LOS ANGELES — Greek artist Konstantin Kakanias created Mrs. Tependris, a Greek socialite in the manner of Maria Callas meets Jackie O., in 1993, and though she appears in sketches and the occasional book (like 2002’s “Mrs. Tependris: The Contemporary Years: The Adventures of an Art Collector”), she hasn’t been out and about much lately.
But in November 2003, the Greek ministry of Culture commissioned Kakanias to create “Mrs. Tependris…just before the Olympic Games in Athens (the triumph of chic),” an illustrated book commemorating the games that’s available only to International Olympic Committee members.
This story first appeared in the June 1, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The request came as somewhat of a shock to the outspoken painter. “I have nothing to do with politics, so when they e-mailed me I thought it was a joke. I mean, how could they be serious? I detest sports,” he explained from his courtyard garden in Whitley Heights, a neighborhood in the Hollywood Hills. “And if you don’t own a television, like me, it’s very difficult to watch them.”
He nevertheless rose to the challenge, creating more than 40 paintings, some as tall as 3 meters high and each with its own satire-filled commentary. The narrative details the journey Mrs. Tependris takes from her rented David Hockney-style home in Los Angeles to Athens, in order to compete in her very own high-fashion version of the Olympics.
“Mrs. Tependris is a symbol for the ego. She is all about herself,” he says, “and of course, her clothes.” After dialing up Christian Louboutin for a new shoe wardrobe, she jets over to Greece, albeit a few months early. “She’s very avant-garde, you know, so she doesn’t really follow calender dates. But that’s all right, because she hires people to watch her compete in these events.”
The events include weight lifting in Lacroix, playing Ping-Pong in Miu Miu, high diving in a Galliano turquoise and diamond swimsuit and pole-vaulting in a Juicy Couture track suit. Along the way, she also has a few paintings commissioned in the manner of Praxiteles and the Discus Thrower (not in the buff, but in couture).
Tongue-in-cheek humor aside, Kakanias, who’s currently renovating a church in Spain with Carolina Herrera Jr. and planning an exhibition of new works for early fall in New York, says, “Above all, the Olympics symbolize peace, which I do believe in deeply, more than sports.”
— Marcy Medina