Saifi Village Quartier des Arts?

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.



11 responses to “Saifi Village Quartier des Arts?

  • Haifa

    yay ma a7leikon …

    The process of art criticism involves 4 actions. They are: describe, analyze, interpret and decide.
    Some guidelines to help you are below:
    Describe – what things are in the painting? Think of things like clothing, environment, etc.
    Analyze – how are the elements of art (line, shape, form, texture, space, color and value) are used? How are the principles of unity pattern, rhythm, variety, balance, emphasis and proportion used?
    Interpret – what is the artist trying to say to you? What is going on in the picture or artwork?
    Judgement- What do I think about this artwork? Do I like it? Why or why not?

    • marieiphigenie

      Hi Haifa! Nice to meet you.
      To begin with, dismissing people with “yaya ma a7leikon” is not very constructive.
      As I made clear in the above article, this was not a piece of art criticism, and never pretended to be. It was a record of my impressions while visiting that gallery, in a light, transcribed in a light, humoristic way, with some considerations of the place of saifi as an arts neighbourhood in the Beiruti urban fabric.
      In the present blog, we strive to maintain a balance between lighter pieces, art criticism proper (see: Salwa Raouda Choucair), commentary on the art world, more specifically the Lebanese art scene, and intellectual reflection on art from the Middle Eas (such as the piece ‘on the lebaneseness of lebanese art’).
      I’m sorry you did not understand the aim of the piece, and did not appreciate its tone, but do not understand why you feel the need to attack us with an insult in disguise (ma ahleikon) followed by a (poor, since not adapted to many art forms) condescending regurgitation of the steps to becoming an arti critic.
      In the end, all kinds of comments matter to us, so thank you for expressing your opinion.

      • Annie Dilsizian (@AnnieDilsizian)

        I stumbled upon this just now and it made me laugh. I think people here are just too used to press releases. A critic by definition criticizes which means pointing out the good and the bad. I guess everything is good in Lebanon. Regardless I applaud your honesty and courage. Now if you can apply the same concept to restaurant reviews you’re golden in my book. 🙂



    1 – Merci pour solière et pour pièce unique qui nous permet de découvrir des expos riches et varies des plus célèbres artistes libanais et internationaux aux jeunes talents libanais et spécialement celle de la dernière expo en date. Ce qu’on a pas apprécie dans votre critique comment une spécialiste comme vous, elle a pu en une visite rapide aux deux galeries d’une même ruelle , d’analyser une sans analyser l’autre.
    2 – La galerie pièce unique a un personnel charmant et sympa et competente .
    Il me semble que cette expo faite par des jeunes talents libanais pas d’étrangers comme “rockfeller”et ca c’est une qualité que SOLIDERE de faire connaitre des nouveaux talents de notre pays.

    • marieiphigenie

      1. Merci. Je ne pense pas que toutes les pieces méritaient d’être analysées tout simplement
      2. Ce n’était pas notre impression
      3. Rockefeller était le premier nom qui m’est venu à l’esprit il n avait pas la connotation d un artiste célèbre. Oui ce sont des jeunes talents.

  • Un Artiste Quebecois

    “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.”

    it is good to play it safe … so you mentioned only the famous names your ears are familiar to hear .. you forgot the most important and famous artist … her sculture is next to “l’Institue du Monde Arab” a Paris au 5eme arrondissement behind place Jussieu et le Jardin des Plantes… you certainly passed next to this sculture that didnt catch ur attention in Paris nor in the exhibition .. there is 4 prints directly after Zena Assi and Nada Sehnaoui !!!!!!!!

    • marieiphigenie

      Hi Haifa l artiste quebecoise or quebecois? I’m not sure now. Please look up trolling in a dictionary. This is what you do. And it is against general commenting etiquette.
      Maybe I missed the Mona Saudi piece, in this case I apologize.

  • Haifa

    “condescending regurgitation of the steps to becoming an arti critic” ok forget about being an arti critic .. just next time say something about your feelings when you are facing the paintings .. it will be a big step toward being a human … you know usualy feelings come with the package of being a human … it is soo much light this artical … it is not even an artical
    “I’m sorry you did not understand the aim of the piece” !!! there is nothing to understand it could be a chat between 2 old women in a bakery not on an art critic blog

    • marieiphigenie

      I had no feelings when facing most of the paintings, sorry.
      Frankly now I do not think this exhibition deserved all the energy you pour into defending it and criticizing my text.
      And if there is nothing to understand please do us a favor and stop spamming our comments. Thank you.

  • Haifa

    there is nothing to understand in the artical not in the exhibition ! there is something called ethics ..
    it is strange to talk about general commenting etiquette when all the ppl writing in this blog doesnt have
    ethics when writing about unknown orunfamous artists … specialy in the artical of Shereen Audi .
    light and making critic for an unknown artist doesnt give you the right to insult ..
    it could make you go to court for “Kadi7 wa Zam” and i am still talking about previous exhibition whoever wrote it ..
    you should start searching for a good lawyer in case you want to continue on this track 🙂

    PS: thank you for apologizing for missing Mona Saudi (no need for the “Maybe” you missed it for certain)

  • Ranine El-Homsi

    Dear ‘Haifa’,

    Why don’t you introduce yourself to us.
    Tell us clearly what are you after (it is pure ethics).
    Is it to read the articles, and leave comments, you are most welcome.
    Is it to insult our work as a team,and generalize saying ‘all the pple writing in this blog doesn’t have ethics’ this is “Kadi7 wa Zam” as you mentioned. Our work is an honest, personal look, we only report unfortunately sometimes the ‘bad’, ‘sad’ reality… Well one needs to admit it sometimes.

    Thank you for your understanding!

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