In March 2011, I had the honour, privilege and satisfaction to be at the start of something amazing. Though I didn’t know this at the time…
While working at Sotheby’s, I was asked to go to Beirut (never a problem for me) to see a collection of works by a famous modern Lebanese artist, Khalil Saleeby. I was happy to do so but did not know what to expect.
Not only did I have the opportunity to see some of the most wonderful works of art I’d ever seen first hand, but I had the chance to meet their owner, Dr Samir Saleeby, one of the most sweet, gentle and kind men I had met in a long time. For three days, he regaled me with stories of his life in Beirut, stories about Khalil Saleeby and stories about the collection.
It was obvious from the get-go that these works needed to be in a wonderful institution, and AUB was to be their home! Which was perfect! The artist was a student there and the owner was a student there. And on top of that, every university should have an art collection, especially when their art programme is one of the finest in the world!
The reason I am only writing about this now is because this morning I received a calendar which was designed around this collection, and it brought back so many wonderful memories. Rarely does a collection like this find a deserving home, and everytime I read or hear about this collections success, it fills me with such happiness because of where it first started and how important it is that this has happened now. With everything that is going on in the Middle East, not least in Lebanon, it is so fantastic to know that this collection will/should spark other collectors to donate their works to AUB to allow them to have an incredibly important and focused collection of Lebanese art, one that has been lacking since the Sursock Museum closed down.
In the future, I have no doubt that this collection and AUB’s gallery/museum will be one of the most important in the Middle East. And it gives me so much pride that I was there at the very beginning.
Here is a link to the AUB website where they detail the works, with images. It’s hard to put into words how beautiful these paintings are in real life, but just trust me, they are. And they’re timeless.