One notable feature on the agenda was the awe-inspiring and typically acerbic Walid Raad installation at Salamé’s collection storage space. Between 1952 and 1974, the Lebanese government had acquired paintings for the establishment of a museum of modern art intended to open in 1975. The museum was never built and the acquisitions, which were stored in the Ministry of Culture’s central depot, have never been found. Over the last three decades, and unknown to the general public, Lebanese politicians and their spouses have taken these paintings for themselves, relatives, and “cronies,” as the wall text reveals. Suha Traboulsi, Chief Registrar of Public Collections in the Lebanese Ministry of Culture from 1956-1981 was unable to intervene in this “gifting fiasco.” Raad had Traboulsi—who was born in Palestine and now works as an artist in Beirut—paint replicas of the gifted paintings onto Salamé’s crates. While the warehouse confirmed the collector’s penchant for painting, Raad and Traboulsi’s site-specific undertaking is bold. This in a country still without a president since its April 2014 election concluded without any candidate reaching a two-thirds majority.
Ghana-born Adjaye lived in Beirut as a child with his diplomat father and met Salamé a few years ago. Some two years after ground was broken, on reclaimed land two stories below sea level, the foundation came into being with a façade inspired by Beirut’s red-roofed villas. The zigzagged epidermis takes it cue from the ocean’s waves in what Adjaye says “creates a relationship with the water, against the acoustics of the street, so when you come through, it’s a gateway to a secret oasis.” The oasis is a 35,000-square-meter shopping complex that is, adds Adjaye, “two-thirds retail and one-third art.”