Seeking to aid the Lebanese art scene, which has been enduring a particularly miserable year, Paris’ PIASA auction house will on Wednesday highlight about 70 artists and designers who live and work in this country.
Curated by Beirut Art Fair’s Johanna Chevalier, “From Beirut Art & Design Scene” aims to illustrate the diversity of artistic production in Lebanon, showcasing both emerging talents, as well as established ones.
Among those on show are Shafic Abboud, Chaouki Choukini and Hussein Madi — important milestones in the country’s art history in the second half of the 20th century.
Also presented are works by contemporary artist Hiba Kalache and designers Nada Debs and Rumi Dalle.
“As all the art world has been affected by the financial crisis, even before the Aug. 4 blast, I wanted to help Lebanon’s designers and artists, introduce them to the European scene and maybe help getting them galleries and showing,” Chevalier said. “There are many talented artists that become known by showing in Lebanon, which used to be quite an impressive contemporary platform.
“The container [bearing works to the Paris exhibition] left before the blast,” she said, “which can now even more help all these artists and galleries who lost everything. People always ask artists to give pieces to help NGOs or associations and now it is them who need help.”
The show itself is split into two curatorial axes. One section will focus on designers, adopting a contemporary, western approach to their work, whereas the art section is anchored in regional themes.
“All the designers presenting items could have been occidental productions, even someone like Nada Debs, who uses traditional elements. The total product is contemporary,” she said. “The artists are the opposite. They are very grounded in Middle Eastern culture, like artists who are transforming calligraphy into something more contemporary.
“Samir Sayegh is an artist who works on Sufi writing and he works on taking the calligraphy far from the traditional use into something very minimalist,” she added. “We also have some historical artists like Willy Aractingi, showing two beautiful pieces of his, and things like … the work of young artist Anas Albraehe, who paints like Bernard Durin, capturing Syrian workers or whatever is around him of daily life.”
Following the blast, PIASA has decided to donate 5 percent of all sales toward scholarships for Academie Libanaise des Beaux Arts (ALBA) students, as many students have been struggled to cover tuition fees.