The ninth edition of the Beirut Art Fair increased its space by 45 percent, to accommodate a higher number of both Lebanese and international galleries, and as many as 32,000 visitors. Despite the complexity of politics in Lebanon, art has been a transcending force which has drawn international visitors year after year, allowing them to savour the richness of Lebanese culture and history. The art fair has primarily showcased local talent, but never at a loss for creativity and innovation.
A major offering this year was “Across Boundaries”, the Fair’s flagship exhibition which focussed on historic and contemporary Lebanese photography from 1900 to the present day. More than 100 photographic works from some 30 Lebanese private and public collectors made up the show, and while it could be argued that it was more a photo-journalistic foray than a visual arts one, the wealth of archival and historic material more than made up for categorisation arguments.
Another special show was the ‘Lebanon Modern! A Tribute to Paul Guiragossian’, which pays homage to the most famous of local artists through documents and audio features as well as rarely seen works from the family estate. One cannot fail to admire Guiragossian’s unique vision and the endurance of his timeless compositions.
Sotheby’s was invited and hosted by Letitia Gallery to participate in the Beirut Art Fair Talks during the opening day of the Fair, followed by another talk at the Dar El Nimer cultural foundation. Iain Robertson of Sotheby’s Institute spoke about new trends in emerging markets and did a signing of his recently-published book on New Markets, and I spoke about the growth in the Middle East market, followed by a review of the Public Role of Private Museums.
Despite its challenges, Lebanon has mounted its relatively young art fair with dedication and commitment. This will encourage local artists and gallerists to continue their contribution to the art scene in a country with the richest of artistic traditions.