I Was Born In A Field Of Sculptures, In Rachana, The Native Village Of My Father Michel Basbous, Myself, And My Children, Shana And Michel. With My Wife Elma, We Live In This Village Where Nature And Sculptures Marry In Total Harmony.
My first visual contact with sculpting occurred, therefore, in my earliest days. I made my first sculpture in my father’s studio when I was ten years old: an aluminium sculpture that I have treasured all these years. It was a premonitory sculpture, a deconstructed then reconstructed cube which became a seed that germinated 30 years later to inspire me during my first major exhibition in downtown Beirut. My interest in architecture led me to enroll at the University of ALBA, where I did a preparatory year. Then afterwards, my destination was Paris, for the ENSAAMA school, where I studied mural decoration. Once back in Lebanon, I began to express myself through modern mosaic before devoting myself after four years entirely to sculpting. My first sculptures were not very far from those of the first generation of Basbous artists, but with time and work I began to find my own way and originality, which felt closer to my ten-year-old sculpture than to any other influence.
I was interested in the great world sculptors like Richard Serra, Bernar Venet, Anish Kapoor, Anselm Kiefer, Arnaldo Pomodoro, César Baldaccini, Antony Gormley, Tony Cragg and others. With work and time, Rachana became more and more populated with sculptures, as mine were added to those of my father and my uncles. The spaces became saturated, and I felt it was essential to create a new exhibition space. I had bought a plot of land in front of my house in Rachana, overlooking the sea and with two very characteristic elements of the villages of our region. The first element is the “baydar”, a site, chosen very carefully by the villagers for its flatness and openness to the wind, where wheat seeds were separated from oats after harvesting. The second element, the “rejmeh”, constitutes a large embankment of small stones that the villagers would group together while clearing their land. The decision to build a new space MAB, “Mohtaraf Anachar Basbous” on this land was taken quite quickly.
My architect, Jawdat Arnouk, and I decided to create a monolithic raw concrete building, embedded on the east side in the ground, and extending to the west in a cantilever in a flight towards the sea. The building consists of three sections for exhibitions:
– The roof, designed as a continuation of the village road, is accessible with a few steps from the east side.’
– The main room, with its large bay windows on the north and west sides, is for large sculptures. This room overlooks the stone garden, the “baydar” and the “rejmeh”.
– The small room, below the large one, is for medium and small sized sculptures. A large glass door opens onto a covered outdoor area. A raw concrete staircase connects this floor to the upper garden space. I sculpted the “rejmeh” to make “land art”, playing with the stones, their colours, sizes and textures, creating exhibition platforms, and sometimes keeping part of a wall built by the village ancestors. The top of the “rejmeh” received the “baydar”, a space whose shape I kept intact, as its proportion and location were so perfect.
The large bay windows of the main room overlook the “baydar”, which has become an exhibition space.
Thanks to this project, the sculptures of Michel Basbous have found their original space, and mine have found a minimalist, made-to-measure space.
From now on, a dialogue will take place between two generations and two eras which complement one another with both their resemblance and their opposition, thus each enhancing the other. This project took two years to execute; two years marked by Covid and the financial crisis. This was an act of resistance armed with the love of art. We wanted to create a site full of beauty, authenticity, hope, and love.