Dakis Joannou

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Dakis Joannou (Leonidas Ioannou; Greek: Δάκης Ιωάννου; born December 30, 1939) is a Greek Cypriot industrialist and art collector.[1] Joannou entered into the construction and civil engineering business in the late 1960s and over the last five decades has diversified his holdings through numerous areas of international industrial commerce. His extensive collection of contemporary art and furniture is considered one of the most important in the world.

Life and career[edit]

Dakis Joannou was born in Nicosia, Cyprus. He graduated from Athens College in 1958 and continued his education in the United States, receiving his bachelor's degree in civil engineering from Cornell University in 1962 and his master's degree from Columbia University in 1964. In 1967 he completed his Doctorate in Architecture at Sapienza University of Rome, Italy. Joannou's core business is construction, with primary focus in the Middle East, North Africa, Greece, and Southeastern Europe.

Joannou is active in the hospitality sector, with holdings in the Athenaeum InterContinental Hotel in Athens and through Yes! Hotels, a chain of boutique hotels whose flagships are the Karim Rashid-designed Semiramis Hotel and the Campana Brothers-designed NEW Hotel in Athens. Joannou is also involved in several other industries including Coca-Cola bottling, shipping, aviation, and real estate.

He is considered to be one of the leading collectors of contemporary art in the world and is famous for acquisitions such as the Jeff Koons-designed yacht Guilty. Joannou is married to Lietta; they have two daughters, two sons, and thirteen grandchildren.

Art collection[edit]

Joannou is a major collector of contemporary art and is the founder of the DESTE Foundation for Contemporary Art, which was established in 1983. He is currently serving on the councils of several museums worldwide and has continuously been on ArtReview's Power 100 List since its inception—in 2004 he was ranked its number one collector in the world.[2] Along with his extensive fine art collection, Joannou's interest in furniture from the Italian radical design period of the late 60s and 70s has grown to be what is known as the 1968 Furniture Collection and which is the subject of a book created in collaboration with artist Maurizio Cattelan and photographer Pierpaolo Ferrari. In 2007, Joannou established the destefashioncollection. Each year up until 2014, the DESTE Foundation commissioned an artist familiar with the fashion industry to reinterpret five inspiring designs from that year’s international fashion collections. The first exhibition of the destefashioncollection, combining five of the capsule collections (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2012), was presented in the iconic storefront windows of Barney’s, New York in June 2012. The project was presented in its entirety in the exhibition DESTEFASHIONCOLLECTION: 1 to 8 at the Benaki Museum in Athens in 2014 and at The Bass in Miami, FL in 2018.


The Dakis Joannou Collection is composed of works by a variety of both established and emerging artists, including: [3]

Paweł Althamer, Janine Antoni, Matthew Barney, Ashley Bickerton, Maurizio Cattelan, Paul Chan, Roberto Cuoghi, Marcel Duchamp, Haris Epaminonda, Urs Fischer, Robert Gober, Peter Halley, Jeff Koons, Elad Lassry, Mike Kelley, Joseph Kosuth, Mark Manders, Paul McCarthy, Tim Noble & Sue Webster, Chris Ofili, Charles Ray, Josh Smith, Kiki Smith, Christiana Soulou, Haim Steinbach, Kaari Upson, Andra Ursuta, Kara Walker, Andy Warhol, Andro Wekua, Christopher Wool, and Jakub Julian Ziolkowski.


Dakis Joannou owns the yacht Guilty, which was designed by Ivana Porfiri. The yacht's exterior was designed by contemporary artist Jeff Koons and was inspired by the iconic WWI naval camouflage, also known as "Razzle Dazzle", featuring bold geometric patterns in contrasting colors.[4]


Works from the extensive collection have appeared in a number of major museums and art institutions around the world. Joannou is a member of the Board of Trustees at the New Museum for Contemporary Art, New York; a member of the International Council of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, where he also served as a member of the Committee on Painting and Sculpture and of the Library Council; and a member of the International Directors' Council at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York, where he served as President of the International Director's Council (1995-2005). He is a member of the International Council of Tate in London, having also served as President of the Tate Modern Council between 2005 and 2008.

DESTE Foundation[edit]

The DESTE Foundation for Contemporary Art, established in Geneva in 1983, is a non-profit institution. Through its exhibition space in Athens, Greece, DESTE engages in an extensive exhibition program that promotes emerging as well as established artists and aims to broaden the audience for contemporary art, enhance opportunities for young artists, and explore the connections between contemporary art and culture. A second location, the DESTE Project Space Slaughterhouse is located on the Greek island of Hydra. To date, the DESTE Foundation has collaborated with a number of internationally acclaimed curators and leading artists to showcase current important artistic innovations and to organize curatorial projects and special events that reflect the global trends in contemporary art. The DESTE Foundation has organized, in collaboration with the respective institutions, the exhibitions Urs Fischer - False Friends at the Museum of Art and History, Geneva in 2016; Skin Fruit at the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York in 2010; Dream and Trauma at Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna in 2007; and Translation at the Palais de Tokyo, Paris in 2005.

Charitable contributions and recognition[edit]

Joannou is actively involved in many not-for-profit organizations with a wide range of social activities. He heads the Christos Stelios Ioannou Foundation, a center for the mentally handicapped in Cyprus. He is also a supporter of the University of Cyprus, having donated with his family the "Stelios Ioannou" Learning Resource Center, designed by internationally renowned architect Jean Nouvel and due for completion in 2018. In 2007, Joannou was appointed to the Chancellor’s Court of Benefactors of the University of Oxford after the establishment of the Stelios Ioannou School for Research in Classical and Byzantine Studies.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "61 Minutes With Dakis Joannou". NYMag.com. Retrieved 2017-05-16.
  2. ^ https://www.artreview.com/power_100/2004/
  3. ^ Bettridge, Thom (October 12, 2016). "A Story of a Collector Told Through Four Works in His Collection". 032C.com.
  4. ^ Fontevecchia, Agustino. "Dakis Joannou's Mega Yacht 'Guilty' By Jeff Koons And Ivana Porfiri, An Act Of Calculated Irreverence". Forbes. Retrieved 2017-05-16.

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