In an interview with W Magazine, Salamé says that via the complex, he wants to make international artworks accessible to a wide swath of Lebanese. “You will be able to spend the whole day here: Have a coffee, meet friends in one of five or six restaurants. The best thing you can do is see the art, but you can also have your hair done,” he said. The foundation describes itself as an ‘important milestone for the future of contemporary art in the region’, but the flipside of the coin, of course, is that exhibiting contemporary art is a way to attract the high-income clients who will frequent the Gucci, Céline and Alexander McQueen boutiques.
In fact, high-end shopping arcades, centers and malls have been commissioning artworks since they were invented in the 19th century for exactly this purpose, Glenn Weiss writes in the Arts Journal. Modern-day examples include Aventura Mall, a luxury shopping destination a stone’s throw from Miami beach, which features artworks by Lawrence Weiner, Jorge Prado, and Julian Opie. Similarly, the Akmerkez Shopping Mall in Istanbul has hosted exhibitions by Turkish artists as part of its “Art at Akmerkez” project since 2003.
Meanwhile in China, the young billionaire Adrian Cheng has made headlines for his ambitious K11 Art Mall, where he promotes contemporary art via the K11 Art Foundation. The two existing art malls, in Shanghai and Hong Kong, feature store aisles lined with works by Yoshitomo Nara, Olafur Eliasson and Damien Hirst. Through his ‘commercial museums’, as he dubs them, Cheng claims to have created a new retail and culture experience where, in essence, consumer culture and contemporary art breathe the same air. The project has been so successful, that Cheng is building 17 additional mallswhich will integrate gallery and exhibition spaces.
Now, the idea has made it to Europe. In France, a newly built open-air shopping centre, the Polygone Riviera in Cagnes-sur-Mer, features a permanent exhibition of sculptures scattered at strategic places between stores and restaurants