House of Style

Linda Yablonsky on Juergen Teller, Rashid Johnson, and Paweł Althamer in Greece

Left: Photographer Juergen Teller. Right: Collectors Diana Widmaier-Picasso, Lieta Joannou, Dakis Joannou, and artist Maurizio Cattelan. (All photos: Linda Yablonsky)

SUMMER CAMP started early this year with a weekend of post-Basel R & R in Greece. Actually, the Swiss fair was still in progress when the first escapees arrived in Athens last Friday. With hardly a stop for breath, artists, collectors, and curators were whisked away to supercollector Dakis Jouannou’s Deste Foundation for the opening of “Macho,” an exhibition of self-portrait photographs by Juergen Teller, curated by Marina Fokidis. This is how art people take the pressure off—by immersing themselves in art that they can’t buy or sell.

Joannou didn’t go to Basel, because, as he said, he didn’t need to go. Artists come to him these days, even “retired” artists like Maurizio Cattelan, and well they should. Joannou doesn’t collect art to flatter his ego or because it’s a good investment. He does it for fun, and takes it seriously. He listens to artists, and curators as well, and if he likes what he hears he’ll support their projects. He also challenges them with ideas of his own, and one of them has to do with the increasingly tangled weave of art and fashion.

Though he makes little distinction between the two himself, Teller’s career as a photographer has been mainly in high fashion, shooting such models as Kate Moss and, indelibly, Charlotte Rampling. Fokidis, artistic director of Kunsthalle Athena, looked at his more personal pictures and wanted to do a show with them. Joannou gave her the shot. “We decided on the self-portraits,” she said during a cocktail party in the small Deste garden, as dealer Sadie Coles (Teller’s wife) chatted in mixed company that included collectors Iasson Tsakonas and Diana Widmaier-Picasso, O32c editor Jörg Koch, and Palais de Tokyo’s Myriam Ben Salah. “They’re less known,” Fokidis said, “and they have a completely different aesthetic.”

Left: Collector Iasson Tsakonas and curator Marina Fokidis. Right: Collector George Economou.

Indeed they do. In these pictures, which are quite modest in size if not in content, Teller forgoes the Greek ideal of a hunk (seen in photos of statuary) to make himself look like a sheepish, beer-bellied lout cavorting nude with his family and hopelessly working out in a gym. The show was a far cry from “Magic Numbers,” an exhibition also opening that night at the George Economou Collection.

Economou is the new Stavros Niarchos, as it were, a billionaire shipping magnate who caught the art bug in the 1990s and, following Joannou’s example, opened his compact, three-story exhibition space two years ago. Guggenheim Museum curator Katharine Brinson was tapped to organize Johnson’s edifying, seven-piece show, which begins with an open mahogany vitrine the size of a Ping-Pong table that Johnson filled with glowing, buttercup-yellow shea butter, a commissioned sculpture. Upstairs, a scatter of Persian rugs offered seating for his choreographed film, New Black Yoga, the first Johnson work to enter Economou’s collection.

Though Mark Bradford stopped by on his way to Dubai, and collectors like Richard Chang, Frances Reynolds, and Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo were on the scene with Tsakonas and Jouannou, the opening also attracted a curious complement of art dealers from abroad: Ursula Hauser and Iwan Wirth, Per Skarstedt, David Zwirner Gallery directors Hannah Schouwink and Christopher D’Amelio, Sarah Watson, and Monique Meloche, who was the first to show Johnson in his hometown, Chicago, and still does.

Left: Guggenheim Museum curator Katharine Brinson. Right: Mathias Augustyniak.

Johnson’s entire family also came for the event. So did Re Rebaudengo’s two sons and Economou’s children, Alexandra and Phillip. Buses ferried the whole kit and kaboodle to dinner under a large tent on the patio of Economou’s graceful house in suburban Maroussi, where German art from Beckmann to Baselitz hung on the walls with paintings by Bradford and Johnson. “I’m sure many of you are happy to be out of Basel,” he said at toast time. “You can thank me for that.” People did. You could tell by the wild dancing that ensued after dinner, when Johnson got down with Bradford and Watson, and Christian Rosa spent as much time rolling on the floor as he did upright. Economou didn’t join them but watched from a safe distance “I like to meet the artists,” he said of his switch from older art to contemporary. “We’re friends.”

On Saturday afternoon, a group of us, including Swiss Institute director Simon Castets, PIN-UP editor Felix Burrichter, and artist Angelo Plessas, followed fabulist artist Andreas Angelidakis through the imaginary and repurposed architecture of “Every End Is a Beginning,” a retrospective of his sculpture and video at Athens’s contemporary art museum. That evening, Joannou took back the stage with the opening of “destefashioncollection 1-8” at the Benaki Museum’s contemporary art annex in Pireos. This was something new that caught everyone by surprise. It’s not that Joannou has added fashion to his art and furniture collections. But in his growing role as instigator, he has invited an artist, photographer, designer, and architect to put together a capsule collection of clothing, photographs, or accessories every year since 2007, and this was the first eight capsules’ exposure to the public.

The idea, and a transparent dress by André Corrèges, inspired Charles Ray in 2011 to dispense with clothing or objects in favor of photographs of nude fashion models posed as if they were dressed, and “accessorized” by tan lines and cropped pubic hair, and presented in vitrines as pages from a mail order catalogue. Brilliant.

Left: Artist Andreas Angelidakis. Right: Dealer Iwan Wirth and artist Mark Bradford.

Equally awesome was an impossible-to-wear, flamboyant Viktor & Rolf dress chosen by poet Patrizia Cavalli (2010) as the centerpiece of her capsule, which also featured python shoes by Alexander McQueen and pages of her manuscripts. Teller picked his own photographs; M/M, the Parisian art and design duo Michael Amzalag and Mathias Augustyiak (the first to accept the commission), approached fashion connoisseurship with designs by Alaïa, Comme des Garçons, Marc Jacobs, and Yves Saint Laurent, and made drawings of same on enamel.

Last year, Diller Scofidio + Renfro took the plunge and married fashion to architecture by creating, with photographer Matthew Monteith, a cocktail party narrative shot in Philip Johnson’s Glass House and coupling it with designer accessories that could have come from either its time or ours. Diller was on hand for the opening, as were Ausgutyiak and Monteith. So was Kim Gordon, who accepted Joannou’s assignment to do next year’s collection. “I have no idea what to do,” she said. She’ll figure it out, I’m sure.

Judging from the exhibition’s ingenious design, she’ll be in good hands. Working from an essay (“What Is the Contemporary?”) by Giorgio Agamben, Deste curator Nadja Argyropoulou worked with architects Mark Wasiuta and Adam Bandler (both from Columbia University) to organize each capsule within dissolving “rooms” formed by slowly moving chain curtains hung from the sort of track system used by dry cleaners. Works were displayed on poles, in vitrines, on stationary walls, or Plexi shelves, and viewers from Greek collector Alexandra Martinou to Harold Koda, chief curator of the Metropolitan Museum’s Anna Wintour Costume Center, snaked between them as the moving curtains created an enthralling, peek-a-boo experience. “It all has to do with desire,” Argyropoulou said. “It’s very different, not what you’d expect,” observed an admiring Re Rebaudengo.

Left: Dealer Hannah Schouwink, artist Wyatt Khan, and dealer Christopher D'Amelio. Right: Dealer Per Skarstedt and collector Richard Chang.

Joannou has been germinating the art/fashion connection ever since he saw an Issey Miyake bodice on the cover of the February 1982 Artforum. “It took a long time but we finally found a way to do it,” he said during dinner at his home, where he rotates the installation of artworks from his personal collection each year. Roberto Cuoghi was given the marbled atrium where works by Jeff Koons and Paweł Althamer have been exhibited in the past, but recent works by Brooklyn’s Still House Group also got a room of their own while guests sprawled on couches, took tables on the patio overlooking Athens, or arranged themselves around the interior, glass-brick dance floor.

Althamer was the artist whom Joannou selected to deal with the Slaughterhouse, Deste’s project space on Hydra. The company of two hundred—billionaire collectors; fashion designers Christopher Kane and Erdem; artists Cyril Duval (aka ITEM IDEM), Jakob Ziolkowski, and Paul Chan (rumored to be next year’s Slaughterhouse choice); curators Massimiliano Gioni, Cecilia Alemani, and Adam Szymczyk; and dealers Burkhard Riemschneider, Andrzej Przywara, and Jeffrey Deitch (a Deste curator early in his career) reassembled there the following evening.

“I gave myself an assignment,” Diller said, staring into the sunset over the Slaughterhouse, which is felicitously located on a cliff overlooking the Peloponnese peninsula and the Ionian Sea. “I want to have an epiphany here.” It may have helped that Althamer titled his exhibition “The Secret of Phaistos Disc,” after the ancient, cryptic plate inscribed with inscrutable symbols discovered by archaeologists on Crete a century ago. Mysticism was in the air, though inside the slightly creepy, cement building, Althamer had installed a kind of rec room that recalled both his graffiti free-for-all at the New Museum during his recent retrospective there and Urs Fischer’s community of clay sculptors last year. Family members played with puppets of themselves or made drawings with the artist in one of two smaller rooms. “Paweł’s like a hippie generator,” Gioni joked. “He’s into workshops.” As for Althamer, he’d only say the exhibition was “spiritual.”

Left: Artist Paul Chan. Right: Artist Alexandra Bachzetsis and Documenta 14 artistic director Adam Szymczyk.

High spirits definitely prevailed at dinner, laid on one long, long, long table in the road. Diller, absent her own epiphany, surprised Althamer by speaking perfect Polish—her native language, as it turned out. Applause broke out among his friends as Joannou made his way down the table to greet them, departing to a party on his son-in-law’s yacht while others danced at a tiny nightclub in town.

Monday morning found the collector on his own yacht, Guilty, which has a razzle-dazzle, Lichtenstein-like exterior finish designed by Koons, the first contemporary artist he collected. With Chan, Gioni, and Alemani, he left for New York and the opening of Koons’s retrospective opening at the Whitney the next day. Joannou loaned ten works to the show. I hoped one of them would be his Balloon Dog (Red), which is somehow the best of five. “No,” he said. “They took one from a local collector.” How had he come by the red one? With a broad grin, he replied, “I got there first.”

Left: Dealer Jeffrey Deitch with T Magazine art director Patrick Li. Right: Artist Kim Gordon and dealer Carol Greene.

Left: New Museum associate director Massimiliano Gioni with High Line Art curator Cecilia Alemani. Right: Collectors Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo and Eugenio Re Rebaudengo.

Left: 032c magazine editor Jörg Koch. Right: Deste Foundation curator Nadja Argyropoulou.

Left: Anna Wintour Costume Center curator Harold Koda with architect Elizabeth Diller and collector Dakis Joannou. Right: Artist Marina Karella and collector Alexandra Martinou.

Left: Photographer Matthew Monteith. Right: Dealers Burkhard Riemschneider, Andrzej Przywara, and Nathalie Karg.

Left: Dealer Monique Meloche and collector Alexandra Economou. Right: Artist Paweł Althamer.

Left: Swiss Institute director Simon Castets. Right: Artist Christian Rosa.

Left: Artist Rashid Johnson and George Economou Collection director Skarlet Smatana. Right: LACMA curator Jarret Gregory.

Left: Fashion designer Erdem. Right: Artist and designer Cyril Duval.