artnet : Mega collector Dimitris Daskalopoulos is donating over 350 artworks to four museums in three countries – 71Bait

Today, Dimitris Daskalopoulos marks the accomplishment of what was once considered impossible: he closes an important chapter in his artistic journey by donating more than 350 works from his collection to four museums in three countries on both sides of the Atlantic.

“I never felt [like] an owner of works of art. They belong to the creators forever. A work of art only matters when it is seen, when it interacts with the viewer and evokes emotion,” the cheerful Greek financier and mega-collector told Artnet News on a Zoom call.

The farewell to the majority of his D.Daskalopoulos collection, which the Leo Award-winning collector and patron founded in 1994, may be emotional: “I have an affinity for every work,” he said. But giving them away is much more faithful to his philosophy than keeping the works in boxes.

“The natural end of that is that I give these artworks away where they have a chance to be seen by a lot of people and be better preserved in the future and stay in dialogue with people,” he said. “They are public museums, nothing else.”

More than 350 works by 142 artists from the collection will be given a new home: 140 will go to the Greek National Museum of Contemporary Art (EMST), around 100 will be under the joint care of the Guggenheim in New York (where he acts as trustee) and MCA Chicago in the US, and in the UK, Tate retains 110.

Marina Abramovic and Ulay, uncertainties (1977), is shared by the Guggenheim and MCA Chicago. Giovana dal Magro and Lisson Gallery, London, courtesy of the Marina Abramović Archives.

Many of these works have been created by some of the most important contemporary artists of the past few decades: Marina Abramović, Matthew Barney, Isaac Julien, Jannis Kounellis, Sarah Lucas, Paul McCarthy, Steve McQueen, Paul Thek. The collection has toured some of the world’s leading institutions, including the Whitechapel Gallery in London, the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh.

“I’m not an artist. I can’t even draw a square. But with this collection I am saying something about contemporary art. The collection is my own creation,” said Daskalopoulos, who also founded the Neon Foundation in Athens. “But the collection must have a future beyond my life, and the artworks must have a life beyond.”

The idea of ​​donating the collection arose during a media interview in 2014 — which Daskalopoulos says alarmed his team when they read the news. The idea took a long time to implement because of the complicated process, and he wants to get it right. “It was interesting, but it’s a tough exercise to get there,” he admitted.

Stathis Logothetis, torso (1981) goes to the Greek National Museum of Contemporary Art (EMST). Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Nikos Markou.

In addition, each institution was given time to examine its archives in order to avoid duplication of works already in the collections. Institutions also had the option to reject works that they did not have the resources to maintain — such as large-scale installations, which Daskalopoulos said are “difficult to manage even for a large, well-resourced museum.”

The donation also coincides with the creation of a network of curators: a new dedicated position will be established at Tate, the Guggenheim and MCA Chicago will have a joint new position, and EMST will receive additional curatorial support.

By making such a large donation against the backdrop of recent crises, from the pandemic to the war in Ukraine, Daskalopoulos hopes to remind the world what really matters. “A lot of the assumptions and confidences that we have in the world order and in human values… all of that is being called into question,” he said. The donation “is a good, timely message to remind of the timelessness of art and its importance for people.

Lina Mendoni, the Greek Minister of Culture and Sports, praised Daskalopoulos for acting as a catalyst to make the private works accessible to the public and future generations. Richard Armstrong, director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation, described the donation as an “extraordinary gift” and pledged to “enable a rich expansion in the narratives to unfold in our permanent collections.” Tate director Maria Balshaw and Katerina Gregos, artistic director of EMST, thanked the collector for his “extraordinary generosity”.

Paul McCarthy, Tomato Head (Burgundy) (1994), goes to Tate. Courtesy of the artist and Hauser and Wirth. Photo: Douglas M. Parker Studio.

Looking ahead, Daskalopoulos looks forward to seeing how museums engage with the works and participating in discussions with artists, curators and the public activities, which he believes are “more fun than collecting”. He keeps some of the art to himself, but says he’s stopped actively buying. “I don’t go to art fairs anymore,” he said. “I don’t even look at commercial emails from galleries anymore.”

Just as remarkable for what the donation entails is what it doesn’t do. Daskalopoulos has not specified the physical exhibition of the works, nor has he asked for a special program or for a gallery to be named after him, preferring to leave the decision on the inclusion of the artworks to the curators. He added that he was not claiming any tax benefits from this donation in any country.

But he has one small request when these museums organize events or exhibitions in the future: “I hope they don’t forget to invite me,” says Daskalopoulos, laughing.

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