“Huguette possessed a zest for life, and for her, anything was possible. Her freedom and way of thinking took precedence, and she would sweep you along with her.” This is the affectionate sentiment expressed by Nadine Begdache when talking about her friend, the artist Huguette Caland.
In 1993, shortly after opening the Galerie Janine Rubeiz, Nadine proposed a Beirut exhibition to Huguette, who eagerly accepted. In 1994, months before the opening, Huguette settled in Adma, a home provided by her son Pierre, evoking memories of her parents’ Kaslik residence, where she spent a decade, her inaugural studio in the garden, Sunday luncheons with AUB friends, and her first exhibition with Helen Khal. There, on the heights, she relentlessly worked, creating her “Faces and Places” series.
While 1990s Lebanon rebuilt with fervor after war, Huguette faced California’s challenges. It was Nadine’s recognition of her work’s value and steadfast exhibition schedule that enabled Huguette to thrive.
The 1994 “Faces and Places” exhibit initially bewildered Lebanese viewers but captured hearts by 1997, igniting a 25-year partnership. Almost nightly, Nadine, in Beirut, phoned Huguette in Los Angeles to discuss client desires and artwork specifics. Huguette’s passion never waned. “She was serious, free-spirited, conscientious, and motivated,” Nadine recalls. Their connection flowed effortlessly, marked by lively discussions, laughter, and seamless reunions. Nadine visited Huguette three times in the ’90s, and they met regularly in Paris, sharing drinks and meals by the Eiffel Tower.
At Lebanese exhibitions, Huguette reconnected with friends, family, and growing collectors. Nadine noted the impact of exhibitions like “L’argent (ne fait pas le bonheur mais y contribue largement),” “Mes jeunes années,” and the Beirut Exhibition Center retrospective, along with Huguette’s influence on emerging artists.
From 2013, when Huguette returned to Lebanon and settled in Kfarhbeib, Nadine braved traffic to visit weekly, often sharing lunch. Even when ill, Huguette made plans. In March 2018, she moved to Beirut, where Nadine, her neighbor, brought comforting dishes.
Nadine nostalgically reflects, “These were my best years: work was a joy, and our exchanges were warm, open, and authentic. I wish it had lasted longer; it feels too brief.” This bond leaves cherished memories, photos, but no records of their countless phone conversations or fax correspondence.
For the Galerie Janine Rubeiz’s 30th anniversary, this exhibition celebrates the enduring collaboration and friendship between Huguette Caland and Nadine Begdache, highlighting pivotal moments in their journey.
About Huguette Caland
Born in Beirut in 1931, Huguette Caland (formerly El Khoury) embarked on her artistic journey at the age of 16, receiving her initial painting lessons from Manetti, an Italian artist residing in Lebanon. Following the loss of her father, Beshara El Khoury, a key figure in Lebanon’s independence movement and its inaugural president, Caland resolved to chase her aspiration of becoming an artist. After devoting four years to Fine Arts studies at the American University of Beirut, Caland relocated to Paris in 1970. There, unburdened by social obligations, she flourished and forged connections with numerous contemporary artists. In 1987, she made California her home and realised the studio of her dreams.
Caland’s art has been consistently featured in solo exhibitions and group exhibitions worldwide, finding its place in collections, including Centre Pompidou, La Bibliothèque Nationale, MoMA, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Toledo Museum of Art, The Tate, The British Museum, LACMA, Armand Hammer, Museum of Fine Art Houston, San Diego Museum of Art, Palm Springs Museum of Art, Sharjah Art Foundation, and various private collections across the United States, the Middle East, and Europe. Huguette Caland passed away on September 23rd, 2019, at the age of 88.
Location: September 28–October 26, 2023
Dates: Galerie Janine Rubeiz, Beirut