Letitia Gallery is a contemporary art gallery in Beirut focused on encouraging global engagement with contemporary art in Lebanon. Under the direction of Annie Vartivarian, the gallery has a strong ethos of collaboration and has worked closely with leading international curators from around the world on a project- focused model that looks to nurture the growth of artists from the MENA region as well as showcasing international artists in Lebanon. Letitia Gallery offers both local audiences and international visitors the opportunity to discover international artists and to gain a deeper understanding of the breadth of their practice through public programming that includes talks, off-site projects, site-specific commissioning and supporting cultural initiatives in Lebanon and the region.
What did you do before you opened Letitia Gallery in 2018?
I come from a psychology background but have always had interest in art. Before opening Letitia Gallery, I was involved in the art world internationally and I was an art dealer. My passion for contemporary art has been developing over many years of fascination with both Middle Eastern and international artists.
Could you tell us about your first exhibition, which acted as a statement for your programme?
Letitia Gallery’s first solo exhibition was by British artist Eileen Cooper and titled “Under the Same Moon.” It brought together a new body of paintings and drawings. This was the first exhibition of Cooper’s work in Beirut, and her eloquent engagement with Lebanese themes was representative of Cooper’s exceptional ability to explore myths and fairy tales, uncovering deeper truths about humanity and what it means to be a woman, an artist and a mother.
Why did you choose the name Letitia for your gallery and how did you choose the location for the gallery?
Letitia Gallery holds the name of Mohamad Al Hamoud’s daughter’s name. The gallery is located in central Beirut in the vibrant Hamra neighbourhood, one of the city’s major commercial districts. In the area are several other prominent galleries including Agial Art Gallery, Artspace Hamra and Saleh Barakat Gallery, which sit alongside the cultural and learning centres of the Masrah Al Madina Theatre, American University of Beirut and the Lebanese American University. There are also a number of other well respected galleries in the wider city of Beirut, including Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Galerie Tanit and Marfa’ Projects.
“MY PASSION FOR CONTEMPORARY ART HAS BEEN
DEVELOPING OVER MANY YEARS OF FASCINATION WITH
BOTH MIDDLE EASTERN AND INTERNATIONAL ARTISTS”
Why did you feel it was important to open a gallery in Beirut at this time?
Mohamad Al Hamoud and I founded Letitia with the aim to further promote the (already flourishing) cultural scene in Beirut. The city itself functioned as the perfect starting point due to its rich history and its status as a melting pot of different ethnic backgrounds. Mohamad and I saw a real opportunity for promoting Lebanon as an important international art destination and a hub of creativity and artistic discourse. Contemporary Lebanon is thriving with energy and enthusiasm amidst a rich heritage. There are many different nationalities, religious groups and cultures living side by side in the trilingual environment of Lebanon, which makes for a fascinating cultural discourse. Lebanon is considered a hub of discovery for MENA’s regional artistic talent. Beirut-based institutions, such as Beirut Art Centre, Ashkal Alwan and The Arab Fund for Arts & Culture (AFAC) provide residencies and support other grassroots projects that nurture local talent.
In recent years Beirut has shown itself to have a voracious appetite for the growth of its cultural landscape. The launch of Beirut Art Fair in 2010, with its current inclusion of over 50 international galleries, illustrates the important cultural role that galleries provide in supporting artists and their work and opening them up to new audiences. Beyond the growth of the gallery scene in Beirut, the reopening of the historic Sursock Museum as well as the inauguration of Aïshti Foundation, a cutting-edge modern art foundation, and the restoration of Beit Beirut work to highlight the rich cultural heritage of the region and the importance of culture as an instigator of discourse and learning.
How would you define the identity of your gallery?
Letitia Gallery is dedicated to facilitating engagement with regional and international contemporary art in Lebanon through exhibitions of emerging and established artists. Interested in innovated approaches to art making, Letitia presents work across disciplines and regions with a project-focused model that nurtures the growth of artists from the MENA region as well as showcasing international artists. Letitia Gallery also offers local audiences and visitors to Beirut the opportunity to discover artists through a programme of talks, off-site projects and site-specific commissioning. The gallery aims to present international and local artists at different stages of their careers in new and interesting ways. It aims to facilitate discourse around culture in the MENA region, contextualise artists’ work in the global art environment and encourage broader engagement with contemporary art in Lebanon.
What can you tell us about the roster of artists you represent?
The artists we represent are Hatem Imam, Sirine Fattouh and Nathaniel Rackowe. Each one comes from a different background and they express themselves with different mediums. Their works are very different from each other.
Which photograph from 2019 best represents your gallery and activity?
The picture from 2019 that represents Letitia Gallery the most is from Hatem Imam’s exhibition (image below).
Could you tell us about your program for 2020?
Due to the current situations, we are not rushing into making decisions concerning 2020.
A VERSION OF THIS ARTICLE APPEARED IN PRINT IN SELECTIONS, SHOW & TELL #51