Your guide to Beirut back-to-school exhibitions! (or, M. puts her foot in her mouth yet again and judges shows by their invitation cards)

Sun is still shining, kids everywhere are resuming their regular diet of picon sandwiches, and the Beirut art scene is slowly emerging from its summer lethargy.

What should you look forward to? What’s not to be missed? What should I avoid? I know, we always complain about the dearth of artistic activities available to Beirutis, but when you compile a real list of what’s going on (without even delving about the performing arts) things begin to seem like any art outing’s going to be really hard to cram in your already tightly-packed workweek.

But I’m here to help!!!!

 This handy little guide will save you hours of pointless traffic jams (unless you like traffic jams, and wasting time looking at third-rate art, in which case you probably also feel better about yourself when your skin is a nice shade of orange, and have been known to attend things called “events” at places called “rooftops” . Whatever floats your boat, I won’t judge).


Without further ado, in chronological order of opening:

Note: Yum factor means, Quality of food and drink at opening, from 0 = you wouldn’t feed that to your dog to 10 = even you would admit it’s better than your grandma’s. Cool factor is ranked from 0 being the most bourgeoisest of bourgeois to 10 the quintessence of underground obscurity)

Avant Première, Galerie Alice Mogabgab ( 6 sept. – 21 oct.)

New acquisitions of mostly foreign artists. Usually excellent painting, on the dreamy and poetic side of things.

Yum factor: too late, would have been a good 9.

Cool factor: 2

Verdict? Go and acquire some taste.

A Short Story, Qaswra Hafez, Q Contemporary ( 8 sept. – 1 oct.)

Conceptual Saudi artist (didn’t you hear Saudi art was INNNNNN??????) works with found objects to critique Middle Eastern society.

Yum factor: too late

Cool factor: 10 (what they think), minus 2 (the reality)

Verdict? Skip. I’m against pouncing on trends.

Coup d’oeil, Galerie Janine Rubeiz (8 sept. – 31 oct.)

The gallery’s artists are presenting what they’ve presented before and things that look like things they’ve presented before… Go, only to familiarize yourself with a chunk of the Lebanese and Middle Eastern art scene that’s doing well internationally and you should be ashamed not being able to name a single Lebanese artist who has sold works at Sotheby’s in the past three years. Bonus: Maya is covering it!

Yum factor: too late. Usually 4.

Cool factor: 2.

Verdict: Go, if you don’t know much about established Lebanese artists. You might discover some emerging talent,too.

Asma Fayyumi, The Person Within, Ayyam Art Gallery ( 8 sept. – 15 oct.)

Jordanian female painter shows paintings of women and children. Good feelings time! Pinks! Whites! Vague smiles! Some sense of struggle for good measure!

Yum factor: too late. Usually 6.

Cool factor: negative 3000

Verdict: Go only if you still own a pink teddy bear.

Shereen Audi, Pièce Unique (9 sept. – 17 oct.)

Rumor has it artists can rent Pièce Unique, effectively buying their own show. If that is not enough, Sarah is covering it!

Yum factor: too late!

Cool factor: 1/10. But there was a facebook event! it must be hip!

Verdict: Skip.

Dial 911 for a new Middle East, The Running Horse Contemporary Art Space (11 sept. – 24 sept.)

The Feel Collective’s idea of a commemoration of and reflection on 9/11. Relevant, slick, (mostly) clever, with a hefty dose of pop, a tablespoon of sparkle, and layers and layers of selective recycling of art history, pop culture, and global warfare. Sprinkle of sexism and/or other-ing of self maybe intentional, maybe not. Bonus: Ranine and I are covering it!

Yum factor: too late. Usually 0 or 10, depending on whether a good falafel’s a novelty item for you.

Cool factor: 7

Verdict: Go. Art should be political, too.

Toxicity, Nancy Debs Haddad, Espace Kettaneh Kunigk (opening 13 sept.)

Lebanese female photographer shows anthropomorphic plugs and bolts. Hasn’t she already done so in the past?

Yum factor: too late. Usually 5.

Cool factor: 2

Verdict: Skip. I’m against art that’s gimmicky

Beiroute, Zico House (21 sept. – 2 oct.)

Collective show of Lebanese contemporary photographers.

Yum factor: tbd

Cool factor: 7

Verdict: Not sure. From the names (all I could find), could range from the intello-experimental to the visually striking to the amateur-ish.

Fleeting Fences, Tamara el Samerraei, Agial Art (22 sept. – 15 oct.)

Beirut-based Koweiti artist. Childhood, dreams, imagined worlds. Subdued colors, faded photographs. Inner lives, old memories. Birds, planes, dogs, fences, king kong.

Yum factor: 3

Cool factor: 6

Verdict: Go. She’ll be worth thousands of millions next year. At least get to know why.

Salwa Raouda Choucair Retrospective, Beirut Exhibition Center (opening 27 sept.)

SRC (she deserves initials) was born in 1916 and is VERY IMPORTANT because she’s  FEMALE PIONEER of ABSTRACT SCULPTURE not only IN LEBANON but in the WHOLE MIDDLE EAST!!!! What, you’ve never heard of her???????

Yum factor: not applicable. The BEC is notoriously stingy with food. and drink. even water.

Cool factor: just zero. you see politicians on tv way too much already, do you really wanna see their wives?

Verdict: Go. Get cultured. Attending the show should be practically be required to apply for a Lebanese ID.

Sabhan Adam, Mark Hachem Gallery (opening 29 sept.)

Again?????? Don’t pretend to be surprised if I announce I’m planning on reviewing it.

Yum factor: 5

Cool factor: too frozen, can’t tell

Verdict: LOL

The Beirut Experience, Beirut Art Center (opening 12 oct.)

Succintly, a show by Lebanese and foreign artists who were all commissioned to produce a work having to do with Beirut and could use whichever angle they were interested in, but we know we can expect to see many riffs on the impact of war on the city and its citizens. An opportunity to test whether the concept has been exploited to death or still has potential, and reassess the importance and effect of the artistic work around memory, history and our urban fabric, amongst others.

Yum factor: 5

Cool factor: 1223342353454000000000 or, just really a good 5 depending on your perspective

Verdict: Go.

Still on for a little bit: Jean Boghossian at the Beirut Exhibition Center, the Herzog photography collection at Galerie Sfeir Semler (both reviewed on this blog), Fouad el Khoury at the Beirut Art Center

Omissions were probably intentional!


4 responses to “Your guide to Beirut back-to-school exhibitions! (or, M. puts her foot in her mouth yet again and judges shows by their invitation cards)

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