Beirut Never Dies
Beirut Ma Betmout, a sweet, self-explanatory Arabic rhyme.
On August 4, 2020, a large amount of ammonium nitrate stored in Beirut’s port exploded; the entire city, and much of the country, felt the thud, heard the sirens and saw the blood. Gemmayze, Achrafieh and Mar Mikhael were particularly hard hit. These areas are, or were, home to many artists and their studios, independent bookshops, coffee shops, small bars and restaurants where creatives would gather, unwind and exchange ideas.
Several recurring themes emerged when speaking with the artists in this sale; many had spent years outside of Lebanon, and upon their return, sought to position themselves within the cultural, social and historical fabric of Lebanon. Nostalgia also came up a few times; a longing, or critical investigation into the glamorous Lebanon of the 60s and early 70s, when Beirut was dubbed ‘The Paris of the Middle East.’ Some referenced fatigue; they are heartbroken and tired, they say, of a life of instability. Most poignantly though, all the artists I spoke with shared their love for Lebanon.
The Lebanese people are warm and creative; you feel it when you walk around Beirut. When a Lebanese person hosts you, they do so generously; when they cook, they cook with love; when they decorate, or dress, weave, sew, stitch, paint, glaze, draw, dance, laugh, fight, they do so genuinely and creatively. I have never lived in Lebanon, so it took me time to develop my own relationship with this special country; the connection I feel today was born from my experiences of Beirut’s rich, warm and diverse arts and culture. To preserve the unique Lebanese spirit, it is important to celebrate and promote local cultural production.
Part of the proceeds from this sale will be donated to Impact Lebanon, an initiative incubator for driven Lebanese around the world. Their process is to encourage the sharing of knowledge, resources and expertise, and build strong teams to turn ideas into successful initiatives.
Sirine Fattouh (b. 1980) explores personal history through her multidisciplinary practice. Through memory, she explores the complex relationship to Lebanon, and the consequences of conflicts and wars on people’s daily lives. Recent work confronts gender and queer identity. Fattouh earned her MA from École nationale supérieure d’arts de Paris-Cergy and PhD from Sorbonne University. She lives and works between Paris and Beirut.
Ayla Hibri (b.1987, Lebanon) is a visual artist based between Amman and Beirut. Hibri has ammassed an expansive archive of visual data on the psychogeography of geography and aspects of the human condition. The artist also imagines and paints creatures and distant worlds. Hibri earned her MA from School of the Art Institute of Chicago and BA from the Lebanese Academy of Fine Arts.
Alicia Jalloul (b.1994, UK) is a contemporary visual artist whose works explore paradoxical sensations of celebration, anxiety and doubt within collective culture, multiculturalism and national identity. Culturally specific phrases and sayings are defamiliarized through the use of collage, and exploring the sculptural potential of space. Jalloul sources her quotes from political soundbites, biblical origins and civic duty propaganda. Jalloul earned her MFA from the Slade School of Fine Art and BA from the Glasgow School of Art. Jalloul lives and works in London, UK.
Time Is Of The Essence, 2020
Linocut, hand embroidery and machine freehand embroidery on fabric. Cotton twill, glitter thread, cotton thread, eyelets
Through her practice, Christine Safa (b.1994, France) seeks to eternalize memory and sensation of her experiences of Lebanon. Safa imagines the country’s landscapes – trees, and mountain, and large expanses of sun, sky and light. Christine earned her BA from École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Paris and lives and works in Paris, France.
Lara Tabet (b. 1983, Lebanon) is a practicing medical doctor and visual artist. Tabet was awarded grants from AFAC and Mawred; she was the recipient of the Sursock Museum Prize and was awarded the Arte East fellowship. Her artistic practice is informed by her background in pathology and inspects the relationship between the individual and public/private space in connection to gender, sexuality, and identity. Lara earned her PhD from American University of Beirut, and lives and works in Beirut, Lebanon.
Alain Vassoyan (b.1966, Lebanon) is a contemporary visual artist. Vassoyan imagines colorful characters, through which he explores themes of love war, love and sexuality. Vassoyan lives and works in Lebanon.
Karine Wehbé (b.1972, Lebanon) is a contemporary visual artist whose multi-disciplinary practice spans photography, cinema, archival footage, and geographic maps. Her work embeds intimate and public chronicles, drawing on adolescent experiences, cinematographic and musical influences, and the mechanisms of memory and nostalgia. Wehbe earned her BA from ESAG Penninghen, and lives and works in Beirut, Lebanon.
Tala Worrell (b. 1991, USA) practice explores identity: what it means to be both an insider and an outsider. Worrell earned her BA in Visual Arts from Brown University in 2014. She was a fellow at Ashkal Alwan’s Homework Space Program in Beirut, Lebanon (2015); Worrell was a fellow of the Salama bint Hamdan Foundation Emerging Artists Fellowship (SEAF) in Abu Dhabi, UAE (2016). Worrell is currently pursuing her MFA at the Rhode Island School of Design, R.I.. Tala lives and works in Rhode Island, USA.