Greek’s modern art collection bound for Edinburgh
ONE of the world’s most important private collections of contemporary art is set to go on display in Scotland for the first time.
In a major coup for the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Dimitris Daskalopoulos, one of Europe’s leading art connoisseurs has pledged to cover the costs of an exhibition of some of the work he has acquired in the past 15 years.
The National Galleries of Scotland (NGS) describe the Greek tycoon’s collection as “outstanding,” and are pressing ahead with talks to secure the public display of “truly exceptional works which would not otherwise be seen in Scotland”.
The collection, which has most recently been on display at the Guggenheim in Bilbao, features more than 400 works by around 170 international artists, the highlight being Marcel Duchamp’s iconic Fountain.
While the Greek tycoon is looking to secure a space in his homeland to display his collection, parts of it have been loaned out to leading museums in the past. An exhibition in Edinburgh would be considered a boon for NGS.
The Athens-based magnate is a trustee of the Guggenheim Foundation and a member of Tate’s International Council, and is said to relish the prospect of having his work displayed in Scotland.
Jessica Morgan, Daskalopoulos curator at the Tate Modern, said: “I am sure it will be a great show, there are so many things the NGS can do with the Daskalopoulos collection. It has a very international feel, with works from artists from Africa, Latin America, the US and Britain, and I think people will find it quite a revelation. The last big exhibition at the Guggenheim was quite incredible in the architecture of Bilbao, and required quite complex installation. I would hope the exhibition in Scotland would have that gravitas.”
Daskalopoulos inherited a stake in his family’s dairy business before transforming it into Vivartia, Greece’s largest food company. He then sold his share five years ago for £338 million, and has devoted part of his fortune to his passion for art.
His collection began with Greek paintings and antiquities, but in the 1990s he developed an interest in international contemporary art. In 1999, he paid a record £1.1m for Duchamp’s Fountain – a porcelain urinal, reclining on its side and marked with a false signature. It is considered one of the 20th century’s most important artworks, raising questions about what is unique and authentic. The first Fountain has long been lost or broken, and Daskalopoulos’ piece is one of just 12 replicas of the 1917 original produced in 1964, and one of three in private hands.
His collection also includes a phallic latex sculpture by French-American sculptor, Louise Bourgeois, for which he paid £289,000, and Bunny Gets Snookered, a 1997 collection of mannequins arranged on and around a snooker table. The work, by Sarah Lucas, cost Daskalopoulos £104,000.
A recent exhibition of his collection at the Whitechapel Gallery in London included Annette Messager’s installation Dépendance/Indépendance, Untitled, a sculpture by German artist Kiki Smith and Paul McCarthy’s artwork Tomato Head.
Morgan, whose position at the Tate is supported by the 56-year-old Daskalopoulos, added: “Dimitris has gone out of his way to collect quite large, complicated installation work, including video work, the kind of things one would not normally associate with a private collection.
“In a way, it’s much closer to an institutional collection, focusing on groundbreaking works which use media in a new way.
“It’s a very different approach to collecting which in this day and age is very welcome. It’s not about gathering works for a personal mini-museum, but showing them to the world in a very broad way. The collection has very strong components, whether it’s a political edge or a new way of looking at materials.
“Dimitris is someone who can come across initially as a serious, focused person, but he has a great sense of humour and appreciates the absurdities in life. He’s very dedicated to his collection.”
The discussions about the show, detailed in the minutes of the latest meeting of the NGS trustees, are ongoing between Daskalopoulos and Simon Groom, director of modern and contemporary art.
It has yet to be established exactly which items from the collection will come to Scotland, along with dates for the exhibition, but the board noted that all costs would be covered by the collector and the show would “fit in well with the programme of exhibitions at the SNGMA”.
A spokeswoman for NGS said: “The SNGMA is in discussion with the contemporary art collector, Dimitri Daskalopoulos, on working with his collection. Details will be announced in due course once confirmed.”
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