Sophia Vari


Sophia Vari (b.1940, Athens, Greece; d.2023, Monte Carlo, Monaco) is celebrated for the distinct and coherent visual language through which she investigated abstract volume, form and balance. Working across sculpture, collage, oil and watercolour, Vari neatly navigated diverse influences, from Olmec and Cycladic artistic traditions to European Modernism, in her constant drive to express ‘beauty and harmony’. 


Born in Athens to a Greek father and a Hungarian mother, Vari spent part of her childhood in Switzerland, later studying in England and then Paris, where she became acquainted with movements in modern art, namely Cubism and Surrealism. She graduated from the École des Beaux-Arts, Paris, in 1958 and made primarily figurative paintings throughout the 1960s and early 1970s. In the mid-1970s, Vari became interested in expressing her ideas in another medium and, during a trip to Egypt, came to understand the importance of monumental sculpture. After marrying internationally renowned Colombian painter and sculptor Fernando Botero in 1978, who had moved to Paris from New York in 1973, Vari started researching pre-Columbian art. Inspired by this indigenous art of the North, Central and South Americas, particularly the stylised forms of Olmec sculpture, Vari began to abstract her line, using spare rounded forms to suggest the human body. In 1992, she opened a studio in Paris where she made her own work and taught young artists. Continuing to explore abstraction, in the mid-1990s, Vari reached the zenith of her visual language, incorporating planar forms into her work and applying colour to the surfaces of her sculptures. This use of colour contributes to the dynamism of Vari’s pieces, and her sculptural works, created on a monumental scale and as table pieces, appear to move as the viewer walks around them.


Vari’s monumental sculptures have been publicly exhibited in cities worldwide, including Paris, Rome, Montecarlo, Baden-Baden, Geneva, Pietrasanta, Athens and Madrid. In 2022, three significant sculptures were displayed on the Smithson Plaza in London and more recently, from May–November 2023, 12 monumental pieces were exhibited along Park Avenue in New York. Credited with having presented over 100 solo exhibitions during her career, important institutional exhibitions of Vari’s work include those at Palazzo Vecchio, Florence; Palazzo Bricherassio, Turin; The Ludwig Museum, Koblenz, France; and the Pera Museum in Istanbul. Vari’s work is included in international public collections, including museum Beelden aan Zee, The Hague; Benaki Museum, Athens; Fondation Veranneman, Kruishoutem, Belgium; Foundation Basil and Elise Goulandris: Museum of Modern Art, Andros, Greece; Fundaçao Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon; Fundación Botero, Biblioteca Luis Angel Arango, Bogota; Musée de la Main, Lausanne; Museo de Medellin, Medellin, Colombia; Museo de Ponce, Puerto Rico; National Museum and Alexandros Soultzos Museum, Athens; National Pinacotheca, Athens.

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Sophia Vari sculpture comes to Mayfair

Presented by Waddington Custot, a bronze monochromatic sculpture by contemporary artist Sophia Vari, titled Trouble Essentiel, has been installed on the corner of New Bond St.


Sophia Vari was born in Athens, Greece in 1940 and is a visual artist known for her investigations into form and balance, working across sculpture, collage, oil and watercolour. In 1958, she graduated from the École des Beaux Arts, in Paris and, in the decades following, her work has been celebrated with almost 100 solo exhibitions to date over the course of her career. Vari has had several museum exhibitions including: Palazzo Vecchio, Florence; The Ludwig Museum, Koblenz, Germany; and more recently, Pera Museum, Istanbul. 


Vari’s work is included in international public collections worldwide and her monumental sculptures have been shown in public locations around the world. For each installation, she pays special attention to the way that her works are integrated with the cities in which they are exhibited. Vari is particularly concerned with the way in which the tactile quality of the patina surfaces can encourage a connection with her viewers, while the majestic scale of her public sculptures creates a strong visual impact.


Vari’s work has evolved through several stages over her decades of sculpture making. While her early work from the 1960s onwards was mostly figurative, in the 1980s, Vari began to employ rounded abstract forms that suggested the human body. Eventually she began incorporating planar and constructed forms into her work, and by the mid-1990s Vari had begun to apply colour to the surfaces of her dynamic sculptures. This use of colour contributes to the movement of Vari’s pieces, and her sculptural works, created both on a monumental scale and as table pieces, appear to move autonomously as the viewer walks around them. Her work across all media shares a certain playfulness and liveliness, with compositions in collage, watercolour and paint pushing into the realm of dimensional space.


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Making It

Women and Abstract Sculpture

Waddington Custot presents Making It, a group exhibition dedicated to a generation of pioneering women sculptors who came to prominence in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Taking an unexpected approach to their chosen media: fusing gold leaf with linen for instance, folding metal or hand-knotting rope, these artists challenged modernist conventions and expanded conceptions of the appropriate media and methods for sculpture. Artists in the exhibition include Olga de Amaral, Lynda Benglis, Françoise Grossen, Maren Hassinger, Barbara Levittoux-Świderska, Louise Nevelson, Beverly Pepper, Mildred Thompson and Sophia Vari. These artists are known for working on an ambitious scale, building upon the gallery’s focus on monumental sculpture. 


Active in the mid and late-20th century, these sculptors developed new work during the era of second-wave feminism and within the context of feminist critique, as championed by critics and curators such as Lucy Lippard. While it not overtly feminist in concept, their work does not represent a retreat from politics. Rather, contending with the long-held belief – retained well into the 1970s – that sculpture was a muscular medium best suited to men, these artists stood against the prejudices and difficulty women encountered when trying to access the male-dominated spaces of foundries and woodshops. Lucy Lippard recounted, ‘In the winter of 1970 I went to a great many women’s studios… found women in corners of men’s studios, bedrooms, children’s rooms, kitchens’1. Undiminished by this unfavourable context, the sculptors in 

Making It actively take up space with their work. Spreading across the walls and from ceiling to floor, reaching across the gallery and hanging in the air, these works prefigure installation art and a broader shift toward process and materials.


1. Lucy Lippard, “Changing Since Changing (1976),” in The Pink Glass Swan: Selected Essays on Feminist Art: 1970–1993 (New York: The New Press, 1995) 33.

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Exhibitions and Art Fairs