Antoine Malliarakis Mayo
- Antoine Malliarakis Mayo
- La Vie Augmente Toujours (Life Always Evolves)
- signed Mayo; signed, titled and dated Rome '70 on the reverse
- oil on canvas
Galerie Alain Blondel, Paris
Barry Friedman Gallery, New York City (acquired directly from the above by the previous owner in 2003)
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 2016
In 1924, Mayo was accepted by the École des Beaux Arts in Paris, where he was introduced to the pioneers of the new Surrealist movement. He became friends with the French Surrealist artists, René Crevel and André Breton. Mayo never officially joined the Surrealist group, in part because of his fierce sense of independence and his desire for artistic freedom. However, the cerebral and provocative nature of the Surrealist genre is a consistent theme in Mayo’s work and it heavily impacted the burgeoning Surrealist movement in Cairo.
Mayo straddled a trans-regional identity and was one of the leading artists to influence the Egyptian Surrealist movement in the late 1930s. The Egyptian cohort was a mixture of native Egyptian artists such as Georges Henein, Ramses Younan and Kamal El Telmissany and expatriated European Egyptian artists. The Egyptian Surrealists incorporated notions of political libertarianism and Freudian concepts of the unconscious mind. They founded the "Art and Liberty Group" which acted as a chapter of the International Federation of Independent Revolutionary Art. The International Federation of Independent Revolutionary Art was an assembly of global creatives bound by a pledge to criticise artistic limitations and champion nonconformist methods. Their revolutionary call-to-action was soon disrupted by the Egyptian police and British military officials. However, their legacy supercedes them, and most notable is the 2017 exhibition titled Art and Liberty: Rupture, War and Surrealism in Egypt (1938–1948) held at the Centre Pompidou in Paris.
Throughout the 1930s, Mayo solidified his personal style which emphasized his mastery of colour, form and composition. Parisian artists at this time, along with Mayo, sought to revitalize classical Greek figures in their work, locating them in motley of positions and contexts. The monumental painting, Le marché arabe (1934) which will be offered in Boundless, Sotheby's inaugural auction in Dubai, is a stylized rendition of the traditional Arab marketplace. Le marché arabe is very much inspired by Mayo's Parisian predecessors, most evidently, Paul Gauguin. Paul Gauguin’s We Shall not Go to Market Today (Ta Matete) from 1892 shares the same rich palette of vivid tones and classical statuary influences. Gauguin painted Ta Matete while traveling through the tropical island of Tahiti. In many ways, both Gauguin and Mayo depict the condition of the expatriated Parisian artist—the impartial observer, the flaneur.
By the 1940s, Mayo supplemented his art with costume and set design for theatrical and cinematic productions. His paintings at this time showcase a marriage between dramatic and cinematic conventions, and a distinctly expressionistic painterly approach. It is a rare privilege to have at auction Mayo’s Homme de Profil (1940) (lot 19) and Le Beau Gilles (1943) (lot 20) which act as a testament to his style in this period. Beyond its vibrant burst of warm colours, Homme de Profil showcases the complexity of the human mind, culminating in an enigmatic yet animated composition. This moment in Mayo’s oeuvre displays his elevated attention to gradation of light and luminosity of the colours.
The paintings of Mayo revolved around the common themes of sensuality and eroticism which took different forms within his oeuvre. In particular after the 1960s, Mayo would paint the hands, then the bird nests - which for him housed and protected the root of life - followed by the egg, as these common themes reached a pinnacle within his scope of work. The egg for Mayo represented the principle of life, rebirth and the fruit of life. La Vie Augmente Toujours (1970) (lot 18), painted in the later part of Mayo's artistic career is an exceptional work weaving through this visual language created by Mayo incorporating the vegetal life, the egg, the stones and the male figure.
During the latter part of his career, Mayo continued to exhibit his paintings and drawings throughout Europe and returned to France in 1984 where he was honoured as a Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French Minister of Culture in 1986.
Antoine Malliarakis, “Mayo”, died in 1990 in Seine Port, France.
“The egg protected by the nest is Mayo who wants to protect his own capacity to love and his right to love.” Cesare Vivaldi cited in: Evelyne Yeatman-Eiffel, Mayo, Venice 2012, p. 79, illustrated in colour