Beirut’s La Petite Maison shines the spotlight on two Lebanese artists

Next time you dine at La Petite Maison in Downtown Beirut, you’ll be greeted by two large, colourful paintings, on display at the French Mediterranean restaurant for the spring season.

The first and larger of the paintings is by Lebanese artist Nadim Karam. Now in his late 50s, Karam originally trained as an architect, a background that is evident in his famed large-scale, fantastical sculptures. The work at La Petite Maison, entitled Colourful Stories, hints at Karam’s whimsical elephant sculptures, as well as some of his dreamy paintings, such as the 2013 work Urban Zoo Fantasia. “It is the overlap of the different elements that I have been using since the start, overlapped in a way that each is given a different colour,” says Karam of his painting. “Their colour mixes often and brings the work to a different layer of stories.”

On the adjoining wall, Yasmina Nysten’s In the Heart of Africa offers a dynamic, purple-and-green foray into the young Lebanese artist’s mind. As playful and catchy as a rock song, Nysten’s work combines collage, acrylic, fusain and oil pastels, while continuing the 27-year-old artist’s exploration of African themes. Two oversized words, “Afrika” and “Heart” cry out at the viewer, pointing perhaps at the seemingly endless heartbreak experienced by the African continent. At the same time, an ant appears to be dancing mindlessly nearby. “The ant represents a musician friend of mine,” explains Nysten. Ant the musician lives next door to Nysten in New York, and he’s closely tied, in the artist’s mind, to her recent move back to the city, a challenging experience that pushed her to create the spirited painting now hanging on La Petite Maison’s wall.

A version of this article appeared in print in Selections, The Creative Issue #36, on page 38.