When it comes to Dakis Joannou, most questions are answered in the affirmative: is he one of the most powerful figures in contemporary art? Yes! [ArtReview 2012 ranks him #36] Does he own a 35m yacht plastered with Jeff Koons camouflage paint? Yes!. Did he endorse a video and performance installation by Doug Aitken starring actress Chloë Sevigny on a barge in the middle of the Argo-Saronic Gulf? Yes! ['Black Mirror', 2011]. Did he start a foundation for the sole purpose of sharing his treasures with others? Yes! [Deste Foundation, est 1982, which is Greek for 'see']. Would you spend the night in the company of his art? Yes!!!
Although the acronym that identifies his luxury hotel chain stands for more than just a simple affirmative - Young, Enthusiastic, Seductive - it also represents the answer any sane person would give to an indecent proposal involving any of Joannou’s boutique hotels. He is, after all, one of the most tasteful men in the world! The latest addition to the Yes! Hotel chain, established in 2004 with the Karim Rashid-designed Semiramis, is none other than the New Hotel, just off Syntagma Square, an inspired collaboration with starchitects Humberto and Fernando Campana, who reinvented the former Olympic Palace Hotel - a Filellinon Street fixture - from scratch.
The New Hotel isn’t just a spectacular design feat, it’s an exemplary case of conscientious architecture: the Campana Brothers have done their best to preserve and incorporate key elements of the previous structure, first designed by Iasonas Rizos in the 50s, as a future archeological showcase for the next generations. You never know, one day your kids might be grateful! But until then, it’s up to you to appreciate the thoughtful details conjured up by the maximalist Brazilians. It all started at the Campanas Workshop Athens, a creative venue initially set up inside the construction site and later on across the street, where local craftsmen, designers and architects initiated the two brothers into the various facets of Greek culture and their potential implementation in luxury interiors.
Divided into three categories, the 79 rooms explore three prevalent themes: the Greek shadow theater known as 'Karagiozis', the local obsession with 'vaskania' - the evil eye - and the typical blue and white beads used to protect potential victims from bad luck, and 'Old Athens' nostalgia, illustrated with typical old-school postcards. Pair that with a smattering of furniture sourced from local collectors or workshopped on the spot with the precious assistance of twenty undergrad students from the University of Thessaly - and a whole lot of upcycled wooden furniture scraps - and you’re got yourself some real collaborative magic. Athens is the cradle of democracy after all and it looks like the Campana Brothers have taken our politics to heart!
Dakis Joannou had the last word, of course, liberally dotting corridors and communal spaces with some contemporary art from his vast collection, featuring works by Jack Pierson, Douglas Gordon, Laurie Anderson and Jenny Holzer, although it’s the retro telephone booth tagged 'Dirty Phone Call' that really gives the term ‘hotel amenities’ new meaning!
Luring in hotel guests and passers-by alike, ground floor restaurant 'New Taste' is consistently healthy - as in organic- and delicious - as in Mediterranean -, and has even ventured into Sunday brunch territory, although Greeks are a notoriously non-breakfast friendly nation, which still considers coffee and cigarettes to be the breakfast of champions. If chef Steven Frost’s freshly baked rolls don’t change their minds, then nothing will!
DISCOVER The NEW Hotel Through the pictures that follow: