Lebanon has always been a hyper creative artistic hub and a showcase for the region’s artists to express themselves freely. Today, the country is going through a strong economic crisis and many families find themselves in a difficult situation. Beirut has also been strongly affected by the two explosions of August 4th and many initiatives are being organized to rebuild and restore the city’s damaged heritage. The art world is strongly impacted, as well as its institutions, museums, contemporary art centers, foundations, and galleries. Artists today also need visibility in order to survive.
What are their challenges, their aspirations, their fears, their struggles for tomorrow?
In order to support the Lebanese artistic sector, BEIRUT ART FAIR launched on November 23rd a ‘‘ Open Call #1 for Lebanese Artists ’’ on social networks, to encourage and support new artists. In just 4 days, the organizers received 196 applications from all around.
A pre-selection of 44 artists was carried out, from which 7 candidates were chosen for this first promotion of promising talents. The choice was tight as the proposed projects were so rich and varied.
For one week, from December 3 to 9, 2020, BEIRUT ART FAIR’s Facebook & Instagram platforms will exhibit one artist’s work (one artist/one work/one day) every day. A newsletter will be sent on December 10, 2020 to all visitors who have experienced BEIRUT ART FAIR since its first edition.
The selected works will be offered for sale in order to support and encourage these artists to pursue their aspirations.
Artists have explored the broad spectrum of topics spanning identity, be it regional, collective, community, social, or gender-related, but also the cultural dimension particularly when the applicant is of mixed roots.
Photography occupies a major place in our selection and functions here as a symbol.
Tony Mhanna opens the door for the ghosts of the past to return to re-inhibit those houses abandoned because of the war, while Zeinab Khalifeh immortalizes in his portraits the outcasts of society so they don’t turn into ghosts themselves. Through a work of manual composition and graphic construction, Basile Ghosn manipulates architectural iconography and delivers image-illusions in order to re-establish a new social and aesthetic order. Lea Skayem explores, through her staged selfportraits, the difficulties of inhabiting a woman’s body in a conservative society.
Salah Missi’s purified charcoal denounces the corruption of leaders in the Arab; here his characters, isolated from their environment, intertwine in a state of despair and powerlessness.
Inspired by her Lebanese-Colombian heritage, Michelle Maluf’s tapestry combines ancestral techniques and contemporary elements in order to create a harmonious contrast of materials – an allegory of the Lebanese diversity.
Camilia Salame’s installation is a memorial to the Bald Ibis, a bird whose species has now disappeared, being last seen in 2015 during the destruction of Palmyra. Considered as the sacred bird that brought the olive branch to Noah after the Flood, it is a figure of the rebirth but also of the loss of cultural and natural heritage. This poetic work is an allegory of the eternal link between man and the earth.
‘‘The aim of this ‘‘Open Call #1 for Lebanese Artists’’ is to reveal and promote the new talents of the Lebanese contemporary scene, among the numerous visitors who have participated in the fair since 2010. It is also to give back confidence to the artists, to accompany them in their creation, to help them live from their art, and to develop with them international initiatives. Today, support our artists, they need you!!! ’’ declares Laure d’Hauteville, founder & director of BEIRUT ART FAIR.
‘‘This open call finally gives the artists the opportunity to make their voice heard in the time of Covid 19. The opportunities to exhibit have disappeared and independent artists need more than ever to be supported and promoted in an innovative way, especially in Lebanon which is experiencing a serious economic crisis. The positioning of BEIRUT ART FAIR is daring and I hope it will resonate with foreign collectors’’, adds Marie-Mathilde Gannat-Jaber, co-curator of Open Call #1 for Lebanese Artists.
BEIRUT ART FAIR gives a major place to freedom of expression, cultural dialogue, innovation, tolerance and the fruitful exchange of ideas, which are the essential values of the fair. Beirut will recover and will always remain a creative platform where initiatives multiply.
The 11th edition of BEIRUT ART FAIR will be held at a later date, when political and economic conditions will allow it.
Basile Ghosn was born in 1991. He lives and works in Marseille, France. He works with images found in old architecture magazines that he collects to create his own worlds with a range of engraving techniques from photocopying to silkscreen printing. His work is part of the FRAC public collection and has been exhibited at the Friche Belle de Mai (Marseille), the Cité Radieuse – Le Corbusier (Marseille), and the Material Art Fair (Mexico).
The work presented is a tribute to Ursula Le Guin’s science fiction novel. It is a framed print made of glass recovered from a destroyed building. This work is part of the series «The Left Hand of the Night» which includes 7 illustrations inspired by the atmosphere of the book.
Zeinab Khalifeh is a photographer born in 1993. Her work reflects the complex reality of the Lebanese society. She documents people, stories and wandering. Her work has been published in several Lebanese and international magazines, including National Geographic. Zeinab won the 1st prize of the National Geographic Award 2019 with the photography «Moments». She was also nominated by Word Press Photo as an emerging photographer.
Her photo exhibited here; «Uncle Hassan» is installed on his craft in the old souk of Sidon. He was a dressmaker for 40 years before he recently passed away. Uncle Hassan could no longer recognize his family members. However, he rediscovered his memories through the sewing machine.
Michelle Maluf is a Colombian and Lebanese artist. Inspired by her cultural heritage, her tapestries are created using ancestral techniques with contemporary elements, intertwining the past with the future. Life in Lebanon has been a great source of inspiration for Michelle. The contrasts between religions, culture, and landscapes are strong, but they combine to form a beautiful diversity. Like her tapestries, the vast contrast of elements combines to form a harmonious design.
Her tapestry «Bright Side» aims to see beauty in the banal. Bright colours gush out offering life and texture to the work. It is a contrast of feelings, colours and elements. The background is inspired by ancestral weaving techniques using yarn for life and the contrast is given by using coloured leather and wrapped around wooden sticks.
Tony Mhanna is a mechanical engineer as well as an explorer, photographer, and visual artist. He has a keen interest in design, form and architecture. Deeply touched by the scars and sorrows of war, as well as by his desire to highlight Lebanese patriotism, he is dedicated to telling forgotten or untold stories of a nation. His work recalls the past, frames the present, and prepares for the future.
His work «Wraith» is a research mission, a ghostly haunting presence and a story of awakening in haunted places. He seeks to bring these spirits together by rekindling the energy of their golden days. The graceful movement of the fabric is their dance. It is the return of life to the heart of their home: the feeling of belonging of the Lebanese who, against all odds, will always find the path to their roots and mark their presence.
Salah Missi was born in Lebanon in 1992. He acquired his bases in the principles of design and architecture. In the course of his career, he developed an interest in human behaviour in the Arab world, the source of his true expression. ‘‘As a citizen of this executed land,’’ he says, ‘‘I question the unwritten rules of society and the impact of corrupt rulers on our lives”.
His work describes his first breath in this world where he finds himself drowned in melancholy. These intertwined characters float in a state of helplessness and despair.
He describes it as ‘‘an endless loop in which we are forced to live’’.
Camila Salame was born in 1985 in Bogota, Colombia. Her artistic practice is expressed through the use of various materials charged with personal and symbolic resonance. Echoing a quest around her Lebanese origins, her work explores the notions of place of origin, the reconstruction of memory and emotional architecture. She showed her work about Beirut at the Beirut Art Center. She is Laureate of the Salon de Montrouge 2019, and was selected to be part of a residency at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris from January 2021.
Her work is a limestone fragment evoking the environment of the Bald Ibis, on which rests a golden olive branch. For a long time, this species was preserved because it was believed that it was the sacred bird that brought the olive branch to Noah after the Flood. In this memorial, the species is absent and supplanted by its mythical evocation; the olive branch. A sign of immortality, the olive tree also represents the eternal bond between man and the earth.
Lea Skayem is born in 1997 in Beirut, and soon graduated with a Master in Cinema Directing from the Lebanese Academy of Fine Arts (ALBA). Her artistic approach combines aesthetic research and experimentation. By making documentary films, her approach echoes what reality offers her. She is known for her series of black and white nude self-portraits through which she shows experimentation and investigation in body and space relationship. Creating an explicit adaptation of how she perceives herself, she makes the spectator part of the images. Through a sombre mood, Léa highlights the difficulty of living in the body of a woman in a highly conservative society.