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Greek Collector Donates 350 Artworks to Tate, Guggenheim, MCA Chicago, and EMST in Athens

ATHENS – Greek collector Dimitris Daskalopoulos is donating 350 works from his broad collection to four well-known international museums. The Greek National Museum of Contemporary Art in Athens (EMST) will receive 140 pieces; the Tate Modern gets 110 works, while the Guggenheim in New York and the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (MCA Chicago) will assume shared ownership of approximately 100 works.

Talking to The Art Newspaper, Daskalopoulos explained his decision saying, “for me, it was a one-way street and about making these works available to the public. I have built relationships with the collections; this is a culmination of a way of thinking over many years.”

The donation are particularly for EMST, which faced difficulties in the past – this donation will be a chance for it to finally be placed on the contemporary art map.

Greece’s National Museum of Contemporary Art EMST

“Katerina Gregos [EMST artistic director] is thrilled. It was also a factor for me that she is there. It has struggled for a long time to stand on its feet, now I am very hopeful,” Daskalopoulos added.

Most of the works by Greek artists were gifted to EMST in Athens as certain gaps in the museum needed to be filled. Gregos mentioned in a statement that this is the most important gift in the 20-year history of the museum, both in terms of magnitude and significance. “It couldn’t come at a better moment, with Greece emerging from the debt crisis,” she added.

After talking to former director of Tate, Nick Serota, who is also a trustee of MCA Chicago and the vice-president of the board at the Solomon R. Guggenheim foundation, they came to the decision to share the gifting of artwork across multiple museums instead of just one.

“Myself and the team, we sat down and said, ‘this is a coherent collection that cannot go to one place. It’s too big, too heavy, for any museum to handle, even somewhere of the calibre of Tate.’ If our goal is to make it as available to as wide an audience as possible, we have to look at various museums.”

Tate Modern is an art gallery located in London housing UK’s national collection of international modern and contemporary art. Photo by Hannah Smith via Unsplash

A few of the artists represented in the collection include Louise Bourgeois, Steve McQueen, Sarah Lucas and Kiki Smith.

His team broke down the collection into three subsets. “Then we looked at what the museums already had so that we don’t create overlaps. And then we gave the option to the museum, saying, ‘we would like you to take it as a collection gift but if there are works that you don’t want for any reason, just tell us.’ There were very few occasions when works were taken out… we did a good job in making the [works] compatible with the needs of each museum. Everybody is happy and nobody is jealous,” Daskalopoulos stated.

A network of curators will accompany the collection gifts, including a new dedicated post at Tate and a new shared post at the Guggenheim and MCA Chicago. “We have great hopes that this will create a cultural exchange, especially for EMST. The fact there are [new] curators makes me hopeful there will be trans-Atlantic cooperation,” he mentioned.

The Guggenheim is an art museum on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in New York City. Photo by Taylor Heery via Unsplash

When asked why he has no plans to open his own museum, Daskalopoulos simply said that it was never an option for him as it does not fit his character. He believes that a collector has a responsibility to the collection, the artists, and the works.

“I am giving the collection an assured future when it goes to public institutions that are capable of understanding and conserving [the works], to keep them in dialogue” he said.

The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago was established in 1967 and is one of the world’s largest contemporary art venues. Photo by Céline via Wikimedia Commons

Daskalopoulos has been collecting works since 1994 but has now decided to stop as he states that his mission has been completed. Most of the collection is part of the gift, however some works will stay with him as an element of his financial planning and his way of life.



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