It is not every day that a major collector parts ways with a significant chunk of their collection, but that is just what Dimitris Daskalopoulos did when he announced this past April that he would donate 350 works to four museums: Athens’s National Museum of Contemporary Art (EMST), London’s Tate, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, and New York’s Guggenheim Museum.
That means that a number of these works are leaving Greece, Daskalopoulos’s home country, for the time being. But before these pieces depart, they have been given something of a goodbye tour at Neon, the Athens art space that Daskalopoulos founded.
“Dream On,” as the exhibition is titled, is currently on view at the former Public Tobacco Factory, which also contains the Hellenic Parliament Library. Daskalopoulos funded the refurbishment of a large part of the building, which has been open to the public as an exhibition space since last year.
The show is a collection of stunning installations by artists like Maria Loizidou and Damien Hirst that are given the sprawling space they deserve.
“Large-scale installations are where artists go when they want to make their dreams come true,” said Dimitris Paleocrassas, the exhibition’s curator, who has acted as a consultant to Daskalopoulos’s collection. “It is striking how awe-inspiring and viscerally impactful large-scale installations usually are.”
Among the artworks that viewers can inhabit is Thomas Hirschhorn’s Cavemanman (2002). Entering through an opening in a gallery wall, viewers walk into a maze of duct-taped spaces that gives way to an area where the Caveman, a character Hirschhorn imagined, resides. The Caveman’s obsession is the mantra “1 Man = 1 Man,” and his cave is littered with high theory and literature—by the likes of Noam Chomsky and Martin Luther King, Jr.—to prove this, even if the outside world refuses to reflect this truth.
Wangechi Mutu’s Exhuming Gluttony: A Lover’s Requiem (2006) is similarly immersive. Audience members enter a long dining room, a visceral repository for the rot of a relationship gone bad. The floor is littered with hair; one of the paneled walls is seemingly shot up. Above the long table are suspended bottles of wine, which are fitted with special nozzles that slowly release the liquid held within at a creeping pace, creating deep stains in the wood table and suffusing the air with an alcoholic humidity.
In a final, almost grotesque display is a pile of animal pelts hung on the walls. These are not the neatly shorn furs of hats and mufflers but complete bodies with missing eyes and jaws ripped open. One leaves Exhuming Gluttony feeling in need of a shower. It’s great.
During a press conference earlier this week, Constantine Tassoulas, President of the Hellenic Parliament, said, “This is not a farewell but a bientôt. We will see these works again.”
He went on to say that, having made so much of his collection available to the public, Daskalopoulos was helping to “tear down the myth that is just for a limited elite who can transact with it and enjoy it.”
However, at the press junket, reporters asked why the cultural wealth Daskalopoulos had amassed was not for the Greek public, many of whom, after all, would not be seeing many of these works when they head to London, Chicago, and New York. And additionally, this was the first time these large-scale works had been on view all together in Athens to begin with.
“I would remind you that 140 works will be on view at the National Museum of Contemporary Art (EMST),” Tassoulas responded. “Furthermore, there is an agreement that we will be able to borrow the works in the future.”