced by her stay in England. She absorbed influences from pop art, English post-war painting, and eventually from the emerging international movement of neo-expressionism in the 80s; and she articulated in the early 90s a personal artistic style expressed on a monumental scale, challenging the prevailing social attitudes and values of an era in which the pathologies of the post-hunta period emerged in new forms of social action and behavior. Kanakakis spoke  through her paintings and she expressed through her art, her own experiences. After persistent struggle, she had achieved a unique level of artistic maturity.

She passed away on September 14 in Athens, from a stroke, at the age of 52. On 1998, the Art Gallery “Nees Morfes” hosted the exhibition “Hero Kanakakis 1945-1997”. Twenty-six years after that exhibition, a selection of Hero Kanakaki’s rich oeuvre is presented in the National Library. With the assistance of her family and private collectors, forty (40) acrylic paintings, as well as twenty (20) drawings and engravings from her artistic production are exhibited on the 2nd floor of the NLG building in the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC).

The aim of the exhibition is not simply to remind the public and the artistic world of the prematurely lost painter, but to demonstrate the richness of her explorations, which range from critical realism to magical realism and surrealism, to finally arrive at a deeply disruptive expressionism. To reveal a creator by mapping and evaluating her entire oeuvre and to show that throughout her career, painting as a technique and as working process was at the heart of her pursuits.

“Kanakaki remained for me the political, anti-dictatorship painter, and much of my appreciation was owed to this. If I am not mistaken, this is how most people remember her.”

(Stavros Zouboulakis, President of the Board of Trustees in the National Library of Greece, excerpt from his Greetings in the exhibition’s catalog)

Excerpt from the ERT documentary: ‘ART LESSON IN THE COUNTRYSIDE’ (1994), in which the artist Iro Kanakaki teaches the basic principles governing an artistic installation (from the ERT Archive: