Saturday, July 27, 2013

Collection of Greek shipping magnate George Economou

What are the inspirations and aspirations of the world’s top art collectors? Is it true that they tend to rely more on instinct, but their ability to spot the best talent across the world cannot be denied. Importantly, majority of them are keen to institutionalize their rich collections.

George Economou, the Greek shipping magnate is known to eschew buying spree at Christie's, Sotheby's and top international galleries. He sticks to smaller exhibition spaces and auction houses in Germany and Austria. He has been in the maritime industry for over 30 years and has served as Chairman, President and CEO of Dryships, among the largest U.S.-listed dry bulk companies. Known to be an uncommon collector, he acquires paintings and drawings at a rather feverish pace (between 150 and 200 artworks every year or about two to three a week), sniffed out and gathered with the help of his faithful full-time advisor Dimitris Gravanis.

The maverick collector prefers to collect without a pattern, and indulges in the act of buying act on basis of first impression, though there is a predilection for early 20th-century lesser known Austrian and German artists. Select works by renowned artists like Picasso, Magritte, Kees Van Dongen, and Twombly also dot the Greek billionaire's vast collection. He owns possibly the world's largest ever collection of Otto Dix prints, apart from a sizable chunk of African masks, photographic works and even pinball machines.

Dealers close to him also fail to figure out his collecting acumen and methodology. He generally pays lower prices for upcoming and lesser known artists, buying their works ‘with his eye first before carrying out a second evaluation. Economou, who has never resold any of his works, is keen to build a museum of his own. According to him, at some point, there will be enough stuff to fill; for now, at his secluded private viewing space, there are small untitled Gerhard Richter works, screenprint by Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg's ‘City Pattern - Roci Berlin’, a selection of fascist-era paintings, and pieces by George Grosz, who criticized fascism.

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