After the summer lull, Lebanon’s frenetic art scene is swinging back into action with high-profile solo exhibitions in the city, a visit to Tripoli for an extraordinary group show and the return of Beirut Art Fair and Beirut Design Fair. This autumn promises to be a season dominated by photography and film arts, with a number of photography exhibitions around the city featuring new works and pieces from private collections, although artists from a variety of practices continue to take part in Beirut’s burgeoning arts scene.
Catch a solo show by Akram Zaatari at Sfeir-Semler Gallery, continuing until November 29. Characteristically, Zaatari’s focus is on photographs and their histories. Following four years after his last exhibition in Beirut, The Third Window marks a new approach to studying photographs, featuring new films and installations. Having explored their fabrication, purpose and circulation, as well as their roles in diffusing fashion, culture and values, here he looks at what happens to photographs after they are taken. Questioning the accidents that alter and transmogrify images, taking them beyond their original conception or purpose, he explores the photograph’s role as an object that can speak of what it has been through.
Continuing until October 7 at Beirut Art Centre (BAC) is Daniele Genadry’s Slow Light, an exhibition of photography that harkens back to the early days of experimental photography and film, and Marie Voignier’s International Tourism (Staging Real Life), a film series addressing perceptions of North Korea’s dictatorship and the spectacle of tourism. On October 24, BAC launches a new show featuring the work of two artists working in film and installation: Joachim Koester and Zineb Sedira. Things That Shine and Things That Are Dark deliberately disrupts the usual circulation of the building to display Koester’s exploration of movement in images, architectural modifications and colour and shade alternations. Of Words and Stones presents a large body of Sedira’s work, from her first films in the 1990s until today.
Beirut’s famous Sursock Museum also has a rich programme lined up. Lebanese artist Samir Müller’s curated display of ceramic works in Samir Müller: Painter of Clay continues until September 24. The exhibition includes the artist’s ceramic objects, ceramic paintings and pigment test tiles, allowing visitors to peek behind the scenes at the full scope of his process and skills. The exhibitions Fleeting Exits and Looking for Leisure run through October 8. Fleeting Exits, with works by international artists Ryan Gander, Rebecca Horn, Laure Provost and Lindsay Seers, questions “gender, escape and liberation” through a variety of physically engaging and intrusive objects. Looking for Leisure presents a collection of photographs from the Fouad Debbas Photo Collection and the Alexandre Medawar Collection, courtesy of the Arab Image Foundation. These photographic works document leisure activity during the 20th century in Lebanon, the works themselves a leisure activity – a form of self-documentation that looks at changing social activities set against the Lebanese landscape.
Continuing until October 27 is Tagreed Darghouth’s unmissable solo show Analogy to Human Life at Saleh Barakat Gallery. The Lebanese painter has approached a wide variety of subjects in previous solo shows, from plastic surgery to nuclear explosions. In this substantial body of new work, she displays multiple series, tied together by her distinctive style and colour palette. Carcasses, ears and skulls hang alongside drones, excavator buckets and mincers, these visceral reminders of violence entering into a dialogue with a series of paintings of olive trees, many of them felled, leaving nothing but a stump. Darghouth cleverly appropriates classical motifs and symbols to reflect on contemporary violence.
Beirut Art Fair returns for its ninth edition from September 20-23 at the Seaside Arena in Downtown. As in previous years, a diverse selection of galleries from the Arab World and further afield are complemented by ambitious non-profit projects with a regional flavour. The Byblos Bank Award returns for a seventh year, showcasing work by emerging local photographers. In tandem, Across Boundaries, curated by collector Tarek Nahas, offers a wide-ranging and comprehensive insight into photography practices in Lebanon from the early 1900s to the present day, with over 100 works and installations on loan from private and institutional collections. Another major showcase is dedicated to the work of pioneering Lebanese-Armenian modernist Paul Guiragossian, marking the 25th anniversary of his death with a retrospective including key paintings, as well as archival documents and sound and video recordings.
Running concurrently with Beirut Art Fair, the second edition of Beirut Design Fair showcases the best in Lebanese and international furniture and product design in a unique setting designed by Lebanese architecture and design firm GM Architects. Galal Mahmoud uses shifting walls and colours inspired by the 1960s, Lebanon’s Golden Age, to create an immersive setting designed to evoke a city in which visitors are invited to get lost in narrow streets, encountering landmarks along the way. With 60 exhibitors and more than 150 designers on display, the fair should help to cement Beirut’s reputation as the design hub of the Middle East.
Heading outside Beirut, catch the Batroun Mediterranean Film Festival, running September 7-10 and featuring a screening of short films by artists and filmmakers from the Middle East and Europe. The festival highlights Lebanon’s growing independent film scene with selections of everything from documentary to experimental film and animation. Not just a film festival, the festival also offers workshops, seminars and concerts. The venue is out of doors to take advantage of the coastal environs in Lebanon’s famous party town.
Make the most of the autumn weather with a trip to the mountains to catch Lebanon-based British artist Tom Young’s solo show at the Grand Hotel Casino Ain Sofar, which was built in 1892 by the Sursock family and was one of the Middle East’s most famous hotels in its heyday. After decades of closure, the hotel is re-opening as an art and reception venue. Running from September 15 to October 14, Young’s exhibition takes visitors back in time to explore the building’s past through paintings capturing the exotic lure of the hotel, which attracted kings, emirs, socialites and diplomats from around the world.
Later in the month, don’t miss Cycles of Collapsing Progress, which for the first time transforms the beautiful surroundings of the Tripoli International Fair into a setting for contemporary art. Curated by Karina el-Helou, founder of STUDIOCUR/ART, in collaboration with Beirut Museum of Art, this exhibition pairs Oscar Niemeyer’s innovative concrete ruins with the work of artists from Mexico and Lebanon, including eight newly commissioned pieces and 10 works chosen to work in this unique site-specific context. The show is set to run from September 23 to October 22. Participating artists include Joana Hadjithomas & Khalil Joreige, who revisit the subject of their seminal work The Lebanese Rocket Society within Niemeyer’s abandoned space museum.