Ramin Salsali's new private museum opens in Dubai with tongue-in-cheek 'Show Off'

The space is based on a former warehouse and will exhibit works biannually from his own collection as well as from other private collections around the world


An Iranian-born entrepreneur educated in the UK and Germany has converted a warehouse in Dubai to display works from private collections worldwide, including his own. Ramin Salsali, who devised a greener use for the excess gas in petrochemical works than just flaring it off, opened his non-profit, 900 sq. m Salsali Private Museum last month in the Al Quoz industrial district.

In the 60s, Salsali began by collecting miniature cars, of which he has 100s, and later met Kiddy Citny, who painted parts of the Berlin Wall and introduced him to the Munich art scene: “He took me to a body-painting workshop with naked ladies,” Salsali remembers gleefully.

His first exhibition is called “Show Off” because people accused him of trying to make himself famous and increase the value of his collection. “I asked them, ‘Why don’t you do it too, then?’” This explains why the first thing you see is a blown-up photo by Max Scheler of the Shah of Iran and Farah Diba looking at portraits of themselves. Most of the other work on display is Middle Eastern, a selection of the more than 400 pieces in his collection that will be rotated alongside other private collections. “I have had phases: besides paintings, I have photographs, sculpture and a large video collection—it was David Lynch who opened my eyes to film,” says Salsali.

Salsali is the sole backer of the enterprise and realises now that the Dubai government will not be directly involved in the arts, but he has made it a suggestion: waive the 5% import tax for art on condition that it gets displayed properly to the public for ten years. “That way everybody would get to see a changing panorama of art.”

The 45-year-old hopes to bring two more collections to the space every year, one from inside, one outside. He believes that there are 15 serious collectors in the UAE, and he says that he has already had the first requests from France and Germany: “From one of the biggest photography collectors in the world, whose family collection dates back to 1890.” Meanwhile, in March 2012 the gallery will host an exhibition organised by the non-profit, London-based charity, the Magic of Persia Foundation. Salsali plans to open a sister space in Berlin, where he has a home, to show Middle Eastern art.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Collectors’ space opens in Dubai'