B.DECEMBER 25, 1926, JERUSALEM,
D.NOVEMBER 20, 1993, BEIRUT, LEBANON
Interviewee: Manuella Guiragossian
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List of selected solo exhibitions:
2013 – “Paul Guiragossian: The Human Condition” (20th Anniversary Retrospective). Beirut Exhibition Center. Curated by Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath. November 20 – January 6, 2014. Beirut, Lebanon
1991 – Institut du Monde Arabe. December 12 – February 2, 1992. Paris, France
1974 – Studio 27 gallery. May 9 – 27. Beirut, Lebanon
1970 – “Paul Guiragossian: Recent Paintings,” (Special exhibit of Contemporary Lebanese Painting At Corcoran gallery). The Corcoran Gallery of Art. May 16 – 27. Washington D.C., USA
1964 – Galleria D’Arte Cairola. January 18 – 31. Milano, Italy
1962/63 – Galerie Mouffe – December 4 to Jan. 6 – Paris, France
1958 – Galeria d’Arte Moderna La Permanente. January 16 – 24. Florence, Italy
Paul Guiragossian: Displacing Modernity (2018). Published by Silvana Editoriale.
Paul Guiragossian: The Human Condition (2013). Published by the Paul Guiragossian Foundation.
Paul Guiragossian (1987).
Paul Guiragossian (1982). Published by EMMAGOSS.
Guidelines for requests for authenticity certificates
1. E-mail the Paul Guiragossian Foundation at info@paulguiragossian. com with an initial inquiry or request for authentication.
2. Send a well photographed image of the artwork. Ideally, this should be a high resolution (at least 300 dpi) photo taken in good lighting by a professional. If the request relates to a painting, a photo of the back of the canvas must be taken as well. If it is not possible to have professional pictures taken, a good resolution, clear image of the work will do.
3. Send exact measurements of the artwork itself excluding the frame.
4. Share the provenance and as many details as possible about the artwork. Questions that should be considered include:
– Are you or your family the original owners?
– When and where was the artwork purchased or acquired. (Dates and locations, even if approximate, can help the foundation focus on a timeline for their research, helping them to trace artworks and locate their images in archival exhibition images, newspaper clippings of reviews from those exhibitions, or even dated archival images, and to also determine their details, such as titles and date, from exhibition lists. Any detail can be extremely helpful for research.
5. Usually, if the artwork is in Lebanon, the foundation’s experts will examine the work in person. In this regard, they will arrange an appointment for the work to be brought to the foundation, where it will be photographed and measured. Framed works on paper have to be taken out of the frames and examined to make sure they are not prints. This is usually done in front of the person who accompanies the work to allow them to take it away with them the same day.
6. The fees for an authenticity certificate (when the artwork is authentic) vary from $250 to $2000, depending on the artwork’s medium and dimensions. The research and issuing of the certificate begin once the fee is approved by the artwork owner or person placing the request.
7. It is recommended that at least three months’ advance notice is given for the foundation to have enough time to research and authenticate an artwork in case it is planned to be sold. Some artworks take over a year to authenticate. This can be due to either of the following reasons:
a. The foundation archives are not yet final and are still being digitised and updated. Thus, searching for images among thousands of scanned pictures without labels requires a lot of attention to small detail and can be time-consuming.
b. The foundation receives a lot of requests daily. Approved requests are placed on a list that is worked through chronologically, in order to be fair. Often, however, applications for known works can be authenticated quickly, with certificates issued in a short time.
All information provided to the foundation, including the identity of owners, remains strictly confidential. Names may only be published after mutual agreement with the owners. The foundation does not receive any external funding or donations. Certificate fees contribute toward the high running costs, as well as book publications and exhibitions.
Biography of Paul Guiragossian
Born in 1926 in Jerusalem to Armenian parents, survivors of the Armenian genocide, Paul Guiragossian experienced the consequences of exile from a very young age. raised in boarding schools, Paul and his brother grew up away from their mother who had to work to make sure her two sons got an education.
Towards the end of 1947 Paul and his family migrated to Lebanon where in 1952 he married and started a family. He then became an art teacher in several schools and worked as an illustrator. He later opened his own business with his brother Antoine painting cinema banners, posters and drawing illustrations for books. Soon after he was discovered for his art and introduced to his contemporaries after which he began exhibiting his works in Beirut and eventually all over the world.
In 1956 he won the first prize in a painting competition, which landed him a scholarship by the Italian government to study at the Academia di Belle Arti di Firenze (The Academy of Fine Arts of Florence). While in Florence, Paul had multiple exhibitions starting with a solo show in 1958 at the Gallerie d’Arte Moderna “La Permanente” e “Schubert”, Florence, Italy.
In 1959 Paul participated in the first Paris Biennial with his painting “Vendeuses de Fleurs” and later was granted another scholarship, this time by the French Government to study and paint at Les Atelier Des Maîtres De L’Ecole De Paris in 1962. That same year he had a solo exhibition at the Galerie Mouffe in Paris.
By the mid 60’s Guiragossian grew to become one of the most celebrated artists in Lebanon and eventually of the Arab world and even though war broke out in the early 70’s his attachment to Lebanon grew bigger and his works became more colourful with messages of hope for his people.
1970 saw multiple important events in Guiragossian’s life as it started off with him being awarded a prestigious prize for excellence in an artistic domain followed by a very successful solo exhibition which received great critical reviews. A few weeks after the opening of his solo exhibition in Beirut, Guiragossian traveled to Washington D.C. on an American tour that was made possible by a grant from the Exchange Visitors Program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. On that trip, Paul held his first personal exhibition in the United States at the Corcoran Gallery, one of Washington D.C.’s renowned public art institutions.
After countless exhibitions around the world while the Lebanese Civil War was raging in Lebanon, in 1989 Paul returned to Paris and held a solo exhibition in La Salle Des Pas Perdus in UNESCO and resided in the city with part of his family until 1991. Between 1989 and 1991 Paul painted some of his largest masterpieces there and at the end of that year he had another solo exhibition at the Institut du Monde Arab.
Paul passed away in 1993 on the 20th of November in Beirut, after finalising a magnificent oil painting, which he revealed to his family to be his best work yet.
His family titled the painting “L’Adieu” which remains unsigned and in the Guiragossian family estate collection.
His works can be found in the most discerning public and private collections worldwide including institutional presence at The British Museum. London – Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou. Paris – Institut du Monde Arabe. Paris, Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art. Doha, Modern Art Museum of Kuwait. Kuwait, Barjeel Art Foundation. Sharjah, Salama Bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation. Abu Dhabi, among many others.
Interview with Manuella Guiragossian
My family and I established the Paul Guiragossian Foundation with the help of Dr Pierre El Khoury, a lawyer and law professor, who specialises in intellectual property rights and has international experience mentoring start-ups and creatives. We were the first to register a foundation in the region, so we did a lot of research on how to start and we took a lot of references from other foundations and auction houses in Europe and the United States. After two years of researching, we legally registered the foundation in 2011.
Today, the Estate of Paul Guiragossian consists of the artist’s family, while a body of close friends and advisors are consulted for various matters. In the beginning, there were up to 14 unofficial board members, including all of my father’s friends who were artists, intellectuals and thinkers and had been by his side throughout his career. Key among those was playwright and theatre director Jalal Khoury, who passed away in recent years. Jalal brought a lot of people into my father’s life and to his exhibitions and helped in selling and titling many of the paintings. I went through a lot of the archival images with him and he introduced me to the people in them.
I grew up with my father throughout the civil war in Lebanon and I am the child that spent the most time with him. I practically grew up in his studio and he would encourage me to play music, sing and draw. I would always sit on his lap telling stories and then we would draw these stories in comic book style. This helped with my creativity and understanding of how to get my creative process into art and into painting.
My life was filled with art that he created around me and which sheltered me from the war and all the horror that was going on outside. All of us children learned a lot from him. For example, my brother Jean Paul used to often go out with my father and paint landscapes in nature for hours. We were all brought up to be very close to my father. Journalists came to visit often, and we were included in their in-depth conversations. One thing I truly miss about my father is these mindblowing discussions that went into great depth on art and general history. He was self-educated, well-read and travelled a lot across the Arab world, Europe and the US. He made all these connections and parallels with what was happening in the art world that still make so much sense today. This is what I miss the most: the education that we received from him.
The idea for the foundation began in order to prevent fakes and to continue my father’s legacy. We estimate there are more than 5,000 Paul Guiragossian works worldwide. Our collection also consists of a significant amount of works on papers, sketches and studies in different formats. The estate’s collection is divided in two: one major part is strictly the foundation’s and will never be made available for sale and another section belongs to the family.
Whenever I notice a fake work after an auction house catalogue comes out without consulting us, I will go out of my way to ask for it to be removed. In terms of print catalogues, the damage will already have been done, but when it is online, they can remove it. Some auction houses don’t appreciate that you have to communicate with the estate, especially in Paul Guiragossian’s case as some of his works were faked as soon as he passed away. Even when he was alive, some people tried to fake his work because he sells very well and is in demand.
For an artwork to be authenticated and certified, full information about the work should be shared to speed up our research. For requests from abroad, we ask for professional photography and provenance. The fees vary, but typically can be $2,000 for mid-size oil paintings, decreasing gradually for works on paper, and other smaller works. If it is for multiple pieces, the committee may reduce the fees a little. The certificate must be signed by three members of the family. If the work is fake, there may still be a small fee to be paid that is determined by the foundation. When we researched how to price the fees, we discovered that in Europe a certificate for a major artist can be up to $5,000, and that the experts that look at the work meet only twice a year. The works are shipped to the experts, who gather on a specific date, look at the work and authenticate. If the work is not authentic, it is destroyed as it is forbidden to release it in the market. The owner of the work is responsible for the insurance and the shipping expenses. We don’t have all these things in Lebanon.
Until my father passed away his affairs were handled like an estate in terms of photographing the paintings, accumulating archival material like the press reviews, exhibition pictures, invitation cards and title lists, among other documents. All of the latter had been gathered throughout his lifetime with the help of my mother. My brother Emmanuel had a significant role in my father’s career from the 1980s onwards. In 1981, they published a book with Joseph Tarab, who was a great art critic and historian. Emmanuel was also present professionally in my father’s career for more than a decade of working and exhibiting together, photographing and archiving images of paintings. I followed on from this with a more modern approach, being more familiar with the digital world, films, scanning and digital photography, which is all thanks to my training as a film maker.
After my father passed away, Emmagoss art gallery continued to exhibit his works. There was also a huge tribute exhibition at Al Madina Theatre, put together by his friends in theatre who had worked with him for years. In the years following his death, the family held some exhibitions at which sales were made, but they made a conscious decision to stop and move purely into tribute exhibitions. Over the years, we made acquisitions spanning the different periods of Paul Guiragossian’s work for the foundation’s own collection.
We have a huge amount of material and archives, but it is difficult to upload everything online. While updating the website we had the idea to have archival material categorised by decades and dates. However, we had issues with image placement and the sheer volume of material, and in the end, it was deemed more important to have the website go live so people could reach us. As soon as our budget allows, we will work on it more.
“Paul Guiragossian: Displacing Modernity” was the biggest and most comprehensive publication that we have produced to date. It came out in 2018 and was written by Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath with whom we had done a massive exhibition, titled Paul Guiragossian: The Human Condition, in 2013 on the 20th anniversary of his passing. The exhibition contained a section on archives.
Paul Guiragossian is currently in two major exhibitions in Europe: one is with the Gropius Bau in Berlin, including two of his most significant large format paintings, “Deir Ezzor” (1965) representing the Armenian Genocide and “The Funeral of AbdelNasser” (1970), among other works. The exhibition is moving to the Lyon Biennale opening in September. The second one is “Picasso and the Arab Avant-Gardes” in Tourcoing, which is moving to Paris in 2024.
Talking to professionals in European and American institutions has been so helpful. A lot of these people have been generous with their time, explaining and helping me to know which direction to move in. Among my aims is to have a Paul Guiragossian prize for young artists who deserve scholarships. My father said in many interviews that he always felt that something was missing, as he didn’t have the means to go to an academy in his youth like many other artists did. Later, when he started getting more recognised, he received scholarships, but he was already an accomplished artist. He went to Florence and to Paris, enjoying the art and all the artists he revered during his youth from up close. In Florence, his teacher told him that he should be teaching there instead of being a student. He was probably one of the very few of his generation to hold solo exhibitions while being a student both in Italy and France.
“AMONG MY AIMS IS TO HAVE A PAUL GUIRAGOSSIAN PRIZE FOR YOUNG ARTISTS WHO DESERVE SCHOLARSHIPS.”
I work voluntarily. All the funds that come into the foundation through certificates go towards archiving supplies, book publications, restorations and non-commercial exhibitions, all of which are extremely costly, especially with the high-quality productions we always aim for. People often comment that the foundation certificate fees are too high or assume that we make a huge amount of profit, which is far from reality. To be able to keep this foundation alive, we rely tremendously on the certificate and expertise fees as they are the only source of income. But we also have expenses to maintain the foundation space where we keep the paintings, and we also had to deal with repairs after the Beirut port explosion. The future ambition that I see moving forward, after we have accomplished more books and a catalogue raisonné, is to have a museum space where we could showcase the foundation’s collection, as well as a dedicated space for archiving that could be used for study and research. We have everything available to exhibit, but we need a permanent space. At this point, I would be happy if we had it in a country where we are respected and we feel safe. Funding is important to make all of this come true as we don’t have any backing from any other source.
A VERSION OF THIS ARTICLE APPEARED IN PRINT IN SELECTIONS #59 MODERN ART AND ARTIST ESTATES: WAYS, WORKS AND ARCHIVES – VOL I