Artworks from private collection express contemporary trends

Each time that an exhibition on the collection of the Cypriot-born businessman Dakis Joannou is organized, there is something of a stir. Greek contemporary art-lovers expect to see a representative image of the latest trends in contemporary art, thus gaining partial access to a domain that up until the recent growth in the number of art galleries and the opening of contemporary art museums, was sparely exhibited in this country. They also expect to be met with exhibitions that have an edge, a playful yet sharp, contemporary feel about them. «Monument to Now,» the second-biggest display of Joannou’s collection since «Everything That is Interesting is New» that was held in 1996 at the exhibition hall of the Athens School of Fine Arts, is too broad to describe in a few words yet can be said to have something of this playful mood about it. The exhibition is an impressive display stretched across two separate venues (the DESTE Center for Contemporary Art in Neo Psychico – a foundation established in the early 1990s by the collector for the exhibition and promotion of contemporary art – and the DESTE’s new premises in an unused factory in Nea Ionia) that includes works by 61 international artists, and focuses on art produced over the past few years. A broad-ranging exhibition, it is the outcome of a partnership between five international curators: Dan Cameron, at New York’s New Museum of Contemporary Art as well as curator of the recent Istanbul biennale; Alison Gingeras at the Pompidou’s National Museum of Modern Art in Paris; Massimiliano Gioni, one of the curators at the 50th Venice Biennale and curator of the 2004 Manifesta biennale; Nancy Spector, curator of contemporary art at New York’s Guggenheim Museum; and Jeffrey Deitch, a longtime collaborator of Joannou and of one of New York’s most renowned curators of contemporary art. The exhibition takes the viewer through recurring themes addressed in contemporary art: gender issues and social identity, the role of technology in our times, the role and status of the contemporary artist, and the reuse of painting and depiction of the human figure in art. There is humor, introspection, and punch, as well as a critical perspective. In the exhibition, several artists are more amply represented than others. Special focus has been placed on the work of Jeff Koons, an artist at the core of the Joannou collection. Koons’s giant «Balloon Dog» is among the exhibition’s most eye-catching works. There are also several installations by Tim and Sue Webster, most of them a heap of discarded materials that, when lit, transform to the shadow, on-the-wall projections of the artists’ image, a number of Chris Ofili’s mosaic-like paintings and a typical sample of Maurizio Cattelan’s humorous and, at times, biting works. Other artists’ names include Mike Kelley, Matthew Barney, William Kentridge, Martin Kippenberger, Mariko Mori, Takashi Murakami, Robert Gober, Olafur Eliasson, Kiki Smith, Kara Walker, Nari Ward, Douglas Gordon, Liza Lou, Ghada Amer, Matthew Barney, Gilbert & George, Shirin Neshat, Vanessa Beecroft and Charles Ray. George Lappas, Nikos Navridis and the young Lina Theodorou are the exhibition’s Greek contributors. A sprawling exhibition, «Monument to Now» captures the image of one of the most well-known private, contemporary art collections internationally while also providing a sense of some of the major ideas that run through contemporary art. «Monument to Now,» at the DESTE venue in Nea Ionia (E. Pappa & Filellinon, open Tuesdays-Sundays 10 a.m – 8 p.m., Mondays 12-8 p.m) and the Deste Foundation of Contemporary Art in Neo Psychico (8 Omirou, open Mondays-Fridays 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., Saturdays 12-4 p.m.) through the end of the year. Info at: 210.672/275.4862 or at Opening hours apply to 30/8.

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