Clinton Cronies & Qatari Slave Trade

South Asia ‘shares blame’ for Gulf migrant abuses | ASIAN REVIEW | JUN 30, 2016

Amid growing concern about Qatar’s treatment of South Asian migrants building the infrastructure for the 2022 soccer World Cup, activists are warning that labor abuses are widespread throughout the Gulf, and that workers’ home countries share the blame.

Concerns have been raised over working conditions with Emir Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, Qatar’s authoritarian ruler.

Amnesty International, a human rights group, said that almost all of more than 200 laborers it interviewed on two World Cup-related construction sites in Doha were being exploited by their employers.

However, Qatar is neither the top Gulf destination for South Asian migrant workers nor the worst alleged violator of their rights. Indian embassies received more than 7,000 labor complaints from Gulf countries in the 11 months to November 2015, mostly from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj told parliament in New Delhi in December.

Revealed: Qatar’s World Cup ‘slaves’ | THE GUARDIAN

Dozens of Nepalese migrant labourers have died in Qatar in recent weeks and thousands more are enduring appalling labour abuses, a Guardian investigation has found, raising serious questions about Qatar’s preparations to host the 2022 World Cup.

This summer, Nepalese workers died at a rate of almost one a day in Qatar, many of them young men who had sudden heart attacks.

The investigation found evidence to suggest that thousands of Nepalese, who make up the single largest group of labourers in Qatar, face exploitation and abuses that amount to modern-day slavery, as defined by the International Labour Organisation, during a building binge paving the way for 2022.



Qatar: Profit and Loss | Counting the cost of modern day slavery in Qatar: What is the price of freedom?


What else is Qatar doing with all that money? Investing in art and foreign business.

Qatar has been buying up about $1 billion worth of art annually ($1,000,000,000 / yr)

Why would a hardline Wahhabi government splash out billions of dollars to secular Western artists?

Qatari Riches Are Buying Art World Influence | NY TIMES

Qataris have used it to secure a host of undisputed modern and contemporary masterpieces by Francis Bacon, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons.

Until Qatar’s 2007 purchase, for example, the most expensive Rothko ever sold at auction (“Homage to Matisse”) had drawn $22 million in 2005, less than one-third of the price Qatar paid.

$250 million for Cézanne’s “Card Players” from the family of Greek shipping magnate George Embiricos

 Sothesby’s | George Embiricos Tribute

What Are The Top 10 Al-Thani Family Art Acquisitions? | ARTNET

10. Damien Hirst, Lullaby Spring, $19 million | A pill cabinet with thousands of pills was purchased in the spring of 2007 at Sotheby’s.

9/11 wicked but a work of art, says Damien Hirst | THE GUARDIAN | SEP 10, 2002

The artist Damien Hirst said last night he believed the terrorists responsible for the September 11 attacks “need congratulating” because they achieved “something which nobody would ever have thought possible” on an artistic level.

Hirst, who is no stranger to controversy, said many people would “shy away” from looking at the event as art but he believed the World Trade Centre attack was “kind of like an artwork in its own right”.

In an interview, Hirst told BBC News Online: “The thing about 9/11 is that it’s kind of an artwork in its own right. It was wicked, but it was devised in this way for this kind of impact. It was devised visually.”

Describing the image of the hijacked planes crashing into the twin towers as “visually stunning”, he added: “You’ve got to hand it to them on some level because they’ve achieved something which nobody would have ever have thought possible, especially to a country as big as America.

“So on one level they kind of need congratulating, which a lot of people shy away from, which is a very dangerous thing.”

Qatar’s oil boom created the world’s most extravagant art scene—and also led to its demise | QUARTZ | AUG 14, 2016

“Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, and Naomi Campbell made their way through the VIP crowd, past the fleet of Bentleys, and toward the waiting helicopter.”

“As the rotor blades sprang to life and the unlikely trio was lifted into the sky, the South-Asian laborers working nearby stopped to watch the spectacle. They were being paid $11 a day to swing pickaxes in the desert sun and lay the groundwork for the new Qatar National Museum.”

The nation’s stark wealth disparity was also a source of tension. While QM’s offices offered panoramic views of Doha’s futuristic skyline, you only had to look to the streets below to see the South-Asian laborers who had made those skyscrapers a reality. Since the Qatari population barely numbers 200,000 and lacked the specialist skills—and inclination—to do any of this grunt work, plane loads of migrant workers started arriving to make up the shortfall. These were guys who had been shipped over with promises of big money only to have their contracts rewritten, their passports confiscated, and their wages slashed before being pointed toward the nearest construction site.

Qatar: The Shape of Tomorrow | BLOUINARTINFO

Qatar has taken a keen interest in Jeff Koons, and not just his artwork either. A frequent guest of the Qatari royal family, Jeff Koons has played a major role in the development of their billion dollar Museum of Modern Art.

Jeff Koons | International Center for Missing & Exploited Children, Director | RELATIONSHIP SCIENCE | ICMEC BOARD OF DIRECTORS


Jeff Koons donated contributed to Correct the Record | FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION

Jeff Koons donated $50,000 USD to correct the record, a political hit squad founded by David Brock, a close associate of John Podesta and James Alefantis.




Dakis Joannou, (& Jeff Koons) Board of Directors | International Center for Missing & Exploited Children | AUG 16, 2007

Dakis Joannou is a Greek-Cypriot billionaire tycoon who specializes in construction, shipping, distribution and art.

The Joannou family’s core business is construction and concessions through J&P (Overseas), where Dakis Joannou is Chairman and J&P-AVAX, where Christos Joannou is Chairman. The family is also active in shipping, quick service restaurants, real estate development, and hotel ownership and operations, including the Intercontinental Hotel in Athens, and YES Hotels Group, comprising of premium design hotels such as the Semiramis Hotel, designed by Karim Rashid and New Hotel, designed by the Campana brothers.

Dakis Joannou is a major stake holder in the construction company founded by his father and his father’s partner, Joannou & Paraskevaides. The company has been performing major infrastructure projects in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) since the 1960’s. Past projects include airports in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Jordan & Oman. They are also heavily involved in the oil & gas industry. In all of these countries, the majority of labor is performed by migrant workers, many of whom are forced in working for very low wages. Many of these workers are slaves.


J&P-AVAX is one of the largest concession owners and operators in Greece owning significant stakes in major motorways, such as Attiki Odos and the Rion-Antirrion bridge, car parks, marinas, social infrastructure PPP projects. The company is also the major shareholder and main contractor of the luxurious Limassol Marina project and has a presence in projects in Cyprus, Romania and Poland. It is part the J&P (Overseas) group, one of the largest construction groups in the Middle East, with more than 40 years of presence in the region and an established brand name.

As such, Joannou has developed a good relationship with royals in the region, especially Qatar.

Dakis Joannou is a majority stake holder in 30+ companies in various industries.

Dakis Joannou is a leading distributor of Coca-Cola in 27 countries through out Europe, Africa and beyond. This includes Russia.

Coca-cola uses their supply-chain experties to help medicines reach remote regions in Africa.

Dakis Joannou’s son, Christos Joannou, serves, or has served, as an executive and/or board member at many of those companies including: Dakis Joannou (Holdings) Ltd., Coca-Cola HBC AG, Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Co. SA. J&P Energy & Industrial Projects SA, Aegean Airlines S.A., Yes SA, Nucorp Hellas SA, Smile SAS, and many more.

Dakis Joannou has been collecting art for over 50 years. He is, without a doubt, one of the most influential art collectors of all time.

Dakis Joannou and artist Jeff Koons have been close friends for over two decades. Jeff Koons curated several art collections on Joannou’s behalf, one of which was called “Skin Fruit.”

Skin Fruit presents work from the Dakis Joannou Collection, curated by artist Jeff Koons. Including over 100 works by 50 international artists, this exhibition at The New Museum in New York is the first presentation of the Dakis Joannou Collection in the United States.

Focusing on the body in contemporary art, the exhibition spotlights the age-old preoccupation with the human form as a vessel of and vehicle for experience. Koons’ title, Skin Fruit, alludes to notions of genesis, evolution, original sin, and sexuality. Skin and fruit evoke the essential tensions between interior and exterior, between what we see and what we consume.

Dakis Joannou owns a yacht, appropriately named “Guilty,” which was designed by Jeff Koons.

Dakis Joannou has lived in Trump Tower since it was built, in 1983.


Distinguished Artists to Join Curators, Art Collectors and Museum Directors at the New York Times ‘Art For Tomorrow’ Conference | NY TIMES | JAN 20, 2016

Artist Marina Abramović, Art Basel global director Marc Spiegler, UNESCO’s Francesco Bandarin among diverse mix of art-world leaders to appear in Doha March 12-15

The invitation-only event, organized under the patronage of Qatar Museums, will expand its exploration of the myriad global influences shaping the creative infrastructure of nations and cities. The conference will be introduced by Her Excellency Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, chairwoman, Qatar Museums, and Arthur O. Sulzberger, Jr., chairman and publisher, The New York Times Company.

Speakers include:

Marina Abramović | artist
Jeff Koons | artist
Francesco Bandarin | assistant director general for culture, UNESCO
Dakis Joannou | collector
Jeffrey Deitch | curator and gallerist, former director, MOCA
Gail Lord | co-president, Lord Culture Resources

Sotheby’s and QNB are the headline sponsors for the Art for Tomorrow conference. Qatar Tourism Authority is the destination sponsor. The host sponsors are Jaidah Group and W Hotels.


Enter PodestaGroup – Owned by you guessed it, Tony and John Podesta

Lobbyists Set to Fight Royalty Bill for Artists. | NY TIMES

Sotheby’s hired the Podesta Group. This same auction house is selling hundreds of millions of dollars in art to Qatar including a “Cezanne” that sold for $250 million

Tony Podesta is quite the art trader. | WASHINGTON LIFE MAGAZINE

“Go inside power lobbyist, philanthropist and contemporary art collector Tony Podesta’s Kalorama home…”

“He regularly opens his house to casual pizza parties co-hosted by his friend James Alefantis, the owner of Comet Ping Pong. Over 200 pies emerge from the outdoor pizza oven as guests wander through the house and garden while studying his art collection.”

Some of his favorite artists are mentioned: Louise Bourgeois, Andy Warhol, Marina Abramovic.

Tony Podesta owns entire collections of Damien Hirst pieces. The same Damien Hirst that the Qataris are fascinated with. |


Anthony “Tony” Podesta began lobbying in late 2013 on behalf of a company co-owned by ExxonMobil and Qatar Petroleum aiming to export liquefied … | WIKILEAKS

Brother of Hillary Clinton’s Top Campaign Aide Lobbied for Fracked Gas Export Terminal Co-Owned by Qatar. DESMOG BLOG

Podesta Group’s lobbying for expedited permitting for LNG export terminals paid dividends.

During the same quarter Tony Podesta began lobbying for Golden Pass, President Obama hired John Podesta in December 2013 as his top counselor on climate change and energy issues. | GLOBAL RESARCH

On March 26, 2014, a week after John Podesta made his remarks about the environmental movement and fracking, Tony had a meeting with the White House. On April 4 and August 4, the logs show, Tony Podesta met with John Podesta in the White House. | WIKILEAKS 

Qatar: The Shape of Tomorrow | JUN 19, 2016

Doha: Plastic and ready-made, it’s a city built for Jeff Koons.

“I love the readymade because of the idea of acceptance,” Koons tells me, “that everything is in play and that everything is perfect in its own being.” It’s little wonder that he is attracted to Qatar. The mini-state’s boom mirrors the artist’s own rise to fame. Two decades ago, Doha had no skyline. It was just a smattering of one- or two-story edifices on the desert coast.

In Qatar, Koons could never exhibit “Made in Heaven,” his collaboration with the Italian pornography star Ilona; the racy sculptures ”Woman in Tub” and “Fait d’Hiver” wouldn’t fly, either.

“My idea of participating and of art having a moral responsibility, I think, comes from my experience of growing up,” he said, “in that first you have a concept of self and of transcendence of the self, and then you become aware of your place within the community and your responsibility to the community, and that just gets played out on larger scales later in life, depending upon your desire for participation.”

This legitimately sounds like someone who was abused as a child, accepted it, justified it, and repeated it as an adult.

Next year, Marina Abramović will conduct a series of lectures and performances, and exhibit at Al Riwaq.



Jeff Koons designed yacht “GUILTY”. Owned by Greek art collector Dakis Joannou

The FBI Did Wiretap Trump Tower, But Not to Monitor Trump | NEWSWEEK | MAR 23, 2017

The FBI has said it did wiretap Trump Tower, though its target was not the building’s owner. From 2011 to 2013, two years before Trump announced his presidential campaign, the bureau spied on a Russian crime organization operating on the tower’s 63rd floor.

The FBI had a court-approved warrant to monitor mafia members running what prosecutors described as an “international money-laundering, sports gambling and extortion ring,” ABC News reported.

One of the mafia ring’s most senior figures, Vadim Trincher who, oversaw the laundering of tens of millions of dollars from the former Soviet Union through Cyprus and into the U.S, among other criminal activities, Haaretz reported.


61 Minutes With Dakis Joannou | NY MAG | FEB 28, 2010

The Greek tycoon hits town for the unveiling of his controversial New Museum show curated by Jeff Koons (who also spruced up his yacht).
Dakis Joannou does not seem to be at risk of imminent default. The Greek billionaire owns hotels and a construction business and has been a major international distributor of Coca-Cola, including in Russia, and he is one of the biggest collectors of contemporary art in the world. He has a giant house in Athens and three different vacation homes on three different islands, so he also has the standard Greek billionaire’s 114-foot yacht in order to move comfortably among them. The boat is named Guilty, and two years ago it was painted black and yellow and purple and blue by Jeff Koons in the style of World War I ships whose camouflage was “designed to confuse.” (Joannou’s last yacht, Protect Me From What I Want, took its name from Jenny Holzer.)

Koons also made a wedding cake for Joannou’s daughter in 2005. It was shaped like a heart and covered with enormous toppers made of blue and purple marzipan in the shape of children’s party balloons. “We still have them,” Joannou says. “We didn’t eat them. But I suppose we could.” Joannou smiles. He looks like a television version of a kindly gramps, the sort of man who might be cast in commercials hawking oatmeal and Aleve, rather than a guy who once paid $305,000 for a Christopher Wool painting that reads, “If you can’t take a joke, you can get the fuck out of my house.”

This week, Joannou’s house is his apartment on the 48th floor of the Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue. (A publicist accidentally directed me to Olympic Tower, a few blocks south, where the doorman tried to be helpful: “Maybe you mean Niarchos?”) He’s in town for the opening of a show featuring works from his massive collection (1,500 pieces at last guess) as curated by Koons at the New Museum. The minute that news of the exhibit broke, the art world went into high-dudgeon mode over its ethics. “[The New Museum] is supposed to be an independent arbiter of taste and art-historical value,” NYU professor Noah Kupferman told the New York Times in November. “It is not supposed to surrender itself to a trustee and donor whose collection stands to be enhanced in value by a major museum show.” But the show’s many defenders were quick to point out that Joannou is more of a modern-day Medici, albeit a Medici with a taste for bright colors and a sense of humor that tends toward the ironic. What’s more, they say, he rarely resells things from his collection.

Dakis Joannou, (& Jeff Koons) Board of Directors | International Center for Missing & Exploited Children | AUG 16, 2007

Dakis Joannou and Jeff Koons have been very close friends for at least 2 decades.

A Fool for Art | THE NEW YORKER | NOV 12, 2007

Jeffrey Deitch and the exuberance of the art market.

A wave of new American and European collectors, many of them youngish hedge-fund managers, has driven auction prices to unprecedented, almost unimaginable levels—$104 million for Picasso’s “Boy with a Pipe,” at Sotheby’s in 2004—and even higher prices have been registered in private sales. (The billionaire hedge-fund owner Steven A. Cohen is said to have paid $143.5 million last year for a painting by Willem de Kooning.) More recently, money pouring in from non-American sources—Russian oligarchs, mysterious collectors in Dubai, Hong Kong, Singapore, India, and South Korea—has pushed prices even higher, and confirmed the ever-expanding art market as a global enterprise.

A huge portion of the new money in this market is being spent on contemporary art…

Clinton Event Produces Support for Road Safety, Clean Water, and Other Global Issues | PHILANTHROPY | SEP 23, 2010

A $3.75-million grant from the Coca-Cola Company to start eight water projects in Morocco, Sierra Leone, Somalia, and other African countries that have large Muslim populations. The grant is part of a $7.5-milion project that is also being supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.N. Development Program.

”Guilty” by Ivana Porfiri for Dakis Joannou | YATZER | OCT 03, 2008

Dakis Joannou is a Greek Cypriot industrialist and one of the leading collectors of European contemporary art. The earliest work in his collection is from 1985 and the latest one is his own yacht which name is Guilty, a project of Ivana Porfiri and exterior camouflage design by Jeff Koons. 

Dakis Joannou’s Guilty Pleasure | NOWNESS | MAR 7, 2010

The Yacht That Koons Designed

As far as nautical luxury goes, it would be hard to outdo Greek billionaire Dakis Joannou’s “Guilty.” The yacht was built in 2008 by specialist Cantieri Navali Rizzardi, the Italian company that showed the first superyacht longer than 100 feet at the Cannes International Boat and Yacht Show of 2002 (owner Gianfranco Rizzardi refers to his vessels as the “haute couture” of pleasure boats). With an exterior by Jeff Koons, the 115-foot floating hulk is something of a museum-worthy masterpiece. Koons’s design was inspired by the “dazzle”camouflage of WW1 ships—complex geometric patterns that created opticalillusions to confuse enemy gunners. The interior, designed by Milan’s IvanaPorfiri, is no less wowing, with works by artists such as Martin Creed andSarah Morris, whose text painting Guilty inspired the yacht’s name. In between overseeing his Athens-based, non-profit DESTEFoundation, which has supportednumerous projects since 1983, and liaising with major art world figures (Larry Gagosian, Marian Goodman and Maurizio Cattelan all attended the christening of “Guilty”), Dakis Joannou sails his prized boat to his villa in Corfu, where he spent ten days with Koons last summer. When Joannou is in Greece, “Guilty” can often be seen mooredon the island of Hydra—the site of the new DESTE projectspace.

Too Big to Sail? | VANITY FAIR | OCT 13, 2010

The financial crisis sent panic through the world of super-yachts, with over-leveraged tycoons abandoning ship, and sales in a deep freeze. Two years later, the author delves into the motives, means, and lifestyles of the oligarchs, operators, and sea-lovers who are still riding the waves. Choose your vessel: from the naked aggression of Roman Abramovich’s record-size Eclipse, the floating advertisement of the Candy brothers’ Candyscape II, and the eye-popping Jeff Koons exterior of Dakis Joannou’s Guilty to the pure romance of Tara Getty’s historic Blue Bird.

Last Mile Project for Medicines | CLINTON GLOBAL INITIATIVE | 2013

In 2013, the Coca-Cola Company committed to working over two years with partners, including the Last Mile Project, to create consistent availability of medical resources in hard-to-reach areas of Tanzania and Mozambique. The focus of the partnership is to systematically extract learning from Coca-Cola’s successes and approaches in supply chain and marketing in these areas; thereby building significant capability within entities that distribute critical medicines on behalf of Ministries of Health across Africa. As a result, these entities will be able to significantly improve the effectiveness and efficiency of their organizations as they significantly improve availability of critical medicines throughout the markets they serve.

The Collection As a Dialogue | ART TERRITORY | MAY 05, 2014

Joannou is a little over 70 years old, and his name can be found in ArtReview’s Power 100, a list of the world’s most influential figures in the art world. Last year he was ranked #37, and he’s been on the list every year since it was formed. Born in Cyprus, Joannou studied engineering in the United States and later studied architecture in Rome, after which he joined his family’s construction business. The company, J&P Group, was established by Joannou’s father in 1941 and has since grown into a global empire. Joannou is the chairman of the board at J&P Group but also owns shares in more than 20 other companies ranging from the shipping sector to tourism to real estate.  He is a shareholder in one of the largest distributors of Coca-Cola products in 27 countries, including Greece, Russia and Nigeria. He owns the YES! network of boutique hotels, which includes Semiramis (designed by Karim Rashid) and New Hotel (designed by the Brazilian design company Campana Brothers) in Athens.

Jeffrey Deitch Defends Klaus Biesenbach and Björk Retrospective | ARTNET | MAR 26, 2015

One last detail we’ll regale you with involved Michael Jackson, Kehinde Wiley, and the billionaire industrialist and owner of a Jeff-Koons-designed yacht Dakis Joannou and his piedàterre at Trump Tower.

When he started his own business, one of his long time clients, Dakis Joannou, had a small apartment in Trump Tower that “he wasn’t really using.”

“I said how about a barter deal,” said Deitch. “Art advisory services in exchange for using your apartment. He said, ‘of course.’ That was one of the ways I started my business with no money.”

At some point during Deitch’s barter deal, Michael Jackson was making an album in New York and spent six months in a Trump Tower apartment. “It was amazing to see him come in,” said Deitch. “Late at night, he’d come from the studio. He worked very hard.”

As Deitch told it, he was working with Jeff Koons at the time and bribed one of the doormen to put a copy of a Jeff Koons’s catalogue in his apartment, the one with Koons’s 1988 sculpture Michael Jackson and Bubbles on the cover.

“’When you get access to the apartment,’” said Deitch recalling what he said to the doorman, “’could you leave this Jeff Koons catalogue with Michael Jackson and Bubbles on the cover with this note from me?’ The note said, ‘we would like to sell to you this sculpture of you.’”

Eli Broad ended up buying it. But years later, Deitch heard again from Jackson when the pop star got interested in the work of Kehinde Wiley.

Moroccan cash flows to Clinton Foundation | POLITICO | APR 8, 2015

The Clinton Foundation is expected to announce additional sponsors for the Marrakech event when it formally announces the meeting lineup in the coming days. But its preliminary list of expected attendees includes executives from OCP and Coca-Cola, as well as the presidents of Rwanda and Tanzania and senior officials from the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and the League of Arab States.

Clinton Foundation Taking Money From Accused Rights Violator | ABC | MAY 6, 2015

The Moroccan government-owned mining company OCP operates in disputed international territory in a remote part of the Saharan Desert and the firm has been criticized for removing the resources without adequately compensating the impoverished people who live there.

When thanking Morocco for its hospitality, the former American president heralded the country’s potential, proclaiming that it is “the Saudi Arabia of Phosphate.”

Despite the swirling controversy, the three-day conference in Morocco, long in the works, went ahead as scheduled this week. Held in an oasis of golf greens and palm trees secluded from the din and packed crowds of the exotic Marrakech central square, several dozen top Clinton Foundation members were scheduled to spend three uninterrupted days of panel discussions, breakout sessions and opportunities to speak with President Clinton and an assortment of world leaders. Among other sponsors of the event are the Akwa Group, a Moroccan oil and gas firm, Channel IT, a Nigerian telecom company, and Coca-Cola and APCO Worldwide, one of Washington’s biggest lobbying firms which has long provided public relations services for the Clinton Foundation, free of charge.

Jeff Koons Jets Off to Greece to Ride Billionaire Dakis Joannou’s “Guilty” Yacht | ARTNET | JUL 21, 2015

Later this month, he told T magazine that he’ll be jetting off to Corfu, Greece to hang out on the yacht he designed for Greek billionaire and art collector Dakis Joannou in 2013.

What exactly does this 115-foot luxury seacraft look like, you ask? In a 2013 Forbes article that begins with the polite observation, “there have always been charges of excess in the art world,” the ship is described as a Lichtenstein-esque creation comprised of bold geometric designs.

It was reportedly inspired by Razzle Dazzle, the British naval camouflage from World War I that was intended to confuse the viewer. If you’re looking at it from a bird’s eye view, there’s a massive picture of Iggy Pop, who Koons regards as a “contemporary Dionysus figure.”

“We did what we wanted; style was irrelevant,” Joannou told Forbes. “We designed a boat in an antistyle method. We have no rules, no programs, no plans.”

The yacht, one of several owned by Joannou, goes by the name of “Guilty,” and once had to be wrapped in paper to guard against a swarm of paparazzi in Italy. Word is Joannou doesn’t use it too often. Except, of course, when he’s hitting the high seas with its visionary designer.

As art dealers and gallerists in Greece struggle to stay afloat, it appears Joannou is doing just fine.

Dakis Joannou’s Art Addiction | VULTURE | JUN 17, 2016

In the introduction to a new 856-page chronicle of his art-world life over the past 33 years, the Greek Cypriot collector Dakis Joannou writes that “when people ask how I define DESTE’s program” — DESTE is the name of his art foundation — ”I respond that I do whatever I want.” He also writes that “I am a prisoner of my own curiosity. An addict, perhaps.”

This combination of freedom (Joannou can afford it, since he owns a lot of real estate and a large construction company with projects across the Middle East) and compulsion (he has put a particular kind of investigatory patronage in the heart of his life) has made him at once influential and evasive. There’s a reason why the collection and its associated activities go under the name of the foundation, and he often seems to operate at a kind of half-smile remove. The ever-more-bedazzling art world as a whole doesn’t seem to concern him much, and he seems to look askance on many of the forces that drive it. But most basically, Joannou doesn’t see himself as just another bigshot international art collector. And there are lots of those these days, after all.
I met up with him at his apartment high up in Trump Tower, where there’s serious-looking earbudded security in the lobby these days. Joannou’s place is a kind of enchanted toy chest, full of the kind of amusingly haunting art he’s often attracted to, starting with the seared, totemic stacked blobs of a Helmut Lang sculpture, arranged like a sinister shish kebab, that you meet when you walk in. “It’s his entire archive,” Joannou says, patting it affectionately, and when you look closer, you see on the skewer fabrics and papers and all kinds of things. Joannou tells me that he has owned the apartment since the building was new, in 1983, which is the same year that DESTE was founded, and two years before a young Citibank art-adviser executive namedJeffrey Deitch took him around the East Village. That’s when he became transfixed by a work by a young artist named Jeff Koons, One Ball Total Equilibrium Tank, that he bought for $2,700 from the gallery International With Monument.

That Time That Donald Trump Wrote Dakis Joannou a Really Nice Note | ARTNEWS | JULY 13, 2016

Today, Interview magazine’s website published a chat between collector Dakis Joannou and writer Linda Yablonsky that took place at the DESTE foundation founder’s longtime New York residence inside Trump Tower. He’s been living in the GOP presidential candidate’s building for some time now. Jeffrey Deitch tells a fun story about using his apartment for office space and bribing security guards in an attempt to get fellow Trump Tower resident Michael Jackson to buy Jeff Koons’s Michael Jackson and Bubbles. (Disclosure: Interview is owned by Brant Publications Inc., which includes in its holdings ARTnews.)

The burning question: Has Joannou ever had any contact with his short-fingered vulgarian landlord? Now we know! Check out this juicy tidbit.

YABLONSKY: Have you ever met Donald Trump?
JOANNOU: Not really. But he sent me a very nice letter for the opening of “Skin Fruit.” It said, “We are very proud to have people like you living in our building,” and so on. [laughs] I’ll have to dig it out now.
YABLONSKY: Yes, one day it might be historic!
It might be!

“Skin Fruit” was a show of Joannou’s collection at the New Museum (where Joannou was a board member), organized by first-time curator Jeff Koons. This show was particularlypilloried by critics.

Dakis Joannou | INTERVIEW MAGAZINE | JUL 24, 2016

You’d think an art-besotted industrialist whose construction company helped build the modern Middle East, North Africa, Cyprus, and Greece would have a lust for power. Not Dakis Joannou. The 76-year-old Greek Cypriot happily flouts the rules of typical mogul behavior. When he sails on Guilty, his custom-built, 115-foot art gallery of a yacht—with a razzle-dazzle paint job by Jeff Koons—his passengers are less likely to be fellow captains of industry than the artists and curators he admires. They know Joannou to be a man who thinks more like they do than like a businessman. He’s certainly the polar opposite of the developer who built Trump Tower, where Joannou and his wife, Lietta, have maintained a pied-à-terre since the late 1980s. Joannou has zero interest in politics—he doesn’t even vote—and he hasn’t plastered the family name on any of his six hotels in Athens. Nor does it appear on the foundation he established 33 years ago as DESTE, a Greek word for “look” and an acronym for International and Greek Contemporary Art. Interestingly, he founded DESTE before he started collecting. That happened in 1985, when he bought One Ball Total Equilibrium Tank (Spalding Dr. J 241 Series), by the then little-known Koons. (The discounted price: $2,700.) It changed Joannou’s life.

Born in Nicosia, Cyprus, Joannou was schooled in Athens and earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in civil engineering at Cornell and Columbia universities, respectively, before getting a doctorate in architecture at Sapienza University in Rome. In 1967, he returned to Cyprus to join Joannou & Paraskevaides, his father’s construction firm, married Lietta, and had four children. In 1974, when Turkey invaded Cyprus, the family relocated to London and in 1980 settled in Athens, where the couple currently lives in a modernist mansion that Joannou expanded to house his still-growing collection. Among the 600 or so artworks that he rotates in and out of storage are those by the likes of Koons, Ashley Bickerton, Robert Gober, Paweł Althamer, Urs Fischer, Chris Ofili, Charles Ray, Tim Noble and Sue Webster, Maurizio Cattelan and his latest interest, the Los Angeles-based artist Kaari Upson.

Art consumes him. Two of his hotels, the Semiramis and the New, were designed by object makers, Karim Rashid and the Campana brothers. He’s also given DESTE a publishing imprint. Among its limited-edition volumes is 1968, a doorstopper that depicts Joannou’s other major collection—radical Italian furniture from the 1960s and 1970s—in photographs that Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari made in the style of Playboy magazines from the period. The cover photo shows a rooster standing on a golden daybed next to a large turd. “That’s real,” Joannou says of the excrement, with the pride of a new father. (Someone else, however, cleaned up the mess.)

This spring, the foundation published DESTE 33 Years, a copiously illustrated oral history of the uninhibited, often groundbreaking, exhibitions and projects it has presented since 1983, both in its dedicated spaces in Athens and around the world. In some ways, the book represents Joannou’s counterpunch to the drubbing he received from the American press in 2010, when “Skin Fruit,” an exhibition of works from his collection and curated by Koons, appeared at the New Museum in New York. Because Joannou is on the museum’s board, and because of his close relationship with the artist, critics denounced the show, complaining of conflicts of interest. Joannou was stung by the reaction. “I am not in conflict,” he protests.

Not even a little. This June DESTE is celebrating its 33rd anniversary at the Benaki Museum in Athens with “The Equilibrists,” a group show that introduces the work of Greek and Cypriot artists in their twenties and thirties, after the first New Museum triennial, “Younger Than Jesus.” Opening at the same time is a solo show by the Italian artist Roberto Cuoghi at the Slaughterhouse, DESTE’s project space on the Greek island of Hydra. “I think he’s going to do something very strange,” says Joannou. “Something with crabs crawling all over the place.” DESTE 33 Years was sitting on a dining table designed by Urs Fischer when I arrived at Joannou’s Trump Tower apartment to talk about the foundation, his life in art, and his felicitous rapport with artists. The presidential primary campaign was in full swing, and Donald Trump was on the television in the living room, with the sound turned off.

Leave a Reply