For Lebanese entrepreneur Dani Chakour, collecting art is a marriage of love and reason. “The marriage of love usually ends up failing, and the marriage of reason usually also ends up failing,” he said. “But if you combine a marriage of love and reason, it will last longer.” When he first started buying, he would purchase work by following his instincts; he has since abandoned that strategy. “I don’t buy only because I love the work,” he said. “There has to be a reason to buy it.”
A powerful narrative is one reason to buy. Two years ago, he came across a piece by London-based artist Joy Labinjo. “The work was beautiful,” he said. “If you look at the canvas, it’s amazing—the colors, the figures, everything. But the reason I bought it? She was telling the story of African [people].”
Chakour, 49, made his first acquisition, a large canvas by American artist Zio Ziegler, four years ago. He had seen Ziegler’s densely layered abstractions in a friend’s collection and asked for an introduction. “I never thought I would become a collector,” he said, thinking he would make just that one purchase and move on. But he was hooked. He took a six-month art management course at École Supérieure des Affaires and now “can’t stop” acquiring. He houses his collection, currently numbering 400 works—two-thirds of them by emerging artists, the remaining third by mid-career and established artists—between Lebanon and Zurich.
Chakour spent 20 years working in telecommunications across Africa, and now owns a chain of restaurants called Em Sherif, with locations in 12 different countries in the Middle East, including Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. He will soon open outposts in London, Monaco, Athens, and Paris.
Chakour is also an active patron, having given financial support to galleries in Beirut recovering from the devastating 2020 port explosion. “They are all now back in business. They are fighting to survive,” he said.
Since that incident last August, he has been thinking about other ways to help support emerging Lebanese artists on the international art market, so he recently launched the Emergentes Art Foundation. “The aim of the foundation is to bring European and American galleries to Lebanon and try to find markets for Lebanese artists abroad,” he said. “There are many, many interesting things we can do for our local artists besides collecting them.”