The collection of contemporary art formed during the last ten years by Greek industrialist, Dakis Joannou, who has the Coca-Cola concession for Greece as well as interests in the hotel, construction, and publishing fields, is known by reputation and from loans to special exhibitions, including events staged in Greece and Cyprus by the Deste (Greek for “Look”) Foundation for Contemporary Art which Mr Joannou founded in 1983. That schedule has included “Cultural Geometry” (1988), “Psychological Abstraction” (1989), “Artificial Nature” (1990), “Assault on the Senses” (1991) and “Post-Human” (1992-93).
But only now, with an exhibition entitled “Everything That’s Interesting is New”, which opens at the Athens School of Fine Arts (20 January-20 April), will the range and development of that collection be displayed. It illustrates one of the most consistent commitments to contemporary art to have been made in recent years, remarkable for extending an interest in the art of the Eighties into the Nineties, at a time when many other collectors called a halt to their activities. Mr Joannou’s collection is also particularly strong in installations and other works of larger scale or more demanding character than usually regarded as acceptable by a private collector.
The exhibition will feature some 200 works of art created by a wide range of European and American artists of different generations, but an underlying structure to the collection may be discerned. It can be divided into three categories or periods: the art of 1985-90, which includes work by Ashley Bickerton, Ross Bleck-ner, Clegg & Guttmann, Katharina Fritsch, Robert Gober, Peter Halley, Martin Kippenberger, Jeff Koons, Allan McCollum, Matt Mullican, Thomas Schütte, Haim Steinbach and Philip Taaffe; the art of 1990-95, with Janine Antoni, Matthew Barney, Jake & Dinos Chapman, Gregory Crewdson, Stan Douglas, Damien Hirst, Charles Ray, Kiki Smith and Nari Ward; and a selection of historical material, described by leading New York art adviser Jeffrey Deitch, who has played an influential role in giving shape to the collection and has been responsible for curating several of the exhibitions sponsored by the Deste Foundation, as “reference pieces”. These are works of art which help to explain the current preoccupations of those contemporary artists whose pictures, sculpture or installations Mr Joannou has been acquiring: Marcel Duchamp’s “Fountain”, for example, one of the edition published by Arturo Schwarz and formerly belonging to Andy Warhol; Man Ray’s “Enigma of Isadore Ducasse”; Warhol himself, represented by a Brillo box, and works by Vito Acconci, Richard Artschwager, John Baldessari, Walter de Maria, Dan Flavin, Gilbert & George, Donald Judd, Jannis Kounellis, Picabia and Robert Smythson.
Within these categories there are some particularly strong groupings. They include a spread of sculptures by Gober, represented by a doll house construction, a sink, a crib, a bed and the untitled sewer grate with the fragment of the human body beneath it. By Jeff Koons there is a vacuum-cleaner sculpture, a single ball equilibrium tank, a carved and pigmented large vase of flowers, the ceramic sculpture “Michael Jackson with Bubbles”, and “Ponies” from the “Made in Heaven” series of silkscreen paintings. Installations include Janine Antoni’s “Slumber”, the loom and tapestry of her dream patterns woven from her own nightdress, “Heidi’s House, the set constructed by Mike Kelley and Paul McCarthy, Jamaican artist Nari Ward’s “Amazing Grace”, and the “Evening” video by Stan Douglas.
The collection of Mr Joannou, who has been appointed president of the Guggenheim Museum’s International Director’s Council, will be shown at the Guggenheim SoHo at an unspecified date this year or next, and at the Museum of Modern Art, Copenhagen, in spring 1997. Mr Joannou inevitably looms large in the Greek artistic scene, and he was appointed chairman of a State commission charged with devising a national policy for the visual arts by the Minister of Culture. This commission was disbanded when, after a year, it had failed to produce detailed proposals. Countering charges that the forthcoming exhibition only includes two works by Greek artists—Labas and Takis—Mr Joannou is simultaneously holding an exhibition of young Greek artists in Cyprus House, Athens.
Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Major Greek collector Dakis Joannou reveals ten years’ worth of buying for the first time'