Elham and Tony Salamé
Retail luxury stores; philanthropy (Aïshti Foundation)
Along with his wife, Elham, Lebanese businessman Tony Salamé has been collecting contemporary art for more than 10 years. In 2015, the entrepreneur opened a 40,000-square-foot exhibition space for his Aïshti Foundation in Jal el-Dib, Lebanon, a short drive up the Mediterranean Coast from downtown Beirut. Designed by British architect David Adjaye, the hall is part of an ambitious expansion of Aïshti Seaside, an outpost of Salamé’s fashion empire. Salamé is one of Beirut’s post-civil-war success stories. Over the past quarter-century, he has built Aïshti from a single high-end clothing store to a region-wide enterprise that is among Lebanon’s largest employers, along the way facing the challenging task of persuading luxury brands to do business in an environment that remains politically and economically unstable.
The Aïshti Foundation exhibition space moved Salamé into the league of fashion-entrepreneur megacollectors—among them Prada, Pinault, and Arnault—who have opened museums to show their holdings. The foundation’s grounds include outdoor sculptures. “It’s setting a precedent,” Adjaye told ARTnews. “Beirut has not had much public sculpture, because of security concerns.” Salamé has also worked to bring international contemporary art to Beirut for several years now. His foundation lent support to exhibitions of Giuseppe Penone and Gerhard Richter at the Beirut Art Center. In 2013, he rented an old villa in the heart of Beirut and began inviting gallerists from out of town to do selling exhibitions there. Milan’s Massimo de Carlo, Glasgow’s Modern Institute, New York’s Suzanne Geiss, and Balice Hertling and Kamel Mennour, both from Paris, have been among the exhibitors at Salamé’s Metropolitan Art Society.