Beirut Art Fair is a key fixture in the international art calendar. If you’re a collector, curator or just an art aficionado, this is the event for you.
Forget the global economic meltdown, the time is still ripe for an investment in art. Beirut is bustling with excitement, for all the right reasons. The city long recognized for art that is as old and as historic as the city itself, is fast becoming a hub for art that is new and experimental.
The Beirut Art Fair (BAF), the region’s premier art show for modern and contemporary works from the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia (ME.NA.SA.) region kicks off its third edition from July 5 to July 8 at the Beirut International Exhibition Leisure Center (BIEL).
Capturing the essence of the region, the Fair brings together an ensemble of topnotch international galleries, curated exhibitions, a lecture series, and conversations with artists and experts.
From region’s stalwarts like Paul Guiragossian, to Charles Khoury and Lalla Essaydi to Zong Kai from China, the fair has it all.
BAF is well represented with contemporary artworks in a variety of mediums, including paintings, sculptures, installations, videos, VJing, comic strip and street art, represented by over 40 galleries from 13 countries, showcasing over 500 artists in the Middle East, North African and South Asia regions.
BAF last year garnered critical acclaim with sales exceeding one million US dollars and attendance of over 10,000 visitors.
Laure d’ Hauteville, Founder and Beirut Art Fair Manager, acknowledges, “Art is one of the priority values in my life because it builds bridges likely to install an exchange between cultures. It can inspire us to reflect on the world we live in.”
The fair, she says, is like a showcase for art, culture, liberty of expression and a unique place for exchange of ideas.
She further notes, “The diversity of trends presented at the fair is a reflection of the artistic exuberance that is moving the art world of today and tomorrow.”
“Lebanon represents a cultural mosaic, and remains a strategic platform for exchange and influences,” she says. “To me, the city of Beirut is at the heart of this dynamic.”
Pascal Odille, the art director adds, Beirut Art fair brings a diverse landscape of artists and designs that reflect not only the vitality of the participating galleries, but also the artistic effervescence that drives the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia region.
“The public,” he says, “will understand that art presented at the Beirut Art Fair does not only respond to the single phenomenon of the art market but also aims at promoting all the expressions of a universal language reaching beyond borders and stereotypes.”
There are a few standouts, such as the high-end artworks of Boutros Al Maari, Edgar Mazigi, the sculptures of Nadim Karam, the portraits of Yousef Yousef, the mesmerizing works of Paul Guiragossian, the great compositions of Charles Khoury, the works of Marwan Kassab Bachi, and the compositions of Chaouki Chamoun.
According to Odille, calligraphy and poetry are also strongly represented in the works of a number of featured artists.
There does seem to be an appetite for contemporary and out of the box works. “The tone of approach, for many of the region’s artists, consists of taking a certain distance from the real world, so often marked by a painful context due to the war, as well as political and economic upheavals. This distance is expressed through dreams, humor or diversion like it is the case with the installations of Rita Awn or Alain Vassoyan,” explains Odille.
The artists are affected by the socio-political conditions and this sensitivity is well represented in the works of Ayman Baalbaki, Sari El Khazen, and Mohamed El Baz.
The idiom of day to day bitter reality is explored in the works of Halida Boughriet, Rania Matar, Lara Tabet and Reem Al Faisal.
One of the highlights is a project titled “Correspondences” curated by Catherine David. It consists of the correspondence between two eminent figures of the Arab contemporary culture: the celebrated Saudi writer Abdel Rahman Munif, author of “ City of Salt”, and painter Marwan Kassab Bachi.
An impressive gallery from Madrid, Sabrina Amrani gallery showcases a juxtaposition of eclectic works by Waqas Khan, Amina Benbouchta, Zoulikha Bouabdellah, and Nicene Kossentini. The Frenc -Algerian artist Zoulikha’s works toy with cultural duality and imbalances, as well as cultural fusion and the ability to transcend borders.
Pakistani artist Waqas Khan’s works in ink on paper are truly unique. Waqas’ works are not mere drawings but are like storylines built up from ideas and concepts obtained from the Muslim, Hindu and Sufi traditions.
Not to be missed are the works showcased by Art Chowk Gallery (Dubai/Pakistan). Standing tall among these artists is Simeen Farhat. According to the gallery notes, Farhat’s installations take their origins from the calligraphic legacy of South Asia and the Middle East.
Another artist to watch out is Asif Ahmed, a miniaturist, who subtly balances the graceful precision of miniature painting with exploration of scale, composition and subject that is rooted in the present.
Some other spectacular works featured are of Rania Matar, Charles Khoury, Lateefa bint Maktoum, Reda Abdel Rahman and Rashid Al Khalif.
The fair also offers a line-up of art fair talks and other events to run alongside the exhibition and is surely on its way to becoming a staple on the international art scene.
The fair promises to be a voyage into the realm of vivacious art. BAF is definitely more than the sum of its parts. Don’t miss it!
The Beirut Art fair runs from July 5 to July 8 at BIEL. For more information, please visit beirut-art-fair.com.
Images courtesy: Beirut Art Fair/Galleries.