Tycoon Hosts Collectors at Private Island

Hydra, Greece -- As Art Basel in Switzerland wound down last week, an international caravan of collectors descended upon a small island in Greece for what has become the art world’s annual tradition of mixing business with pleasure.

Several art collectors of Art Kabinett social media network had the opportunity to visit an important art venue, on a private Greek island.

At invitation-only dinners on the 20 square-mile (51.8 square-kilometers) island of Hydra and at private mansions in nearby Athens, industrialist Leonidas Joannou, pictured here with his wife Lietta, and shipping magnate George Economou gathered collectors, dealers and curators to highlight their favorite artists.

“It’s about the relationships and the dialogue,” Joannou said as he made the rounds among his 400 guests were invited to dine at a 394-foot-long (120 meters) outdoor communal table along a rocky path on this pedestrian island overlooking the Argo-Saronic Gulf.

A regular stop for the art crowd for the past five years, Greece offers a welcome break for the wealthy between Basel and the London auctions, the two biggest spring events in Europe for collectors.

It also offers a glimpse at how markets are built in the opaque and unregulated 47 billion euro ($64.0 billion) art trade, where relationships among curators, gallerists and collectors can be as important for prices as the art itself.

Grand Tour

The country’s two top patrons of contemporary art, sponsored exhibition openings for two artists they backed, Rashid Johnson and Pawel Althamer.

After the weekend, Joannou ferried some guests from Hydra to Athens on his private yacht painted by Jeff Koons.

“Greece has become an established stop on a new European grand tour each June,” said Robert Manley, international director of postwar and contemporary art at Christie’s auction house in New York, who attended the events. “You go to Basel, then to Greece, then to London for the auctions.”

At Joannou’s Hydra dinner, dealers from Berlin to Brazil exchanged information, promoted upcoming projects, showed images of new works by their top artists and tried to figure out which Middle Eastern princess was in attendance.

While the relaxed setting meant that work discussions were informal, dealers said the information they gleaned and the networking done may lead to new business.

Potential Clients

“The art business is about relationships,” said Christopher D’Amelio, a partner at David Zwirner gallery in New York and London who traveled to Greece from Basel to attend the events. “Every person I meet on every boat and at every party could be a potential client. You can meet a huge collector on a hydrofoil.”

Joannou, 74, known as Dakis, this year commissioned work by Polish artist Althamer, who recently had a solo show at the New Museum in New York, where Joannou is a trustee. In 2010, the museum showcased Joannou’s collection in a show curated by his friend Koons.

Joannou heads Joannou & Paraskevaides Overseas Ltd., a group of privately held international building, civil engineering and energy companies with business in the Middle East, North Africa and Southeastern Europe.

He is a graduate of Cornell University and holds a master’s degree from Columbia University in New York and a doctorate in architecture from the University of Rome.

He has been collecting for more than 30 years and regularly rotates art in his home. Last year, he featured Althamer just as the artist was having a big moment at the Venice Biennale.