Vlassis Caniaris was born in Athens in 1928, where he died in 2011.
From 1956 to 1960 he lived and studied in Rome and then settled in Paris until 1971. From 1973 to 1975 he lived in Berlin and then returned to Athens where he lived and worked until his death.
With major international exhibitions, retrospectives as well as participations at the Greek Pavilion at the Venice Biennale (1964, 1988, 2003, 2012) and Documenta 6 (1977), Vlassis Caniaris is ranked as one of the pioneers of post-war art in Greece. He has had solo exhibitions at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (1970), Moderna Museet, Stockholm (1972), the ICA Institute of Contemporary Arts, London (1976) and Kunstverein Hannover (1976). The first museum solo show after his death was held in 2012 at GAK – Gesellschaft für Aktuelle Kunst, Bremen, which sparked a renewed interest in the artist. Since then his works have been shown at the Gwangju Biennale (2014, curated by Jessica Morgan) and most recently at the Manège de Sury in Mons, Belgium (2015) in the exhibition ‘Atopolis’ (organized by the Wiels Centre d’Art Contemporain, Brussels) to mention a few venues.
Always a keen observer of his surroundings but also of the world at large, Caniaris’ iconography has always focused on socio-political themes. He was one of the most significant artists of the post-war period in Greece and contributed to and influenced the emergence of a new artistic climate. Like other Greek artists of his generation he worked in Italy, France and Germany during the ‘60s and ‘70s when he developed a personal distinctive style, experimenting with modes of expression that strayed from the mainstream.
With echoes of Arte Povera and the trends that had developed since Marcel Duchamp, he began to experiment in the 1960s with humble, everyday materials such as plaster, wire mesh and other found objects. Deriving inspiration from his deep understanding of and sensitivity to the socio-political issues of the day, Caniaris addressed political realities in his work that generate a forum for debate on questions related to contemporary society and force the viewer to an awareness of issues encompassing immigration, identity and cultural differences.
Vlassis Caniaris’ work is included in many public collections including Tate Modern, London where he was the first Greek artist to be included in its collections; SMAK Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst, Ghent; Fonds National d’Art Contemporain, Paris; Karl Ernst Osthaus-Museum, Hagen or National Art Gallery, Athens.