The Crisis Has Yet to Hit the Wealthiest Greeks
The Greek economy has been tanking for years now as the country struggles to balance its budget by imposing deep austerity measures. But the country’s richest residents haven’t noticed. Many aren’t taxed at all, and some of those that are prefer to dodge their obligation to the state instead.
He’d be happy to discuss art, says the spokeswoman of Greece’s biggest shipping magnate. He’d be willing to talk about his collection and the market, or about his fondness for German painters, such as Neo Rauch or Otto Dix, from whom he owns several works. Perhaps he might even muse on the Botero painting he recently purchased for €330,000 ($420,000).
George Economou, though, would prefer not to discuss his country. “He is happy to answer questions on art,” his handler repeats. She is standing in gold-colored sandals at the entrance to his villa in Maroussi, a northern suburb of Athens. Her billionaire boss behind her, wearing a pink shirt, khakis and boat shoes, is snatching an hors d’oeuvre off a serving tray.
Only a chosen few have received a fuchsia-colored invitation to attend the “Talking Heads” exhibition. Economou will be showing a large part of his collection for the first time this evening. The guests are milling about as a bartender in a large tent mixes mint, ice and the resin-flavored liquor mastika together for a Greek take on the mojito. Between bites, Economou explains that he views art as more than just an investment. His collection, he insists, means a lot to him and he expects it to keep growing.
Economou’s little slice of heaven is well-protected. There are a number of guards, and those entering his art gallery must first pass through a security gate complete with a fingerprint scanner.
Sitting in a Mercedes luxury sedan with the air conditioning on high after the private viewing, Economou’s daughter Alexandra says that her country is not as safe as it used to be and that she now only takes a taxi in a pinch out of fear of being abducted. Yes, even the rich in Greece have worries.