Art market Magazine April 2013

 
THE MAGAZINE 
 
MEETING 
 
George Economou the Tycoon…
THE MAGAZINE

MEETING

George Economou the Tycoon

D

escribed as a tycoon by The Economist, George Economou heads the holding company DryShips Inc., specialising
in the shipping industry. Though his talents are inherent in his Greek origins, George Economou cultivated them at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, emerging with two Masters of Science in transport and naval engineering. A billionaire is never ignored – still less when he is a collector. This twofold status has often provided excessively fertile soil for the media. The Greek adds further to his own legend by buying something of everything on a large scale, from 15th century Flemish painting to contemporary art. The names of Lucas Cranach, Delacroix, Duchamp, Picasso, Magritte, Brassaï, Warhol, Gerhard Richter, Rauschenberg and David La Chapelle don't often rub shoulders with the Primitive Arts, Edmund Adler and Johann Sperl – artists considerably more obscure. According to the columnists, he caught the collecting bug around fifteen years ago, and went at it recklessly right from the start, as his collection now contains nearly 2,500 works. In February 2011, the people of Athens discovered him for the first time with astonishment, and the media freely criticised a collection that was so disparate, to say the least. But the wild enthusiasm of his beginnings has now given way to the age of reason: for George Economou has opened an art centre in the suburbs of Athens. His choices have narrowed down to the 20th century, united by a sociocultural theme. His trump card is unquestionably German Expressionism. He achieved a master stroke in buying the 500-odd engravings of Otto Dix from the Berlin dealer Florian Karsch, then in his eighties, thus becoming the artist's leading collector. This was perhaps

decisive in his refocusing on artists of the same vein. With the founding of a contemporary art centre, the billionaire has the makings of a connoisseur who is not merely content to stock up on masterpieces. It's no longer a matter of simply participating in the ceremonial liturgies of exhibition previews and sale rooms. He is now up there with the leaders, where to appreciate the present, you have to contribute to creating it. La Gazette: What made you become a collector? George Economou: For as long as I can remember, I have always loved art. Having been born in Athens, the cradle of a great civilisation, I was exposed to the idea of masterpieces at an early age. My enthusiasm was then shaped by culture and education. As to my collection, it came about from a ravenous need to be attached almost physically to art, and to make it part of my daily life. What type of collector inspired you, and which criteria guide your acquisitions? A work needs to inspire a lasting emotion in me. A whole range of criteria come into play, such as its historical importance and its representative character. I have a genuine fascination with creativity, so I choose pieces which materialise the moment that the immaterial world of ideas metamorphoses into visible reality. I find it difficult to identify with a type, because I know all the processes a collector goes through, which can range from strategy to instinct or compulsive behaviour. Do some works have particular meaning for you? Many are very special to me, like the work by Andreas Gursky currently on show in the exhibition

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GAZETTE DROUOT INTERNATIONAL I N° 24


MEETING

THE MAGAZINE

George Economou in front of a work by David Hammons.

HD

N° 24 I GAZETTE DROUOT INTERNATIONAL

117

© Stathis Mamalakis
© Courtesy of L & M Arts

Art Market Magazine April 2013
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