The Art Spring in Chania of the 1960s to the 1990s. The Case of Giorgos Kounalis, a research study carried out by the Technical University of Crete under the scientific supervision of art historian Alexandra Kouroutaki*, was published in September 2023 by the Region of Crete – Regional Unit of Chania. Written by Dr. Alexandra Kouroutaki, member of Specialized Lab and Teaching personnel at the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering (Technical University of Crete), and visual artist Konstantinos Kounalis, which provided the G. Kounalis archive, the study is dedicated to the history of the art and culture of Chania covering a period of almost forty years, from the late 1960s to the late 1990s.

In the first part, the aim is to chronicle the flourishing visual activity in Chania and the evolution of its artistic landscape, from the dominant until then movement of Academic Realism, to post-war Modernism, and later to contemporary art. It should be noted that the study is not limited to the narrow context of local developments but rather delves into the thread that connected the visual artists of both the generation of the 60s and the generation of the 80s in Chania, with the respective artistic developments in Greece, Europe and the rest of the world.

In the words of Dr. Kouroutaki: “Chronicling the activity of cultural institutions in Chania was missing from the existing literature. The book constitutes a point of reference vis-à-vis important visual exhibitions, events and art exhibitions organized by local cultural institutions, leaving their indelible mark on the cultural life of Chania, thus justifying the characterization of “Artistic spring” and “new beginning” attributed to the plastic arts in Chania from the 60s onwards. There is therefore a wide field of research for tomorrow’s scholar who will want to record possible omissions or illuminate in more detail the artistic manifestations of the time”.

The second part of the book is a case study dedicated to the experimental work (secular and hagiographic) of Giorgos Kounalis. It should be noted that Kounalis belonged to a generation of artists that sealed Chania’s cultural flourishing with their modern work, teaching and multifaceted activity. Among them the visual artists Vassilis Zacharakis, Antonis Petroulakis, Giorgos Kounalis and Vassilis Kelaidis are considered the “artistic core” of the generation of the 60s in Chania.

Among the visual artists of the generation of the 60s, Kounalis was the one who experimented the most with Modernism, while in the late 1980s, he turned towards conceptual – contemporary art. At the same time, his work was strongly related to the spirit of Hellenism. For this reason, we could argue that Kounalis, although he chronologically belonged to the painters of the generation of the 60s, was essentially “tuned” to the ideology promoted by the so-called “artistic generation of the 1930s” in an attempt to combine tradition with Modernism.

The third part of the study is dedicated to the religious painting of Giorgos Kounalis. The study elaborates on the contribution of the painter – hagiographer in the field of ecclesiastical art in Chania and Crete. It should be noted that Kounalis maintained a creative relationship with the Byzantine tradition given that his painting sensitivity and his experiments with color and light inoculated his hagiographic work, just as the Byzantine ‘technique’ creatively influenced his secular painting.

For the preparation of the research, unpublished archival material was used, including handwritten notes of artists, photographic snapshots from artistic events, photographs of exhibition catalogues, invitations and exhibits, excerpts from published art reviews of the time, curricula from educational institutions with an artistic and technical focus, decisions of cultural associations to organize exhibitions, event greetings by local authorities on cultural policy issues, material drawn from the personal archive of a number of visual artists and professors in Chania who witnessed the cultural events of the period or participated in them.

Professor Karoutaki noted that book constitutes “a debt and an honor to those people and those initiatives aimed at supporting and promoting local artistic production”. She expressed the hope that it will be “a reference book for future scholars and a motivation to continue highlighting the work of Cretan artists, in order to further illuminate the artistic legacy of Crete in Greece and around the world”.


* Dr. Alexandra Kouroutaki is a member of the teaching personnel at the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering of the Technical University of Crete. Her field of research is “Art History with a specialization in neo-Hellenic art”. She holds a PhD in Art History from the University of Bordeaux – Montaigne and a post-graduate degree in French Literature from the School of Humanities, of the Open University of Greece. She is also a graduate of the Department of French Language and Literature of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. Her research topics focus mainly on the fields of Neo Hellenic art, religious painting, relations between arts at the level of composition (painting and music) and aesthetic issues.