Aug 11 2020

Art Communities Unite To Raise Funds For Beirut

by Fion Tse

RAFAEL DOMENECH’s dislocated assemblage for a map of possibilities, 2019-20, is one of several donated works being offered through Art Relief For Beirut. Image via Instagram.

After 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate exploded in a warehouse in Beirut’s port on August 4, killing hundreds of people and injuring thousands, artists and art organizations in the Lebanese capital and abroad have joined forces to raise funds for a devastated city and its communities. The blast damaged many museums, art galleries, and studios, with interior spaces wrecked and artworks destroyed.

Relief efforts were launched immediately in the days after the explosion, with culturally focused campaigns following shortly thereafter. Belgian-based nonprofit Mophradat, in an effort led by board president, the artist Walid Raad, and curator Mai Abu El Dahab, director of Mophradat, started collecting donations on on August 10 for the Beirut Art Fund for arts initiatives. On the same day, curator Róisín Tapponi, change manager Tina Sayegh, actor Hisham Fageeh, and journalist Maytha Alhassen launched digital campaign Artist Fundraiser For Beirut. An event will be livestreamed on August 12 through August 13, featuring performances and videos from 53 artists and musicians including filmmaker Lamia Joreige, artist Ala Younis, and singer-songwriter Moe Zein. Viewers can watch for free while donations are optional, with proceeds going towards Beirut-based charities. 

Other organizations are raising relief funds through sales of artworks. Dubai photography center Gulf Photo Plus and art platform Ruwa’s sale of prints, titled “For the Love of Beirut” and featuring scenes of the city, will donate proceeds to the Lebanese Red Cross. The online sale runs until August 26, with each print selling for USD 135. Meanwhile, the Mohammad and Mahera Abu Ghazaleh Foundation (MMAG) is planning to hold a day-long fundraising exhibition in its Amman gallery space on August 22, showcasing works from over 80 artists. The MMAG has announced a goal of USD 100,000 for its relief efforts.

Art Relief For Beirut, set up by New York-based artist Mohamad Kanaan on August 7 on Instagram, is encouraging donations to Impact Lebanon or the Lebanese Red Cross through its sales of artworks. Images of the works, donated by artists, are posted online with suggested donation amounts for buyers, who contact the initiative to indicate their interest before donating directly to the two organizations. Artists who have participated so far include Ali Cherri, multimedia artist Hajra Waheed, painter Omar Khouri, and the joint winners of the 2019 Turner Prize—Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Helen Cammock, Oscar Murillo, and Tai Shani—who donated two versions of black-and-white limited-edition prints of their collective artworks, Hey Cupid!  and Hey Cupid! ii (2020). To date, Art Relief for Beirut has raised over USD 77,000. 

Beirut cultural organizations that were badly damaged have also started the process of making repairs. The Arab Image Foundation, a unique repository for historical photographs and archival materials from the region, received heavy damage to its cool storage room and office. The nonprofit is seeking in-kind donations as well as financial support.

Individual artists are also helping with relief efforts. Dubai-based artist Nima Nabavi, who previously created prints for Black Lives Matter, is currently gifting open-edition prints of geometric abstractions in exchange for donations of USD 50 or more to the Lebanese Red Cross. In Beirut, illustrator and designer Cynthia Merhej started a GoFundMe on August 9 to rebuild the damaged spaces of design agency Studio Safar, local bookstore Papercup, and studio of sound-performance artist Jana Saleh. The initiative has already met EUR 32,095 (USD 37,730) of its EUR 40,000 (USD 47,000) goal. Beirut-born illustrator Raphaelle Macaron is collaborating with micro-publisher Studio Fidèle to sell a series of 12 signed riso prints with comic-style illustrations of Beirut. Profits from the sale, as well as from Macaron’s online shop, will be donated to Impact Lebanon.

As the Lebanese cultural community comes together and reaches out to the wider world for support, Beirut residents remain busy with repairing their city and calling for meaningful political change.

Fion Tse is an editorial intern at ArtAsiaPacific.

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