The New Museum responds
"This preeminent collection is one that many museums in the US would be honored to exhibit"
By New Museum. Comment, Issue 208, December 2009
Published online: 11 November 2009
We write in response to your recent coverage of the New Museum’s announcement that it will present an exhibition of works from the collection of Dakis Joannou.
Through decades of informed, passionate effort and intensive dialogue with artists, Dakis Joannou has assembled one of the finest and most original collections of contemporary art in the world. This collection, which is made available to the general public in its home city of Athens via Mr Joannou’s Deste Foundation museum, has been shown in museums in Europe, but has never traveled to the US. This preeminent collection is one that many museums in the US, including institutions larger and better known than the New Museum, would be honoured to exhibit.
For some years now the New Museum’s curators have discussed a shared dream of bringing this extraordinary collection—singular in its focus on figurative art and commitment to collecting specific artists in depth—to the American public for the first time. It is our belief that an exhibition of the Joannou collection can provide that public with a rare opportunity to see some of the most powerful, challenging art of our time. Students, artists, and visitors from around the world who come to New York City to engage with the most important issues posed by global culture will be the beneficiaries of Mr Joannou’s generous agreement to allow great works from the Deste Foundation to cross the ocean. The New Museum is privileged that Mr Joannou accepted the New Museum’s invitation to show his collection, rather than choosing another institution.
One of the unusual aspects of the Dakis Joannou collection is that it has been formed through deep, ongoing conversations with artists. The New Museum’s curatorial team insisted from the outset that we convey this defining characteristic of the collection by inviting an artist to participate in selecting the works we will show. Jeff Koons was the obvious choice for this role, first because of his personal history at the New Museum, where he had his first museum show; secondly, because he has been engaged in spirited conversation and debate with Mr Joannou for more than a decade; and thirdly, because as one of the most important artists of the last quarter century, he has a unique perspective that he will bring to a collection of his contemporaries. Mr Koons was the resounding unanimous choice of our curators and we are eager to see his vision in action.
This initiative is an artistically and intellectually significant project consistent with our mission and vision. The New Museum has followed the highest ethical standards in creating this exhibition. We are not the first to do an exhibition of the private collection of a world-renowned art connoisseur, and we will not be the last. In fact, there is a widespread conversation taking place internationally about the shifting boundaries of the public and private realms of contemporary visual culture. This discourse is leading many major museums from London to Los Angeles, from Leipzig to Annandale-on-Hudson to creatively and thoughtfully explore different kinds of public/private partnerships. (See The Art Newspaper’s own 9 October 2009 coverage of The Whitechapel Gallery’s new collections exhibition series)
The New Museum has entered its fourth decade as a constantly evolving institution situated within a cultural landscape vastly different from that in which it first emerged and serving a global audience. We have never shied away from difficult art, provocative subject matter, or important issues of the day and remain committed to bringing great art to the public, supporting contemporary culture, and providing a platform for discussion on important issues and developments in the field.
Saul Dennison, President, New Museum
Lisa Phillips, Toby Devan Lewis Director
Richard Flood, Chief Curator
Massimiliano Gioni, Director of Special Exhibitions
Laura Hoptman, Kraus Family Senior Curator
Eungie Joo, Keith Haring Director and Curator of Education and Public Programs
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