From the Catalogue: Property from the Estate of Pentti Kouri

Phillips is honored to present a significant group of works from The Estate of Pentti Kouri, a prestigious Finnish economist, venture capitalist, and visionary art collector. 

Dr. Kouri’s prestigious art collection interrogates the limits of modern and contemporary art within the structural forms of minimalism. Dr. Kouri first began collecting in the 1980’s, and from the outset, rigorously pursued the finest quality works by some of the most important artists of his time. His dedication and patronage lay not only in the art he admired but extended to the artists themselves, following their lives and works over many decades. Indeed Dr. Kouri valued the personal relationships he cultivated with the artists whose works comprised his collection, engaging directly with their inspiring practices. Led by his singular aesthetic vision, Dr. Kouri acquired challenging, large-scale works by artists such as Jannis Kounellis, Giuseppe Penone, Antony Gormley, John Armleder and Michael Heizer, championing their practices well in advance of the market recognize they enjoy today.

Dr. Kouri was at the forefront of contemporary tastes, collecting Arte de Povera founding member Giuseppe Penone’s monumental sculpture, Fingernail and Marble (Unghia e marmo), 1988 well in advance of the prominent place the artist and movement would subsequently gain in academic and collecting circles. Along with Penone’s meditative sculpture, Dr. Kouri also expanded into the conceptual wall-based typographic text art of Lawrence Weiner and the glamorous signage of Sylvie Fleury’s brand slogan lights, seen in her piece entitled Be Amazing from 1999.

With a sustained interest in the way installation can inform and alter the space of the viewer, Dr. Kouri’s collection expands upon this exploration on a personal scale, engaging art that offers an enveloping site-specific experience. As a member of the Board of Trustees of Dia Art Foundation Dr. Kouri was privy to the most cutting edge and immersive installation art, Dia was created to fund and support artistic endeavors of vast scale and complex installation. Dr. Kouri’s awareness of this artistic medium, one that moved beyond the boundaries of the painted canvas, led him to create a collection of some of the finest examples of each artist’s practice. Thanks to Dr. Kouri’s influential patronage, these artists now stand in the art historical cannon with everlasting poignancy.

Dr. Kouri’s unparalleled support of artists led him to become a significant member of many public art boards including the International Council Executive Committee of the Tate, London, the DIA Art Foundation board, New York and the President’s Council of the Guggenheim Museum, New York. Dr. Kouri’s left a great legacy in his significant gift to the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art of Helsinki, located in his home country of Finland. The museum’s director Berndt Arell fondly refers to Dr. Kouri’s donated works as “the heart and soul of Kiasma’s art collection.” 

This group of works clearly conveys Dr. Kouri's unique vision and personal perspective, and elegantly communicates the joy and fulfillment he found in both sharing and engaging with art. This sentiment is perhaps best expressed by an artist represented in Dr. Kouri’s collection; Giuseppe Penone has noted that art has “the need and the search for balance, which exists in every living being.”

Read more on Giuseppe Penone's work, Fingernail and Marble (Unghia e marmo).

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