The Introduction to the Adventure
Last Saturday, I found myself walking around Saifi Village with the conversation inevitably turning to the pros and cons of this neighbourhood’s very existence. (Pros: but it’s pretty! Cons: why is it only the nouveaux riches that live in pretty houses? )
Trying to escape the irritating lack of substance of such a discussion I ventured in corners of the Village never properly explored by your servant (oh the irony of calling it a village will never end) .
At some point, I turned right,walked down the alleyway, and found was met with an unassuming wihte-framed window, adorned with a black sans-serif inscription, in all its late-twentieth-century modernity: piece unique. (no accent on pièce, i too had to look twice). So far, the only unique thing about it seems to be its utter lack of visual identity and interior design. Confused by blandness, I walked in wondering what was the conceptual line between a white room with stuff hung on its walls and an art gallery.*
The wonderful S. covered their last exhibit in these very pages, but I had missed it, and had to content myself with the present one: Artists for Peace, which did a surprisingly good job of being on my facebook’s radar for a disproportionate amound of time. Its selling point, which doubles as a redeeming factor for its existence, is that it was organized by the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul Lebanon, an NGO dedicated to helping the poor in many fields, medical, social, rural development, educational, emergency response. All the proceeds of Artist for Peace thus go to working towards peace initiatives in Lebanon – uncontestably a noble and laudable idea.
Putting all causes involved aside, I think one can still discuss the experience of Pièce Unique.
I will now announce so we are all clear: this is not a piece of art criticism, it is a lighthearted description and impressions of an art gallery visit. (Us at the BAC team also do actual criticism, except not in this particular article. Feel free to browse the archives or wait for upcoming posts).
The Unfolding of the Adventure
I walk in.
– Good afternoon!
No answer, not even a blank stare
– Could you please tell me which one of the works is Guinevere Vanderbilt’s?”
– Guinevere WHO?
– Guinevere Vanderbilt-Rockefeller
– It’s the blue one
– Sorry, which blue one?
– (Visibly annoyed, in the tone of a menopausal bulldog ) THE ONE IN THE CORNER
Pièce Unique’s staff shines with their good manners. Deep inside, I felt a little bit offended because the lady didn’t think I could be a client and wasn’t worth the effort. I suppose she does not care about selling anyway, she is not getting a commission.
And that’s really starting a trend, after S.’s curator incident.
Yet, undeterred by this inauspicious start, I politely request a price list.
– On the table.
I fish the price list out of a pile of neglected brochures thrown on a table in the center of the room. Reasonable prices indeed, good strategy for a charity event.
Looking around, I see about twenty correctly-executed drawings, paintings, and collages and a bit of photography. Good feelings are emphasized (some works verge on the tearjerker, but that’s their purpose.) Self-reflection is encouraged. And this ends my quick description of a mostly inoffensive show that mostly failed to catch my attention, except for nice examples of small works by Zena Assi and Nada Sehnaoui.
The End of the Adventure
Now, To preempt any accusations of repeated assaults on the undeserving, the poor and the helpless and to explain why I bothered to write about a non-incident
1. The place is Solidere-run. (oh no she went there!) By which I mean – Solidere is a large, competent institution that is largely capable of providing its clients with a better quality of service. Moreover, the state of neglect of the gallery itself should be remedied. It reflects badly on an organisation that fashions itself sophisticated to run a gallery where lighting is not properly studied, there are no captions near the works except for dirty stickers with numbers, and price lists are printed on A4s with ballpen scribbled on top. Furthermore, Pièce Unique enjoys an enviable spot in the heart of downtown Beirut and could be put to good use to showcase the best of what Lebanese art has to offer, if indeed its owners pride themselves on showing tourists, and the Lebanese too, shiny side of Lebanon’s capital city.
2. I had never planned to visit Pièce Unique and the present piece represents my accidental musings prompted by a chance visit to the gallery on a rainy Saturday, added to my bad case of procrastination. Next article will be epic and just needs more research, and i’m terrible with excel sheets.
* I know the two can be purposely blended. Still, I’m not sure a commercial space should be uninviting.