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Feb 10 2021

Beirut’s art scene six months after the explosion

by Celina Lei

RAMZI ABOU FADEL‘s candle house of Sursock Museum, Beirut, which was offered at the museum’s store with all proceeds going towards the museum’s reconstruction. Image via Instagram.

The revival and recovery of Beirut’s art community continues six months after the catastrophic port explosion in the Lebanese capital on August 4, 2020. As cultural organizations repair their spaces and attempt to launch a new season of programming, Lebanon is still facing widespread Covid-19 infections and little resolution to its political turmoil.

Among the nearly 200 deaths caused by the pair of chemical explosions on August 4 was Gaïa Fodoulian, the 29-year-old director of Letitia Gallery. Her mother and the gallery’s co-founder, Annie Vartivarian, has launched the nonprofit platform Ad Leb in her memory to support local artists and designers. The project will open its inaugural group exhibition “Everyone is the creator of one’s own faith” in March at the historic Tabbal Building, according to Ocula. Meanwhile, Zeid El-Amine, previously of Lebanon’s Ramzi and Saeda Dalloul Art Foundation, launched Août gallery in November 2020, in honor of his father, Iyad, in the damaged Gemmayze neighborhood where his father perished. The gallery will open with an exhibition of emerging artists once Lebanon lifts Covid-19 lockdown restrictions. 

Efforts to revive Beirut’s art scene have slowed due to the lockdown that was imposed on January 14. Sfeir-Semler Gallery’s solo presentation of works by installation artist Marwan Rechmaoui, its first exhibition after completing restorations on its broken windows and interior, is now delayed until March. The Beirut Art Center planned to resume Mohammad Berro’s residency show “to live and let live” and the group exhibition “20/20/on/offline” on February 8 according to its website, amid the 24-hour curfew that is set to continue until February 22. The Sursock Museum reopened its museum store, selling crafts by local makers on December 15, 2020, as a fundraising effort for the USD 3 million  needed for its restoration, but has also since closed. Meanwhile, the Arab Image Foundation continues to seek relocation opportunities for its Beirut office as part of a longterm expansion plan with ongoing restorations of its damaged climate-control storage.

To overcome the physical limitations during the pandemic and amid repairs, Marfa’ Projects premiered a limited-time performance, “The Sea Between My Soul,” by artist and musician Raed Yassin on Youtube in December 2020, and will also participate in the inaugural edition of the South South art fair from February 23 to March 7. Galerie Tanit’s group exhibition, “A Bestiary,” is available digitally on Ocula until the physical show becomes accessible. Meanwhile, nonprofit Ashkal Alwan’s tenth Home Workspace Program, a ten-month lineup of educational workshops aimed to develop artists’ skills, commenced online on January 14. Previously for selected fellows, this year’s edition is open to all interested parties.

Celina Lei is an editorial intern at ArtAsiaPacific.

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