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Beirut Art Fair returns with focus on MENASA

The seventh edition of the festival will feature 40 galleries from 18 countries, and a curated exhibition dedicated to Lebanese women artists

  • Untitled by Oussama Baalbaki, acrylic on canvas, 2016Image Credit: Courtesy Agial Art Gallery/Saleh Barakat Gallery
  • Outremer 1 by Zad Moultaka, mixed media, cardboard on wood panel, 2012Image Credit: Galerie Janine Rubeiz
Gulf News

The seventh edition of the Beirut Art Fair (BAF) will be held at the Beirut International Exhibition and Leisure Centre (BIEL) from September 15 to 18. The fair, which focuses on art and artists from the MENASA region (Middle East, North Africa and South Asia), will feature 40 galleries from 18 countries. Besides historical art venues and new spaces from the region, the fair will also welcome galleries from Argentina, Belgium, Belarus, China, France, Italy and the US, all showcasing works by established and emerging MENASA artists. Highlights of the event include “Revealing”, a new section focused on promising young talents from the region; “Lebanon Modern”, a curated exhibition dedicated to Lebanese women artists from the modernist period; and a project by the Byblos Bank Award for young Lebanese photographers.

“Since its creation in 2010, BAF has served to both spotlight and reinforce a dynamic and expanding art market in Lebanon and the broader MENASA region. Last year the fair welcomed 21,000 visitors and generated a total revenue of $3.2 million [Dh11.8 million]. BAF 2016 consolidates the fair’s role as the leading platform for showcasing the artistic dynamism of the Levant with many new initiatives and the support of a selection committee comprising the most important art collectors from the region,” Laure d’Hauteville, founder and director of the fair says.

In the fair’s new section, “Revealing” by SGBL (supported by Société Générale de Banque au Liban), 27 galleries from 13 countries, all participating for the first time, have each been invited to present the work of one especially promising artist from the MENASA region. Galleries from Algeria, Palestine, South Africa, Bahrain, Belgium, Egypt, France, Germany, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, Switzerland and Thailand will be seen in this space, offering collectors the chance to discover new talent, and emerging artists the opportunity to present their work to a wider audience.

On the other hand, “Lebanon Modern” will provide an understanding of the work of women artists who have played a significant role in the modern art movement in Lebanon. The exhibition is curated by Pascal Odille, the fair’s artistic director, and supported by Bank Med, the fair’s main partner. It will present a selection of works produced between 1945 and 1975 that have been sourced from private collections and from the Lebanese Ministry of Culture. Artists featured in the show include Bibi Zogbé (1890-1973), Marie Hadad (1895-1973), Blanche Lohéac Ammoun (1912-2011), Helen Khal (1923-2009), Cici Sursock (1926-2015), Juliana Séraphim (1934-2005), Saloua Raouda Choucair (1916), Etel Adnan (1925), Yvette Achkar (1928), Huguette Caland (1931), Laure Ghorayeb (1931), Nadia Saikali (1936) and Seta Manoukian (1945).

“This exhibition showcases the strength and creative energy of women artists from Lebanon, whose work is often not so well known to the general public. During the late 19th century, many of these artists travelled to Europe and incorporated European influences and techniques in their work, thus injecting the Lebanese arts scene with tremendous dynamism by looking outward to new horizons and creating significant links between their countries and the rest of the world. This period was also marked by the opening of local galleries in Lebanon, which exposed the community to international art through exhibitions, publications, and inviting renowned painters and sculptors to Lebanon, making it the art hub of the region,” Odille says.

“In Europe too, this was a period when the traditional patriarchal society was changing with the beginning of the suffragette movements, and increased involvement of women in artistic fields. However, there is a global ignorance of the contribution of women artists in the development of modern art. Like their Western counterparts, women artists in Lebanon also marked and influenced the landscape of artistic creation in the country, in the period from the end of the Second World War to the 1970s. In their own way, they dismantled existing codes creating a pathway for the next generation. Through this exhibition we hope to contribute towards a broader public recognition of their work and that of women artists in general,” he adds.

Photography has been an important part of BAF since its inception. The fair also supports young Lebanese photographers through the Byblos Bank Award, which is in its fifth edition, and has provided talented artists access to galleries, collectors, art experts and media. This year Byblos Bank and BAF have invited French-Algerian multimedia artist Halida Boughriet to work with five young photographers selected from among the finalists of previous editions of the fair. They are working together to produce an artwork that will be presented in a dedicated space at BAF 2016.

Another new addition to the fair’s programme is the first time participation of The Modern and Contemporary Art Museum in Beirut (MACAM), which will present a collection of sculptures by Lebanese artists and a selection of its publications on Lebanese artists and the history of Lebanese art.

BAF 2016 is part of Beirut Art Week, which runs from September 13 to 20. The week marks a city wide celebration of contemporary art with many public spaces, downtown stores and cafés being transformed into venues for artistic creation in a way that highlights the city’s cultural heritage. This includes a variety of public art installations, performances and interactive events, organised in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture, The Ministry of Tourism, the Municipality of Beirut and Solidere.

“BAF 2016 will highlight the remarkable optimism that distinguishes Lebanon on the contemporary art scene, and the significance of this particular historical moment, where we are seeing an art scene in full expansion, supported by many institutional and private initiatives. These include the opening of new galleries in Beirut, the reopening of Beirut’s Sursock Museum in 2015 and the inauguration of institutions such as the Aïshti Foundation housing an important private collection, the Dar El-Nimer Foundation dedicated to art and culture from Palestine and the Arab world, The Palestine Museum in the West bank, The Virtual National Museum of Modern Art and La Maison Jaune Beit Beirut, a museum of the city’s history. These initiatives have contributed directly to an increased valuation of local and regional artists, both modern and contemporary, as seen at the Bonham’s auction in London in April 2016,” d’Hauteville says.

A voyage across the artistic and cultural landscape of Lebanon

As part of its series of luxury voyages timed to coincide with major contemporary art fairs, Culture et Communication has organised a tour that is dedicated to the contemporary arts scene and cultural heritage of Lebanon. The trip, which has been organised in partnership with Privilèges Voyages and the Galerie Beaudoin Lebon, runs from September 11 to 19. Tour participants will get the opportunity to attend VIP events such as the inauguration of BAF 2016 and VIP dinner, guided tour of the city-wide art installations created for Beirut Art Week, a private, pre-opening tour of the fair by the fair’s director and artistic director and post-inauguration dinner at the Hotel Le Gray.

The discovery of the contemporary Lebanese arts scene will continue with private tours of the city’s newly opened art institutions and private Lebanese collections and the VIP opening of an exhibition at the Baalbeck Museum, along with meetings with some of the founders, architects and directors of leading Lebanese cultural projects.

The itinerary also includes excursions to important cultural sites such as the remains of the Phoenician city of Byblos, a Crusader citadel, St John’s Cathedral, the Druze and Christian palaces of Beiteddine and Deir Al Qamar, the Greco-Roman archaeological sites in Sidon and Tyre, and diving and snorkelling trips to discover the ancient ruins of the Crusader-era Castle of the Sea.

For more information, visit

Event details

Beirut Art Fair 2016

Date: September 15-18

Venue: Beirut International Exhibition & Leisure Centre (BIEL), Beirut, Lebanon

Time: 3.30-9.30pm from September 16 to 18 (vernissage on September 15 is by invitation only)

For more information, visit

Jyoti Kalsi is an arts-enthusiast based in Dubai.