It would seem that Tony Salamé – a retail magnate from Beirut – is having a personal effect on the cultural landscape of Lebanon. The founder of Aïshti, a luxury chain stocking the likes of Céline, Saint Laurent, Dior, and Balenciaga, is investing $100 million into a new 40,000 square-foot David Adjaye-designed contemporary art exhibition space in Jal El Dib, a resort close to Beirut.
The space, to be opened in October, will display works from the retail magnate’s extensive art collection, which contains some 2,000 works by 150 artists, according to the Art Newspaper. Salamé began collecting art some 12 years ago, initially buying up Arte Povera works by Lucio Fontana, Alberto Burri, and Giuseppe Penone, according to the Financial Times. Now Salamé’s collection now consists of works by Wade Guyton, Danh Vō, Franz West, Carol Bove, Gerhard Richter, and Christopher Wool.
The founder of the Aishti, has now commissioned the US artist Richard Prince to create a series of site-specific works for his stores across Beirut. “Prince will make around 20 site-specific works; he plans to hang a specific piece in every store in a unique way,” stated Salamé, who presented plans for his new Aishti Foundation museum on 1 July at the Grand Palais in Paris.
Salamé presented the plans, which include an inaugural exhibition of “abstraction,” curated by Massimiliano Gioni, the artistic director of the New Museum in New York.
“Private museums play a key cultural role in emerging markets,” Salamé told Wallpaper magazine. “They establish a dialogue between societies in developing countries like Lebanon and other nations in the region and in the West.”
The retail Magnate’s foundation has lent artworks to a number of museums, including the former Garage museum in Moscow, the Aspen Art Museum, Waserburg Museum of Modern Art in Bremen, Germany, Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing, and the Whitney Museum in New York. With the most recent loan of works by Kerstin Bratsch, Joe Bradley, and Micaela Eichwaled to the Museum of Modern Art in New York for its exhibition titled, “Forever Now: Contemporary Painting.”