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He was born in New York in 1934, where he lives. He attended the School of Visual Arts (SVA), where he has been a Professor of Art for many years. Gianakos has been the recipient of a variety of grants and awards: these include the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, the NY Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) and others. He completed a large installation for the 2004 Athens Olympics.