‘Pastels, or the Sparkle of Life’ Exhibition Reopens Sursock Museums in Beirut

'Pastels, or the Sparkle of Life' Exhibition Reopens Sursock Museums in Beirut

Sursock Museums reopened Thursday, after almost three months of closure due to pandemic lockdown measures, eager to welcome guests and unveil a new exhibition.

Initially meant to open March 20, “Pastels, or the sparkle of life” is now available alongside Sursock’s permanent collection, their bookshop and café, with added precautionary measures in place. The exhibition presents a selection of studies and pastel portraits by 20th-century artist George Daoud Corm.

“We had no idea how many visitors would show up or what to expect but were happy to find that about 100 people came throughout the day,” Sursock director Zeina Arida told The Daily Star. “The exhibition follows a very important donation of works of the whole George Daoud Corm collection, from his son. Corm was well known for his portraits, landscapes and nudes … and we dedicated a part of the collection, mainly his oils, to the permanent collection.

“We also wanted to share with the public his practice in pastel … We don’t often have the opportunity to showcase pastel works,” she added. “It was a great way to share this with them and to highlight an artist who is maybe not so well known now, showing about 35 works made between the ’30s and late ’50s. It’s an intimate show that is mostly portraits of women or studies of a single portrait, showing how he worked and reached the final portrait.”

Arida took time to research the best ways to defend against Coronavirus infection, looking at the measures of other museums around the world that have opened in the last few weeks.

“We combined a series of measures, from checking temperatures at the gates, wearing masks and putting sanitizing stations in many places, like elevator entrances etc. to having very visible signage and encouraging visitors to take the stairs instead of the elevators.

“We’ve also put red dots on the floor to help with social distancing and in certain places, like the study of Nicholas Sursock, only one person can enter at a time,” she added, “and a one-way flow system in the corridors.”

For now, Arida says the library will remain shut as a work space, opening only by-appointment for researchers wishing to access the archives, as sanitizing the space and delicate books is a challenge.

The long closure and general instability of the country over the last year or so has been hard on the museum financially, but Arida is determined to find new ways to navigate the situation.

“It affected our financial situation of course – being closed for three months is never great – not only because we lose the audience we’ve built but also because we don’t receive the donations we would when visitors come,” she said. “We did save some money from running costs, even if it’s not really a ‘saving’ but you reduce some costs.

“During the confinement we launched the virtual tour of our Baalbek exhibition and had really good feedback, so we’ve decided to do the same for the main building and the permanent collection display,” she added. “We’ve diverted some of the funding we would have used in those months to this project and it should be online in the coming weeks.”

With visitors returning to the museum, all donations received will have 50 percent given to the Lebanese Food Bank, to help distribute food to people in need.

“Pastels, or the sparkle of life” will be on view through Feb. 7, 2021.

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