Beirut Art Fair highlights collectors and evolving art tastes in the Middle East

Zoulikha Bouabdellah, Mirage I, 2011. — AFP pic
Zoulikha Bouabdellah, Mirage I, 2011. — AFP pic

BEIRUT, Sept 17 — In its eighth year, the Beirut Art Fair (September 21-24) continues to link the international contemporary art scene to the regional scenes in Lebanon and the Middle East. Gathering an ever-growing number of participating artists and galleries, the fair celebrates Arab identity and examines both the region’s concerns and interests.

This year, 51 galleries (including 29 first-time participants) will be present at the fair. The participants come from 23 countries — Armenia to Chile, Greece to Qatar, Saudi Arabia to Thailand, Tunisia to Uruguay.

“The focus of the 2017 edition of Beirut Art Fair is threefold: To foster a spirit of expansion and renewal, to promote the discovery of young talents, and to unfold a new perspective on the recent history of creation and collecting in Lebanon,” Founder and Fair Director Laure D’Hauteville said in an official statement.

The Beirut scene offers a varied network of collectors. This year, the ensemble of key collectors will directly inform one of the principal exhibitions, “Ourouba, The Eye of Lebanon,” conceived as a highlight of the fair. It features works on loan from the most important private and public collections, bringing to the forefront the aesthetic and socio-political themes resonant in the Arab world over the last decade.

The issues of violence, war, and pillaged historical sites in the Middle East are reflected in the production of local creative minds as they grapple with the surrounding chaos. This particular exhibition posits: “How do artists from this region, many of them secular, express, offset, or avoid the turbulence, corruption, humiliation and surveillance so present in their daily lives? How do they express ourouba — arabicity — a sense of their Arab identity?” These 21st century productions and acquisitions of  installations, paintings, photography, videos, and sculptures, drawn from major private and institutional collections throughout Lebanon, grapple with these complexities.

The fair will also include a space dedicated to Kahlil Gibran’s renowned work “The Prophet,” illustrated by Rachid Koraïchi. An exhibition on “Food Art” integrates both aesthetic creation and culinary creation. Revealing is a dedicated platform to showcase promising young artists, which this year has been allotted more space, so that the 26 participating galleries (16 of which are first-timers) can comfortably promote the up-and-coming artists from their rosters.

The fair will also present a series of roundtable discussions and debates, plus a VIP program that includes visits to studios, private collections, and museums.

In tandem, Beirut Art Week (September 19-26) provides an offsite artistic circuit held in public spaces and prestigious shops, notably including large-scale sculptures and an open-air cinema dedicated to short films.

More about the 2017 Beirut Art Fair here. — AFP-Relaxnews

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