Photo Credit:© Alexia Antsakli – www.artflyer.net
As one of the most notable collectors of Contemporary Art in the world, Art World Forum is proud to share this interview with Dakis Joannou, Founder and President of the DESTE Foundation, a non-profit institution which promotes emerging and established artists with the aim of enhancing creative opportunities, exploring the dynamics between contemporary art and culture and broadening audiences of Contemporary Art.
“I am especially drawn to art that makes a statement about our society, about life; that is visually powerful and has passion and a strong concept. I look for art that I can connect with aesthetically, conceptually, and emotionally.”
1. As one of the world’s leading collectors of Contemporary Art, how would you describe your relationship with art and artists?
Art has always been an integral part of my life. The relationships I form with artists and the creative networks that develop are central to the collection and how it evolves. They are the cornerstone of the collection.
2. Initially launching the DESTE Foundation for Contemporary Art in Athens which sought to trigger a dialogue between art and contemporary culture, you then started collecting. At which point did you realise you were a collector with the ambition of supporting a collection?
I was always looking for ways to be an active participant in the dialogue of art, which is why, in 1983, I decided to found DESTE.
While exploring the art scene in the East Village in 1985, I visited International with Monument, where I came across “One Ball Total Equilibrium Tank (Spalding Dr. JK 241 Series)” by Jeff Koons. The work immediately captivated me and from then on I gradually started forming a collection. The collection has evolved and changed organically with time and, while it remains a separate entity from DESTE, at the same time, the two complement each other.
3. In the current cultural landscape, and perhaps more contextually to your role as a collector based in Greece, what does patronage mean to you? Is there a responsibility that comes with being a collector?
Collecting for me is not so much an act of patronage but rather a creative process, a means of exploring the connections between art and contemporary culture. Putting the artworks in a context and making them accessible is what is important as it promotes the debate around art.
4. With your various initiatives including the DESTE Prize and the DESTE Fashion Collection, it is evident that you are keen on supporting emerging talent and encouraging conceptual criticism in the creative sectors. In your opinion, how would you define an artist? What is it that you look for in his/her work?
An artist is someone who can generate ideas, encourage dialogue, and respond to current conversations in the art world. I am especially drawn to art that makes a statement about our society, about life. That is visually powerful and has passion and a strong concept. I look for art that I can connect with aesthetically, conceptually, and emotionally.
5. The DESTE Foundation has offered access to the Project Space Slaughterhouse based in Hydra to renowned artists including David Shrigley, Kara Walker, Maurizio Cattelan and Urs Fischer. What was it that attracted you to Hydra and the island’s old slaughterhouse? On what basis do you select the artist for the foundation’s annual site-specific exhibition?
Hydra has always been a haven for artists. I myself have been visiting the island since the early 80s and was always intrigued by the slaughterhouse building. It is a specially charged place. The building’s former identity makes it a mysterious, evocative site. The idea behind DESTE’s Slaughterhouse Project is to invite a mid-career artist with international presence to create new, site-specific work that comes into dialogue with this very particular space, the history of this small island, its traditions, and inhabitants. The Slaughterhouse Project is probably DESTE’s most open-ended project.
6. With notable projects such as Documenta 14 selecting Athens as a suitable partner location for its 14th edition in 2017, what is your opinion on such creative collaborations and international affiliations? Do you think Greece is open and ready for Contemporary Art developments?
Creative collaborations and international affiliations of this nature should be encouraged as they contribute to the local art scene finding its place and leaving its mark on the international art map. Greece, as has been evident since Document 14, has been ready and open for such developments for some time now.