Aly Ben Salem at Elmarsa Gallery

Aly Ben Salem at Elmarsa Gallery

Elmarsa Gallery announces the first solo exhibition of Tunisian modernist Aly Ben Salem (1910-2001) at Elmarsa Gallery in Dubai. The exhibition, titled A Perfect World, offers a perspective on a pivotal moment in North African art history, showcasing the unique artistry and creativity of Aly Ben Salem.

Les Ondines, Circa 1960, Acrylic on paper, 56.5 x 77 cm

At first glance, Ben Salem figurative visual language, like most of his Tunisian contemporaries, presents a sharp contrast to his North African peers’ abstract style who contested the figurative and narrative vision but, upon closer scrutiny, they share an expression of a plural Maghrebi identity and something inherent to their history, memory, identity, cultural heritage, authenticity.

Aly Ben Salem’s artistry is represented by a group of paintings that offer insight into the dual influence of Fauvism and miniature painting in the evolution of his recognisable romantic style and composition. Equally inspired by the decorative nature of Tunisian craft as Persian and Indian miniature tradition, his figurative practice is a unique blend of these various influences, resulting in a modern painterly practice that is universal yet recognisably North African.

Paysage onirique aux femmes et animaux, circa 1950, Gouache on paper, 74 x 98 cm

The exhibition primarily focuses on a key period from the late 1930s through the 70s, during which viewers can see the development of Ben Salem’s narrative compositions and representation of idealised female figures shift from recognisable eastern influences in “Portrait of a woman with dog” (signed and dated 1938) and “Le jardin d’Eden” (circa 1940s) to less ethnically specific figures in the foreground while the more traditional decorative motifs move to the background in “Les ondines” (circa 1960s) and “Woman with deer” (circa 1970s).

Portrait of a woman, circa 1950s, Mixed media on panel, 96 x 72 cm

About The Artist 

Aly Ben Salem, a Tunisian artist born in 1910, attended Ecole des Beaux-arts after completing his secondary studies at Lycée Carnot in Tunis. He was taught by Armand Vergeaud and gained recognition for his paintings that reflected the traditions of his country. Salem’s works are similar to miniatures in their precise depiction of characters and objects. In 1934, he held his first personal exhibition at the Rotunda of the Coliseum in Tunis. He won two first prizes in 1936 and decorated the Tunisian Pavilion at the International Exhibition in Paris in 1937. During his time in Paris, Salem was exposed to different schools of painting.


A Perfect World

Location: Elmarsa Gallery

Duration: 28 February – 20 May 2023



SELECTIONS is a platform for the arts, focusing on the Arab World.

Selections editorial presents a quarterly print magazine and weekly online publication with high quality content on all subjects related to Art and Culture. Full of world-leading artworks, exquisite brand imagery, original creative illustrations and insightful written articles.
Selections Viewing Rooms presents carefully curated online art shows aiming not only to shed light on contemporary art executed by living artists, but also for viewers to buy contemporary fine art, prints & multiples, photography, street art and collectibles.
Discover the previous and current shows here.
Cultural Narratives foundation is an extensive collection that is travelling the world by leading established and emerging talents aiming to reflect the culture of the region in their works.