BEIRUT, Lebanon/ WASHINGTON, DC, USA — In collaboration with its partners in Beirut and Paris, the Washington-based Middle East Institute (MEI), announced the launch of Lebanon Then and Now, Photography from 2006 to 2020, an online exhibition running from July 13 through September 25, 2020.
As Lebanon hobbles into its worst post-war crisis, facing economic and political uncertainty, this show sheds light on the lingering pain and rage that catapulted people into riots and protests of massive discontent since last fall.
“Lebanon Then and Now couldn’t be more timely. We are living in a nightmare. Lebanon’s currency has been devalued to alarming levels and poverty is soaring. Hopes and dreams expressed in the early days of Lebanon’s protests appear shattered, but people are holding on,” said Rita Nammour, chair of the Beirut Museum of Art-USA and president of the Association for the Promotion and Exhibition of the Arts in Lebanon (APEAL), organizations collaborating with the Paris-based Institut du Monde Arabe (IMA) in partnership with MEI to co-produce this show. Nammour expressed hopes that the iconic images from the exhibition “can remind the world of Lebanon’s aspirations for a better future.”
The immersive virtual exhibition offers a tour through the MEI Art Gallery for a full experience of photographs by 17 photographers and a film maker. Their work captures the dizzying social, political, and economic upheavals that have rocked Lebanon for the last 16 years.
Lyne Sneige, director of the MEI Arts and Culture Center said some of Lebanon’s finest young photographers chronicle with images the “tensions and the unresolved issued that led to the current crisis for the past eight months in response to the country’s political and financial collapse.”
Generous donations by Dr. Rose-Mary Boustany, Mrs. Rania Daniel and Mrs. Claude Audi made the execution of this timely exhibition possible.
Curator Chantale Fahmi chose selections from two recent and seminal exhibitions, IMA’s Lebanon: Between Reality and Fiction, which opened in Paris in September 2019, and APEAL’s Revolt, held in the heart of Beirut, the epicenter of Lebanon’s uprising, showcased blown-up reproductions mounted outside the dilapidated Egg, the hollowed ruin of a wartime cinema. The structure became a hub for intellectuals, academics, activists and students seeking to make sense of a set of circumstances gripping the country by the throat.
Organized by the Beirut Center of Photography and APEAL, Revolt captured the ethos of the popular sit-ins and manifestations that erupted in Beirut on October 17, 2019 over corruption and mismanagement by Lebanon’s political class. Lebanon-based curator Chantale Fahmi sought to weave themes from the Paris and Beirut shows into a tapestry of suppressed and unaddressed injustices and war legacies. The collection illuminates the power of photography, both artistic and journalistic, as a conveyor of reality and emotion, she explained.
“Lebanon’s photography sector has been developing in exciting ways,” said Fahmi in describing how press photographers have interacted and worked with foreign news agencies and adapted to Lebanon’s vibrant arts infrastructure to grow and nurture their talent in the past decade.
Kate Seelye, vice president for arts and culture programs at MEI, said the recasting of the two exhibitions will deepen the understanding of how the past informs and shapes the present. “Additionally, this show speaks to the importance of international collaborations, as galleries like ours seek to replace physical audiences with global eyeballs,” for now.
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