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editor-in-chief: rima nasser

editor: kasia maciejowska

contributing writers: rich thornton, india stoughton, alia fawaz

graphic design: peter korneev

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beirut art fair 2013

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Identity Crisis, Sabyl Ghoussoub, Galerie Sophie Lano, 2013

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An event that presents a hybrid between commercial art and works that delve deeper into the zeitgeist of the region

BEIRUT ART FAIR 2013

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hat the Beirut Art Fair marches on despite the tensions and turmoil that burden the region serves as proof that this city is the only suitable home for this fair of Middle Eastern, North African and South East Asian art. Beirut has a resilience that throws off the clumsiness of clumping together art from such a hemispheresplitting collection of countries and makes it feel appropriate, as itself Beirut is a collection of far-flung identities. Shrugging off any suggestion that the fair crams together the art of different cultures from a Western-centric perspective, Artistic Director Pascal Odille explains that the regions all have a key characteristic in common: they are populated and defined by their religiously diverse peoples. All the major world religions originate in the MENASA regions and

such a mix of world views is the unlikely glue that forges the international selection represented here together. Works displayed at this year’s fair seek to form a hybrid between commercial art that will sell and pieces that have been curated to delve deeper into the zeitgeist of the region. With a fourteen per cent increase in the number of galleries showing on last year, the 2013 fair showcases forty-seven galleries selected from fourteen different countries, with the bulk coming from the Middle East, and many of those from Lebanon itself. Naturally not all the artists shown by Lebanese galleries hail from the country itself; the tragedy of the war in Syria has forced a significant number of artists across the border and many of these have been welcomed by Beirut’s contemporary art spaces.

War is one inevitable subject explored in the creative output from the MENA region as artists seek to represent the irrevocable mark it has made on their countries. The fair makes space to look back at the upset, confusion and hope that sprung from Lebanon’s own fifteen-year civil conflict through the photography exhibit Generation War, a non-commercial exhibition that features images by six Lebanese civilian photographers who documented war in their country. After the past must come the future and many international collectors and curators are looking east for new markets and new impressions. The South East Asian pavillion –a first at this year’s fair – scrupulously selects the finest galleries from Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines, under the careful eye of Richard Koh.

Alongside the visual feast, talks have been scheduled to offer insight into the future of photojournalism, in complement to the Generation War exhibit, as well as roundtables discussing the new international focus on South East Asian art. Outside the fair, art creeps into the streets of the city itself in the inaugural edition of Beirut Art Week, a project that fills the pavements and shop-fronts of downtown Beirut with oversized sculptures and provocative paintings, to remind both citizens and visitors that Beirut was, and still is, a cultural crossroads between East and West. In a time where sectarian differences threaten the lives of many, art remains a universal language that allows our differences to be our strengths and makes room for points of view.


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rt fairs have a strange effect on people. First there’s the hyped-up excitement (So much art!). Then there’s the initial confusion (too many aisles), followed by a clear sense of purpose (must track down Cool New Gallery). Next comes exhaustion (I need water), and finally you reach clarity (A sale! Or, THIS is my favourite piece. Or, SHE is the most brilliant new artist. Or, I KNEW I hated everything by so-and-so). The fairs that now scatter the globe – from Miami to Basel, Venice, Hong Kong, London, Paris and New York – are primarily a commercial proposition, and despite the tumultuous experience they bestow upon the visitor, they remain remarkably adept at actually selling art. Alongside galleries and collectors, dealers, artists and journalists also travel to fairs like this one as they try to make sense of a globalising art market. Despite the haughty pleasure that the more critical art set takes in disdaining these events as pure commerce, such international expos have become a site for display, immersion, novelty and exchange. Subsequently they attract some of today’s most interesting cultural players – for example the Palais de Tokyo founder Jérôme Sans

Everybody in the art world despite what they may say

WHO CARES ABOUT ART FAIRS?

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is curating the designers at the BLC Design Platform here this week. The upshot of the geographically disrupted economic system that the fairs-circuit presents is that people are literally chasing art around the world. While the stately peace of an established gallery may allow for a personal and sometimes meaningful experience with an artwork, what the organisers of art fairs and the gallerists they host have realised is that tight booths and VIP lounges are better for cutting a deal. That’s why sales figures at art fairs have stayed buoyant despite the global economic downturn. Shifting art is a hustle and hustle needs an atmosphere. Contrary to their public personae, artists in general do like their work to be sold – they just don’t like selling it. Artists also like to check out other artists, both the people and their products, and are drawn to fairs themselves for the opportunity to examine art from galleries and countries that they wouldn’t usually witness. Gallerists do the same, as does everyone at the fair, meaning the commercial emphasis always comes with a side serving of new encounters, both with people and with art.

Follow the latest updates from the Beirut Art Fair via the Selections app.

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Frieze Art Fair, London, 2012

who cares about art fairs?

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transforming the personal into the universal

he Burak was a beautiful white horse, brought to Muhammad by the Angel Gabriel. In a single night, this wondrous animal is said to have transported the Prophet from Mecca to the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem and back. Often depicted with feathered wings and a human face, the Burak recently became the subject of a stunningly accomplished installation by Lebanese artist MohamadSaid Baalbaki. Baalbaki created a faux museum display, built around a complex narrative in which three - entirely invented - scientists and historians discovered the remains of a winged steed in Jerusalem just after the First World War. Complete

with fabricated letters and figurines and a handmade skeleton of the Pegasus-like beast, this comprehensive installation, which was exhibited in Qatar’s Mathaf as part of “Tea with Nefertiti” last year, provides an example of the artist’s innovative conceptual work. It is as a painter that Baalbaki trained, however, and that he is best known. His luminous oil paintings often contain an autobiographical element, he explains. “They are influenced by an experience of war, our childhood,” he says. “I was born in 1974. I had barely one year before the Civil War broke out in Lebanon and I think that my paintings are loaded with that experience of

destruction, of migration, of immigration and of violence.” Baalbaki, whose family was forced to move repeatedly as a result of the war, often employs suitcases as a motif in his work. A recent series entitled “Mon/t Lebanon,” a play on the French terms for “My Lebanon” and “Mount Lebanon,” captures heaps of debris - suitcases, shoes, clothes and other scattered belongings - which create a silhouette resembling a mountain range. “It’s Lebanon as we see it in tourist photos,” he explains, “and my lived experience of Lebanon.” It was only after the 2006 war between Lebanon and Israel that Baalbaki

began to work conceptually. Unusually, he now alternates between painting, which he describes as an instinctive, emotional process, and working on his conceptual installations, for which a more intellectual, cerebral approach is needed. What is important in both practices, he says, is to ensure the viewer can relate. “In the end I think the production of an artist must be more universal

than local,” he says. “If we arrive at a universal language it will touch more people... Fear, fatigue, joy, sorrow — these are experiences that we can live everywhere in the world. What’s interesting is how one can transform this emotional language into a visual language.... In the end a piece of art is not an illustration. It’s a lived experience and it should transmit an emotion.”

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Heap, Said Baalbaki, 2009-2011

Transforming the personal into the universal

Belt, Said Baalbaki, 20122013

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Mohamad-Said Baalbaki’s solo exhibition, “Belt,” will be up at Saleh Barakat’s Agial gallery in Hamra until September 28. Mohamad-Said Baalbaki’s solo exhibition “Once Upon a Butterfly” is on show from September 15 to November 15 at Pearl Island’s Anima Gallery.


What is special about your gallery and the particular artists you represent? I invest in young artists and mentor them as they develop, which means that emerging artists can find recognition in Lebanon after I launch them. In Damascus I had a house for artists to live and work in, like an atelier. I live the artist’s story with them and find the creation process so exciting. I love to see paintings develop for example. This year three out of the six artists we are showing at the fair are quite new. We have sculpture that considers the body and the language between two bodies in a truly modern way that is neither purely abstract nor purely figurative. We also have painting that tells stories of how we live now in Syria in very contemporary language. Which artist are you most excited about at the moment that you don’t represent? I very much like the work of the Columbian artist Fernando Botero, particularly his sculptures - I would like to do something with him in the future. I also like the Lebanese painter Ayman Baalbaki. What do you think about the Middle Eastern art scene - both artists and galleries - at this moment in time? Since 2006 when Christie’s started in the region the scene has become more international and local collectors began to see art as an investment – which is ok because artists need to be invested in. We are now still in a good period – in Dubai, in Beirut, in Cairo – but we don’t know what will happen in a few years’ time. It depends on the political situation.

GALERIE JANINE RUBIEZ Nadine Begdache, founder What is special about your gallery and the particular artists you represent? Many things! We are one of the oldest galleries in Beirut. I have been almost exclusively promoting Lebanese art for 20 years through the gallery and before that privately with my mother Janine Rubeiz since the eighties. We have always tried to represent a wide range of different kinds of artists and to showcase the scene here in all its variety. We were among the first in Beirut to exhibit installation and video art by young artists in the nineties. We also continue to show figurative and abstract painting, plus sculpture and prints. We make an effort to offer underrepresented artists the opportunity to present their work alongside well established local masters. Which artist are you most excited about at the moment that you don’t represent? One of my favourite artists is the American painter Cy Twombly who passed away in 2011. I am always excited to discover works by him that I haven’t seen before and to hear about exhibitions of his work. What do you think about the Middle Eastern art scene - both artists and galleries - at this moment in time? The Middle Eastern art scene is growing so fast but it is difficult to predict how it will be affected in the longer term by this ongoing turmoil in Arab countries. At the moment the United Arab Emirates is providing a steady platform for the Arab art market to grow. Many artists coming from Syria, Egypt, Lebanon and other troubled countries are relying on the UAE art market to build their careers. Yet despite the situation we still have new galleries opening and art spaces growing in Beirut and Cairo which is keeping the vivid dynamic of the regional art scene alive.

GALERIE TANIT Marc Mouarkech, director in Beirut What is special about your gallery and the particular artists you represent? Our Beirut branch is six years old but has a background of 40 years of experience in Munich. It has connections in Europe and Lebanon with lots of artists and collectors. The exchange of artists between both galleries and the participation of Tanit in several art fairs around the world (London, Paris, Basel, Dubai, Cologne, etc…), give our artists a chance to be seen by an unusually international public. During the 1980s and early 1990s Galerie Tanit was one of the few galleries on the Munich scene to show an international programme of American Minimalism, Italian Arte Povera and diverse practices in current painting and photography. Today Tanit Munich continues along with its sister gallery in Beirut - that moved recently to a new and bigger space - with a varied international programme. Which artist are you most excited about at the moment that you don’t represent? We are excited about the work of the Australian (born in Iran) artist Hussein Vanamalesh; we were introduced to his work last year in Dubai and we believe that he has something to say, with his work on paper and installations, this artist raises challenging questions about the cultural heritage of the homeland. What do you think about the Middle Eastern art scene - both artists and galleries - at this moment in time? We believe that the art scene in the Middle East is booming, we are glad to see the changes in the people’s mentality regarding art and its positive effect on society. Several galleries in Beirut and other regions in the Middle East such as Dubai, Doha, Jeddah, and others are offering interesting programmes, and many artists are given the chance to become renowned internationally. Art Fairs, such as the Beirut Art Fair and Art Dubai help giving the Middle East a stronger presence in the art scene.

La Dolce Vita #6, Marwan Chamaa, Galerie Tanit

Samer Kozah, founder

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Circle VIII, Hanibal-Srouji, Galerie Janine Rubeiz

Beirut’s leading gallerists open up about their passions and the art world they inhabit

GALLERY CHATTER

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SAMER KOZAH

gallery chatter

Plus Nigative One, Nasr Warour, Acrylic and charcoal on canvas

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that’s a wrap

words: rich thornton

Penique Productions bring their inspired and insane vacuum-packed rooms concept to Beirut Art Fair

THAT’S A WRAP

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n art fair can be seen as a place where art and commerce meet. As such, Penique Productions can be seen as a perfect associate for this Beirut incarnation. The young Spanish collective has built a reputation by installing their inflatable interiors at sponsored events and in self-chosen aesthetic spaces - in far flung locations from Italy to Mexico and Brazil. As fitting at Paris Fashion Week as they are in the dilapidated bathroom

of an English university, Penique’s single colour, seemingly vacuum-shrunk plastic spaces bring an alien surrealism to both the Beirut Art Fair’s exclusive VIP area and to Momo at the Souks restaurant during the fair. Sergi Arbusa is the founder of Penique and says he accepts these commercial installation projects in order to fund his independent works. When quizzed on his signature concept, Arbusa likes to keep things open:

“We never force things and people can bring their own ideas but the central idea comes from the balloon’s relationship to architecture.” It looks like Penique has chosen to break its own rules this time though… As you can see in the current VIP area there is no architecture for the balloon to relate to - only rope. “We like to collaborate and we like to mix it up. This is the first time we’ve used rope as the wall structure, so we hope it’s going to work!”


Nadim Karam Urban Zoo

30 September - 28 November 2013

ayyam gallery|Beirut www.ayyamgallery.com


KIMIKO YOSHIDA ∙ ARAB ART IN 2013 HISTORIC JE WELLERY ∙ FAYE TOOGOOD BRANDS x ARTISTS ∙ GEORGE ZOUEIN FASHION AS ART ∙ LONDON & QATAR


the next big thing. In art and in design, South East Asian artisans are now sought out for their creativity and vision, rather than their production capacity. “A few years ago, people would come to Thailand for cheap textile labour; now the Thais are creating the designs that everyone’s buying,” says Koh. Conscious of quality, Koh is aware that art can actually suffer counterintuitive though it may seem. “Once a young artist gets noticed here, a patron will come forward to financially support them,” explains Koh. These patrons often take first refusal on all new works created, which means that sometimes an artist’s work will stagnate as

they try to please their rich admirers. It also means their new work never reaches a public but remains in the privileged view of a few private homes and viewers. This can be said of many art markets around the world, but more so in the case of

“Once you see a price tag your perception changes. Everyone wants in with highselling artists in this celebrity culture”

Wise words from Richard Koh, curator of the South East Asian pavillion

Still Untitled, Bagus Pandega, Gallery Rachel, 2009

the newer, less formalised markets and in particular, believes, Koh, of the SEA market. This can be seen as positive and negative. Of course it is a shame when the market shapes expression rather than cleanly supporting it. Artists need funding, however, and some remain grateful for patrons while others refuse such relationships. Koh shares his wisdom on the mindsets of collectors in South East Asia now. “Owning art is a step towards higher social visibility and critical credibility - that’s

KEEP A COOL HEAD WHEN THE MARKET GOES MAD

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why people collect. Art legitimises. Everyone rich can have a Lamborghini but artworks are unique.” Koh himself has a tonic for this socialclimbing epidemic that has been both plaguing and supporting art for centuries. He likes to find artists who are outside “the auction circus”, as he calls it, “because once you see a price tag your perception changes. Everyone wants in with high-selling artists in this celebrity culture”. As a curator it is Koh’s responsibility and role to keep a cool head when the market goes mad for an artist. “The curator’s job is to perceive and understand the historical and art-historical

perspectives and to guide the future viewer through what is happening artistically in our era.” Perhaps the most limiting thing at this moment in time is the categorisation by the Western-dominated global art market of art by entire regions. Just how should South-East Asian art be represented in one neat pavillion? Koh agrees, and his lamentation probably means he’ll have a hand in changing how regional categories are exhibited as they evolve: “All nonWestern art has been typecast at this point so we need to start representing some different perspectives.”

Centauree, David Chan, Art Seasons Gallery, 2009

ichard Koh has a unique perspective on the South-East Asian art scene. As the curator of the SEA pavillion he has been in the unenviable position of choosing from a list of hundreds of bright new galleries from the vast region to show here at the fair. From his home gallery in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and his second outpost in Singapore, Koh has spent over twenty years cruising international contemporary art markets and advising public and private collectors alike. Ever since the Chinese art boom in 2004 investors and aficionados have been moving steadily south into Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, searching for

keep a cool head when the market goes mad

Love Bomb, PHUNK, Art Seasons Gallery, 2013

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Youssef Abdelke, The Knife and the Bird, 2007

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SYRIAN ART NOW

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released by the Syrian authorities after spending a month in detention - has been producing striking charcoal works depicting scenes of violence and mourning since the onset of the conflict, a marked change from 15 years of drawing still life scenes, rather than human figures. Houmam Alsayed, an up-and-coming young painter and sculptor now living in Beirut, also captures scenes from the streets of Syria in his work, focusing not on violence per se, but

Youssef Abdelke, A Martyr from Daraa, 2012

accessible by international collectors. Artists there did not have a chance to get out of the country easily. Now this is happening, so that at least is really positive.” “Now Syrian art is opening up,” confirms gallerist Samer Kozah, who is in the process of organising a Syrian Art Fair, set to take place at Artheum in October. “But of course at home most galleries have closed... Some of the artists are still there, and even if not, they still have so much to say. We have so much new artistic blood - a new wave of young artists doing interesting things in their own styles.” As time passes, a divide is appearing between those artists who have chosen to continue working on their habitual subject matter in spite of the war, and those who have chosen to tackle the on-going violence in their work. Youssef Abdelke - one of Syria’s best-known and most politically outspoken artists, who was recently

Faces From My Paintings, Edward Shahda, 2013

s the violence in Syria continues to escalate, the nation’s artists are taking up their own arms. Not guns, knives and other tools of violence, but paint brushes and pens, clay and bronze. Many Syrian artists are among the millions who have fled the violence, relocating to Beirut or Dubai, Cairo or Georgia. Their artistic output, however, often reflects the direction of their thoughts, which remain focused on their homeland. As time passes and the art network within Syria gradually collapses, international interest in Syrian art has spiked, an unexpected positive amid a sea of negatives. “Everybody’s speaking about Syrian art today,” says Mark Hachem, who represents some of Syria’s best-known artists, among them sculptor and painter Sabhan Adam. “The collectors are waking up to something interesting... Politically Syria was always a place that was not easily

On The Kitchen Table, Tarek Butayhi, 2013

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its effect on Syria’s citizens, from elderly shoe-shiners to young children. “Although the Syrian artists that we work with live throughout the region, an influence from or a direct response to the turmoil in Syria is apparent through their art,” says Khaled Samawi, whose Ayyam Gallery represents a number of prominent Syrian artists. “In general, artworks either mirror the aggression faced, or present a melancholic image of their homeland, or display how the experience of war has affected them. The common characteristic across them all is a desire for peace and a nostalgia for their homeland.” Other artists choose to focus on topics unrelated to the war. Gemmayzeh’s Art on 56th gallery represents a roster of Syrian artists that includes the well-known calligrapher Mouneer alShaarani and the painter Edward Shahda.

“Most of the artists that we are exhibiting don’t want to talk about the war,” explains galleryowner Noha Moharram, in contrast to other Syrian gallerists. “Tarek Butayhi... was talking about women. Hasko, who’s Kurdish, was talking about his village… You don’t see war when you look at their paintings.” She believes it’s important for art to play a positive role, as she explains, “For me art is about when you go into a gallery or a house and you see a painting that takes you to another place. I want people to go beyond all this political stuff. I just want them to feel how life is life and you can enjoy it, it shouldn’t be about war and killing.”


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ne of the joys of an international art fair is the focus it brings to the host city’s wider creative community. To coincide with the glitz and glamour of the main attraction, a new, edgier space opens this week on the outskirts of town. Station is an alternative arts venue that, according to owner Nabil Canaan, “Is not an art gallery but a multi-purpose venue aimed at generating progressive content in an open-minded spirit”. Situated near two of Beirut’s most irreverent and prestigious art institutions, Beirut Art Centre and Ashkal

Alwan, set in the postindustrial Jisr El Wati creative hub, Station will limit itself to one signature event per month in order to leave space for collaborations with other performers, artists and workshops. Its first exhibition, which opens on 20th September, aptly brings the hedonistic pulse of Eighties New York to a city renowned in the region for its bohemian party spirit. The Maripolarama show uses the impulsively shot catalogue of Polaroids that was taken by the French-born, New York-based photographer of Lebanese descent, Maripol. This fresh exhibition charts

Self Portrait, Maripol, Polaroid

A converted wood factory is Beirut’s new one-stop shop for the more progressive end of the city’s art scene

STATION Approach

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the heady days and nights she spent with mega-stars including Grace Jones, Jean Michel Basquiat and Madonna, among many others. After garnering fame for styling Madonna’s iconic Like a Virgin look, Maripol began to exhibit intimate snaps showing her carousel of artist-friends, and even produced and directed films about them. The urban fairy tale movie Downtown 81, starring Basquiat, and the profile film Keith Haring: The Message were each given a dose of the Maripol magic potion. Both will be screened as part of Station’s inaugural show this week.


art in the shops

words: rich thornton

Mona Hatoum UNESCO BLDG 2011 xvga 2 From This Place, Martin Boyce, 2013

Collector Profile: Tony Salamé

ART IN THE SHOPS

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The Horse, Xavier Veilhan, 2009

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nown in Lebanon as the driving force behind the luxury fashion retailer Aïshti, Tony Salamé is also an avid collector of contemporary art. His extensive collection is rumoured to be the largest in the Middle East. Earlier this year he extended his private passion through the opening of the Metropolitan Art Society, an art foundation and exhibition space set in a grand 19thcentury Ottoman-style house in Ashrafieh. Salamé has been collecting for longer than

Formula One, Matthew Monahan, 2012

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he’s been running Aïshti, meaning that he has snapped up artworks on a regular basis for more than a quarter of a century. “I have always had a passion for art as well as a strong appreciation of the link between fashion and art. When I started collecting I decided to exhibit some of my pieces in my various stores around Beirut. My aim was, and still is, to introduce art to as large an audience as possible, while also offering an aesthetic experience to people while they’re shopping.” Salamé finds no discomfort in hanging his

art in department stores or mixing the private with the professional. He has little interest in categories or distinctions in general in relation to art. He invests in emerging contemporaries as well as established 20th-century artists and is open to all mediums: ‘The pieces in my collection vary greatly in style and include paintings, sculptures, multimedia works and more.’ As a staunch supporter of his countrymen’s artistic output Salamé has a healthy proportion of Lebanese artists under his ownership. While

overall he collects “mostly Western art” he also names Rayyane Tabet, Walid Raad and Marwan Rechmaoui as his favourite Lebanese artists, along with Akram Zaatari, who currently has a solo exhibition at MoMA, New York. Perhaps surprisingly considering his entrepreneurial approach to his business ventures, Salamé doesn’t view art as an investment and chooses works that touch him emotionally. “I go with my heart and purchase pieces that speak to me but also which fit nicely within my personal art collection.”

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art while you sleep

Fred Bred, French Pool Side, 6th Floor, Le Gray Hotel, Beirut

Collector profile: Gordon Campbell Gray

Art while you sleep

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“Your nose takes you to where the art is”

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nternational hotelier Gordon Campbell Gray is a seasoned art lover who scours the globe for emerging talent whenever he gets the chance. This dapper gentleman owns Beirut’s landmark downtown hotel Le Gray and the stately Carlisle Bay resort on the Caribbean island of Antigua. His company runs Dukes in St. James, a discreet hotel much admired for mixing “the best martini in London”. Gray also serves as Vice President of Save the Children and regularly travels to some of the world’s most deprived areas to support the charity’s projects that fight child exploitation. On

top of all that, he has been praised for his dedication to environmental awareness in the hotel industry, receiving an award for his efforts from Leading Hotels of the World. Gray decorates his stylish and unpretentious hotels on both sides of the Atlantic with his evergrowing collection - and thankfully so as this means that many pairs of eyes from countless different countries are given the chance to see those works that he has handpicked on his travels. “One of the best parts of my job is choosing where to put the art; I have just spent five days hanging the collection for my new

hotel”. In a continuation of his generous approach to life he doesn’t follow his own taste in isolation but also considers what he thinks will please his guests. “I never buy names and I never buy things just because they are seen as important,” clarifies the unpretentious Scot. On a recent trip to Havana, Cuba he ended up buying fourteen paintings from an unknown art student who was still living with his parents in their small apartment. After visiting Cuba he was in Ethiopia for his charity work and ended up sourcing fresh talent from the African continent while he was at it. “Your nose just

seems to take you to where the art is,” he observes. As a young man Gray hoped to be an architect but didn’t pass the necessary exams. Now with years of art collecting and hotel decoration behind him, he gets the chance to turn his creative hand to key details when he chooses – such as the chairs at Le Gray’s Indigo Lounge restaurant, which he mocked-up himself one morning at his London home. To see them in the flesh – as well as the wonderful artworks shown here by Damian Aquiles and others visit Le Gray for drinks by the rooftop pool.


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spotlight on local design

words: alia fawaz

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1,3,4, - A Quilt Called Wander, Anastasia Nysten, 2013; 2 - Tables, Deema Kotob, 2013; 5 - Multi-purpose honeycomb furniture (work in progress), Maria Halios, 2013, 6- Low red honeycomb furniture, 7- Karma Light, Nayef Francis, 2013, 8 - Low red honeycomb furniture (work in progress), Maria Halios, 2013;

Jérôme Sans takes a break from Beijing to curate BLC bank’s Design Platform

SPOTLIGHT ON LOCAL DESIGN

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eirut is often dubbed the design capital of the MiddleEast, and rightly so. This year’s fair hosts a significant contribution of products that are as functionally witty as they are visually striking – and all made by Lebanese creators. This year’s Design Platform is sponsored by BLC bank and sits within the wider design space of the fair. Under the guidance of renowned critic and curator Jérôme Sans, ten prototypes have been chosen from the numerous pieces submitted. Sans founded the seminal contemporary art centre Palais de Tokyo, in Paris, and currently heads up the Ullens

Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing. He was especially invited to judge this segment of the fair. Selected finalists whose work is on show include Joe Bou Abboud, Niloufar Afnan, Claudia Elissar Chahine, Maria Halios, Deema Kotob, Nayef Francis, Anastasia Nysten, Nabil Rizk, Fady Salameh and Sibylle Tamer. Each of these young creatives presents a one-ofa-kind product which aims to offer a unique answer to ergonomic design questions, as well as being aesthetically pleasing. Deema Kotob draws her inspiration from video games such as Atari and Nintendo, and from the images that peppered her

childhood. She also makes reference to analogue games and gadgets, particularly in her ‘vintage’ looking floppydisk tables. A less high-tech, more artisanal work is the woven lamp collection from interior and furniture designer Nayef Francis. His materials include beech wood and wicker and his latest creation Karma Light is a clever play on space and light. A desire to mix traditional techniques with new materials was the intention behind Anastasia Nysten’s piece A Quilt Called Wander. The quilting is constructed using the traditional French method of piquage but uses simple linear patterns to bring

it into the twenty-first century. “My idea was to blend Eastern and Western traditions. I wanted to make a traditionally formal way of sitting into a more comfortable and casual experience,” explains Nysten. For Maria Halios, one of the more established designers among the group, design is about a multipurpose versatility. She was inspired by the structure of honeycomb for her bold red structure which can serve as a coffee table, bench or shelving through adaptation. “My design philosophy is to create furniture and objects for our daily life. Most of my products are versatile and inspired by nature or by places that I have visited and loved.”

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What are you exhibiting at the Art Fair? A collection of furniture called Draw the line Can you tell us about each piece - the ideas and the construction? The collection includes a chest of drawers, bedside table, cupboard, bench and two side tables and the idea is to create a collection of furniture using simple lines in a mother of pearl inlay but in a discreet manner. One feature is our concealed handles that offer an attempt to push the craft toward a more functional application. All the pieces are characterised by a fresh use of colour. What materials are you working with at the moment and why? As part of the evolution of our furniture we are “drawing the line” at the use of traditional patterns and taking the craft into the next level of the now. We have chosen to move away from the traditional arabesque patterns that we were associated with and tried to streamline these patterns into simpler lines. The materials used here are painted mdf and acid-treated oak with mother of pearl. Do you feel that your work is a reflection of your surroundings, or Beirut and its moods? Yes, we strive to keep pushing the boundaries of regional craft and to represent it in modern renderings to keep-up with the evolution of the city, of its taste and its needs. Our use of fresh colours aims to create a feeling of hope for us in Beirut and to lift people’s spirits What upcoming projects do you have for the rest of the year? We are working on mixing old techniques with modern materials for a project that studies the interesting balance created by combining two contradictory design elements.

words: kasia maciejowska

KAREN CHEKERDJIAN

BOKJA

What are you exhibiting at the Art Fair? The ten works on show include Iqar, Rollin Stone, Object 04, Platform Rainbow and Confessional Screen, plus two new series that may be of particular interest – the Ikebana mirrors I and II and the vases called Object 03 X, Y, Z. Can you tell us about each piece - the ideas and the construction? The pieces that we’re showing are elevated to the status of contemporary art in that they take a very particular aesthetic and have a conceptual scope that liberates them from a simple utilitarian role. What materials are you working with at the moment and why? We use a whole range of different materials but each demands great artisanal precision and technicality to manipulate. The mirrors and facets are like dual personalities in which both the self and its counterpoint give direction to the creative work. Do you feel that your work is a reflection of your surroundings, or Beirut and its moods? Our designs illustrate the route and evolution of the studio over time and that route is intimately linked to the city in which the studio grew up. Our pieces are a direct reflection of their environment – they tend towards aesthetic harmony but are also sometimes troubling. What upcoming projects do you have for the rest of the year? We hope to continue our participation in similar contemporary art fairs and are planning to take part in an upcoming international exhibition.

What are you exhibiting at the Art Fair? Migration Stories, our response to the new and shifting reality of the world. Be it for war, love or taxes, everyone has a story of migration. From workers braving harsh deserts and hostile seas to the mega-rich seeking tax havens, the act of leaving one’s country of origin in search of a better life has reshaped the world, and we felt compelled to talk about it. Can you tell us about each piece - the ideas and the construction? We are no longer bound by the ideas of commitment bound up in phrases like “for better or for worse”, or “against all odds”. Everyone has a back-up plan today. Our wallpaper titled Exit Strategies depicts a doorframe to an abandoned room, questioning the things we leave behind while looking forward to new possibilities. The wallpaper was hand painted in collaboration with Deborah Bowness studio. A plate set entitled China Express combines hand crafted porcelain plates with the mass produced plates from China turned chic with images of individual migrants. We think of it as representing democracy in the design process. By combining two ideas together we believe that the two elevate each other and their combination brings out their beauty. The ears of our Love Boat sofa, also showing, are adjustable and it has a storage drawer that is hand crafted out of wicker. The drawer can then be removed and carried with you as a bag. The back of the sofa is burdened with bundles of quilts and pillows, all packed up and ready to move. We thought a lot about mobility and transportation and the practicality of adaptation for this sofa. All the pieces in the collection become bundles of hopes and dreams, portrayed with a tender rawness to the materials.

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Confessional Screen by Karen Chakerdjian

NADA DEBS

design q & a

Smarties Pebble Table by Nada Debs

Three of Beirut’s most-established designers talk to the Art Paper about what they’re thinking, what they’re making, and what they’re showing at this year’s fair …

DESIGN Q & A

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Love Boat Sofa by Bokja

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JEAN-MARC NAHAS in his own words

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jean-marc nahas in his own words

Collaborating with French artist Fabien Verschaere for an installation at the fair, the Beiruti draughtsman Jean-Marc Nahas is known for his black and white murals filled with figures from Lebanese life. Previously exhibited in France, Kuwait, Syria, the UK and Canada, two of his paintings are in the permanent collection at The British Museum in London. He joined the Art Paper for lunch, made us a drawing and shared his thoughts on Lebanese art.

“Drawing for me is like a therapy, it’s a psychological practice and I have to do it.”

“I respect Laure d’Hauteville for putting on this art fair in Beirut with all our wars, she’s a brave

“Art should be critical

woman. But I have

and political, not just

to ask the question –

something to decorate

why aren’t Lebanese

the walls. My art

people doing something

isn’t made for fancy

similar for themselves?”

apartments – it goes beyond that and should go out into the streets.” “My work reflects the real experiences of Beirut – it can be dark and full of violence. People don’t like that sometimes but that’s how it is.”

“The art scene here should be more critical. No need to send everybody flowers!”


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Words: Kasia Maciejowska

eirut’s shifting form presents the photographer with a chimerical subject. Through its trajectory from the broken carcass that it was in the late nineties to today’s scrambling towers of postmodern chaos, Caroline Tabet has cast her own version of the city as a sequence of architectural shadows – shadows that she has reshaped and reshaded throughout her career. “The ruins instinctively influenced me. It was quiet. There were streets in Beirut back then that were like a wild garden. Now the city is loud and overwhelming.” Perhaps this change in the urban fabric is the source of the artist’s shift away from her documentary approach towards a practice of purposefully constructing her preconceived ideas. Art Factum gallery is showing extracts from Tabet’s different series at the fair. Ephemeral Cemetary, which was shot in 2006 as part of her Beirut Lost Spaces sequence, freezes the moments when women came each day to lay symbolic graves in Martyrs Square for people who were dying under the bombs of Israeli jets. Like many of her photographs they use the body to dramatise architectural space, which in this case is historically specific. Land Series and Perdre La Vue are two sets of work that record Tabet’s more everyday practice of going out into the streets and responding to what she finds: “That way you get surprises and find starting points for new concepts”. The hazy snapshots for Land Series are taken on Polaroid

and use the ambience of faded memory that the film tends to produce. In a darkroom in Paris, Tabet enlarges her original Polaroids to bring out their imperfect texture. They are digitised and reprinted, moving from analogue to digital and back to analogue again. She then adds hand-worked textures like Chinese ink, spray paint, Japanese papers and Arabic gum to the negatives to add tactile, artisanal detail. “When I began I was really testing on the film but now it’s very natural and I easily feel which materials should be applied to which areas of the image to give a certain feeling.” Tabet’s photographs are softly theatrical, with a romantic tone and a female eye. Growing up in France it was her grandfather who introduced her to photography and she began by working in fashion on shoots for designers like Alaïa and Hervé Léger before moving to Beirut in the nineties. Her LebaneseEgyptian mother still lives in Paris and Tabet records the same view from the window each time she visits. “I love looking back at the pictures to see the different lights and seasons and to understand how things have changed.” Something similar can be found in her images of Beirut. Many different stories could have been visualised to portray this Euro-Arab city growing out of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first. Tabet’s tale is one of history, but one of personal history that merges the tragedy and intimacy that gives Beirut its siren song.

The Land Series, Caroline Tabet, 2007 - ongoing

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Perdre la vue 06, Caroline Tabet, 2012

The photography of Caroline Tabet tells an intimate tale of Beirut

SONG TO THE CITY

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SONG TO THE CITY


a art on the street

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words: rich thornton

he sheer concentration of art at these fairs can be exhausting - so sometimes you need a little air. Enter the inaugural Beirut Art Week, a chance to see some of the fair’s more challenging works out on the streets of Downtown. From shop fronts to sidewalks, art has been scattered like jewels across the city, ready to be discovered by intrepid enthusiasts and unwitting tourists alike. Carefully selected for the ability of their work to attract attention in chaotic environments, a handful of internationally acclaimed and regionally pertinent artists bring their creations to the heart of the capital. Each piece is given a unique space with which it can interact, with Aya Haïdar’s Dwellings being the perfect example of this power of contrast.

Departing from her usual comfort zone of crafts and sewing, she takes her reverence for storytelling and continuing theme of forced migration into an eighteen-piece corrugated iron sculpture which uses birdhouses to plot the movement of refugees across the MENA region. “We as humans make birdhouses for birds which look nothing like their own nests; when people are forced to move, they have to turn whatever makeshift accommodation they are given into a home,” she explains. The piece will be displayed in the pictureperfect cobbled streets of Saifi Village, an area that couldn’t be further from the dwellings in which most refugees are forced to take shelter. Naïm Doumit’s Totem feels similarly raw when set against the pristine

Aya Haidar, Seamstress XIX, 2011, Embroidery on linen

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Beirut Art Week doesn’t just bring the art to the people, it floods the city with it

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ART ON THE STREET

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surroundings of Downtown. According to the artist his rusted iron sculpture uses “geometrical faces to explore symbol and ritual” but also asks each viewer to use their own artistic background and knowledge as a reference palette. Alongside the above two Lebanese artists, the American sculptor Matthew Monahan brings a taste of his visceral, earth-toned work to the café-littered promenades. The theory of his art is charmingly apt for the outdoor, unconfined setting: “When I think of sculpture I have the association of dynamic use of space … Sculpture should be conceived in the round.” With 360 degree views and voyeurs swarming in from every alley, Monahan will be pleased with his vibrant company, just as the city may be pleased with its new peppering of art.


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words: india stoughton

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Escaping the Urban Zoo, Nadim Karam, 2013 Urban Zoo Fantasia, Nadim Karam, 2013

Nadim Karam’s sculptures and paintings consider the differences between smoke and cloud, instinct and intention, humanitarian animals and the baser side of human nature

ANIMALISTIC HUMANS

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animalistic humans

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lion is by nature a killer, but one whose violence stems solely from instinct. Mankind, by contrast, always makes a

“We should go beyond fanaticism to be open-minded and flexible” choice. It is the gap between instinct and intention that Lebanese-Senegalese painter, sculptor and architect Nadim Karam explores in his latest solo exhibition Urban

Zoo, up at Ayyam Gallery Beirut until 10th October. A series of paintings capture curious totem-like animals paying a visit to the concrete jungle of the big city, ravaged by war. “They’re not ferocious, they’re just there to see what’s happening,” explains Karam. “Many of our cities are being destroyed recently, all around the region, and these animals are just there to observe...They want a dream to happen but they find chaos and destruction. The Urban Zoo is an expression of controversy... a paradox.” He emphasises that the word “animal” in Arabic is used as an insult, to designate something dirty or negative, a connotation that

often has nothing to do with animals themselves, but with the baser side of human behaviour. A series of bright, brittle sculptures accompany the paintings. They have enticingly delicate forms encased in faceted crystal or smooth buttons with a pearly sheen. Karam’s work is influenced by his extensive travels and his time spent living in the contrasting cultures of Senegal, Japan and Lebanon. This autumn will see the release of his fourth book, a 400-page tome detailing the past five years of his artistic production. The prolific artist also has a show opening in

Ayyam Gallery Dubai at the end of October. In the meantime he is preparing two enormous sculptures for next year’s Shanghai Biennale, he reveals, entitled Stretching Thoughts. The bodies of two gargantuan metal figures, one seated and the other standing, are topped by a tangled mass of wire that forms a cloud, an on-going motif in Karam’s work. These thought clouds seem to expand everoutwards. “We need to stretch our thoughts and go beyond our personal limits,” Karam says. “I always believe we should go beyond fanaticism to be open-minded and flexible in our way of dealing with things.”


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Looking to the future with ME.NA.SA Art Fairs

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9/13/13

article title

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ince 1998 we have gradually been realising that the Arab world is turning more and more towards Asia and that a mutual feeling of exchange and discovery is now animating key players in the art markets of both geographic zones. The art markets of these two regions are in

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Words:

communication through their dynamic, their creativity, their core values and their blossoming interest in discovering those native emerging talents who are ready to find visibility on the international art scene. The numerous exhibitions being organised by museums, galleries and various foundations to

present the art of these two regions serve as testament to this mutual engagement. On top of this we have seen excellent results in growing sales figures from both regions over the past six years. This year’s South East Asia pavilion here at the Beirut Art Fair serves as a forerunner to the Singapore event that we are launching in 2014. At that first edition of the Singapore Art Fair a Lebanese Pavillion will pay homage to modern and contemporary creators from this country. From 27th-30th November next year the co-

organisers MP international from Singapore and Cedralys from Lebanon will work together to build on the synergy and connections that already exist between South East Asia and the Middle East. We hope to illuminate the rich artistic creation born out of Beirut with an extensive cultural programme based on the theme of exchange between countries in the ME.NA.SA region.

Laure d’Hauteville Co-founder ME.NA.SA Art Fair

11:08 AM

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