W ith over 30 years of global experience in marketing and investment, Elie Khouri is currently the CEO of Vivium Holding, a progressive single-family office he founded in 2017, which specializes in alternative investing. He is also the Chairman of Omnicom Media Group (MENA), the media service division of leading global marketing communications company Omnicom Group.
Elie is also a major Dubai-based art collector, who over the past several years, has brought together a group of emerging and established artists representing diverse international perspectives. An ardent supporter of the regional and global art and design communities, he is also an active patron, member of the Tate Middle East and North Africa Acquisitions Committee (MENAAC) and MoMA’s Media and Performance Committee, as well as supporter of numerous art publishing projects.
We met Elie in his Dubai office to discuss a life of art collecting, the characteristics of his collections and his experience in building a successful and fulfilled life in art.
What was the first piece of art you acquired?
I am often asked about the exact moment I started collecting, but the truth is, I have been collecting for as long as I can remember. Collecting has been a part of my life's journey and evolved gradually over time. I started during my early twenties, collecting works across an array of artistic forms, including sculpture, painting, and photography. In fact, acquiring my first piece was a turning point I remember well. The artwork’s title was what drove my decision at the time – ‘So Happy to See You’, by Lebanese-American artist Nabil Nahas. I was captivated by the positivity around that statement, as well as the bright colours and craftsmanship. This was a pivotal moment for me, when my appreciation for art deepened into a lifelong passion.
'A serious collector, in my view, is someone who owns more artworks than available display space!'
What is your definition of a serious collector?
A serious collector, in my view, is someone who owns more artworks than available display space! In my case, this realisation came about 15 years ago.
What defines your collection?
I am particularly curious about how a kaleidoscopic range of works can come together to create a nuanced, multifaceted reflection of the modern world.
Artists in my collection address questions of globalisation, diaspora, identity, politics, and communication in the online era, as well as enduring considerations of truth, beauty, and the natural world. I am drawn to bold abstractions, thoughtful reconsideration of the human figure, as well as works in traditional media that engage with the history of painting and sculpture in fresh ways.
I am always looking to find new meaning and new stories when I look at art; every piece of work can tell a different story depending on how the viewer interacts with it. At the end of the day, it is always about the artists themselves, their soul, their ideas, and inspiration as human beings.
Do you rotate the art that is on your walls at home and in the office?
Of course! I believe that art should engage and converse with us, avoiding the risk of becoming mere background decor. I personally rotate the artworks displayed both at home and in my office every nine to 12 months, for fresh perspective. My inclination towards change and diversity leads me to regularly switch out artworks, which not only transforms the space, but also encourages dialogue - especially in the workplace.
What do you especially look for when acquiring a work of art?
I am always adding artworks to my collection. While I used to have lists of artists I wanted to acquire, my approach has changed and is more fluid today. New artists and creations frequently catch my attention, although they may not always be accessible. So, to stay proactive, I keep ahead with galleries and stay updated on emerging talents and beautiful artworks. The truth is, I always find myself loving many pieces, and the number of things I love exceeds the number of things I can acquire.