In the first part of this conversation, Dimitris Daskalopoulos, a Greek entrepreneur and contemporary art collector shared with us his goals and motivation for establishing NEON, a non-profit organization that aims to broaden the appreciation, understanding and creation of contemporary art in Greece, his motivation for collecting, and the meaning of a collection.
In the second part of our conversation, below, Dimitris Daskalopoulos talks to us about his passion for art, the impact of curators and museums, art-making and risk-taking and the power of art even when we don't fully understand it.
Your interest in art. How did it start?
I don't think there is a starting point, I think you are born with a passion for art, and at some point you realize you have it. It has always been there somehow. An inner archetypal urge. I have been an accomplished art collector or a person who has spent hours and hours, and thought in the art world for more than 20 years now. But I am always surprised with human creativity. I remain constantly passionate and curious; to see what is new and what is different. So, it is probably something in the DNA. Last week, I was at the Palazzo Pitti, which is a museum with big rooms full of paintings, thousands of them, and suddenly I noticed a very small, about 15 inches or so, Raphael painting which is called Ezekiel's Vision. I found myself mesmerized again in front of it. So, it is beautiful, it is surprising, it is inspiring and it was there all along. It happened to me when I was twelve, it happened to me last week. And I hope it happens again today.
On Art Making and Entrepreneurship
If you look at it, artists and entrepreneurs are the two types of people in society that are in the avant-garde. To start with, with risk-taking. Risk-taking about untested ideas. About trying to dream and turn something into a tangible, coherent proposition. I'd say, of course, entrepreneurship has the added burden of having to make an economically sustainable business out of that, which art has fought for some time not to do. I'd say, having been an entrepreneur, we are artists of some sort. It really takes the same type of thinking to be able to succeed through innovation in a crowded marketplace. That's artistry I think. Now, if artists are entrepreneurs? Hopefully not.
On the Curator's Role
I had a revelatory experience when my own collection was curated by three different museums and their curators (Whitechapel Gallery, Guggenheim Museum Bilbao and Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art). I have a clear view of what my collection is about, I have a certain idea about its main theme, its core. But I saw how creative the approaches have been, how many axes there are to interpret a collection or how many intelligent ways there are to put works together and create a new meaning. I believe the role of curators is to facilitate the dialogue between the artworks and the public. Making it more tangible, more meaningful for enabling the public to engage with art. Giving a theme around disparate works. It is not easy to do. It is very often not successful. We have seen cases where it makes you giggle more than get inspired by some of the ideas or the grandiosity of the theme. But when it is successful it is really revelatory and refreshing. But that's their task and they should keep doing it.
On Museums' Impact
We need tangible measures, so we will always be measuring visitors through the door and hits at our website. But underlying that, I think there is always this conviction, this reality that we are touching people's minds. I don't think that is measurable. And I think what museums, and curators and exhibitions do is intangible. It stimulates peoples' thoughts, it makes them take their kids along and have an intelligent discussion with them. Or maybe sometimes we are even frightened by art, we feel we don't understand it; even that is useful. In the sense that we learn that we cannot have a full understanding of everything, of how complicated, in a positive way, things are. And that despite that, we are human beings in a constant struggle, trying to create within uncertainty, within less understanding, without the ability to grasp everything or to calculate what kind of impact our own actions will have. In that sense, even that is educating. This is why people flock to exhibitions, museums and get entangled with this very challenging and stimulating thing, which is art in general, and contemporary art.