Exhibition Art is the answer ! Contemporary Lebanese artists and designers
29 March 2012 – 02 September 2012

After humanitarian and educational activities since 1998 in Armenia and Lebanon, the Boghossian Foundation has also set itself the objective to contribute, as concretely as possible, to the dialogue between the cultures of the East and the West. To this end it has installed its headquarters at the Villa Empain, jewel of the Brussels Art Deco architecture.

After its complete restoration, this magnificent building opened to the public in April 2010, where the Boghossian Foundation proposes exhibitions, concerts, conferences, international meetings, reuniting and comparing certain aspects of these different cultures.

Art has taken an essential role through this approach. In this context, it is important to understand art as a universal language, a means of communication and sharing between different cultures, a desire to share and dialogue, which exceeds time and borders.

Art is the answer !

Together with the launch of the annual Boghossian Foundation Prize for young Lebanese artists, the Foundation has decided to hold an exhibition in Brussels, offering a meaningful vision of the Lebanese contemporary art scene.

The exhibition Art is the answer ! proposes a selection of works produced by twenty artists, illustrating their vitality which hallmarks present-day Lebanon’s art scene.

It is of course a limited selection, which mainly reflects the wish to enable the Brussels public to discover artists rarely exhibited in the European capital and to help it become aware of their specific activities as well as their sources of inspiration shared with western artists.

In many Arab Countries, it took time for artistic modernity to get way from a local and specialized scene. It was not until the early 2000s that a real dialogue was embarked between western dynamics and the eastern artists. On the Arab side, art, more than ever, demonstrated its instrumental nature by helping to express the frustrations and humiliations undergone by peoples during the turmoil. On the western side, the feeling of fear in the face of terror became associated with a curiosity about these often misunderstood cultures. It is in this context that Lebanon affirms its singularities.

In the 1960s, the Arab-Israeli wars and the plethora of autocratic regimes in the region turned Beirut into a haven of freedom and innovation.

But the years 1975-1976 were marked by violence and amidst the bombs a new generation would try to live and express itself. For fifteen years, the country lived cut off from any temptation of normality, torn apart between contradictory and murderous forces.

The 1990s were all about reconstruction. Lebanon wanted to turn the page; the State invested in the renovation of infrastructures and confided the task of preparing a master plan for the capital’s downtown area to a private company. In the construction site of the future 21st century megalopolis, many failed to find their place, and demanded a work of memory. To the law which amnestied war crimes, they responded with a desire to record history. New artistic practices such as performances, installations, videos, music, photography and cinema were initiated and gave birth to unique experiences. The experiments, produced with very limited means, would be presented in unusual, sometimes dilapidated places and open a public debate.

As the cornerstone of Lebanese artwork in the 1990s and 2000s, in-depth investigation into the ghosts of recent history also helped to free up a whole raft of issues linked with the city and society.

In the early 2000s, Lebanon suddenly found itself in the headlines again. From the assassination of Rafic Hariri to the demonstrations it gave rise to, from the July 2006 war to the period of instability that risked ending in catastrophe, the specters of turmoil resurfaced. Whether artists had remained in the country or settled abroad, they would react with disconcerting speed. Simultaneously with Israeli air raids, they would distribute short films, drawings, texts, and acoustic and visual works. Many of those urgently produced pieces would be put on view all over the world in the months following those famous thirty-three days. From Dubai to Sydney, through London, Venice and New York, the public was eager to see and hear what Lebanese people had to say. The Lebanese art scene managed not only to get across to its own society its likes and dislikes, its ideas, its fears and its dreams, but it also set out to conquer the world. The West discovered it with fascination and at the same time, the Gulf monarchies embarked upon an overabundance of fairs, biennials and museums. Lebanese artists were honorably invited here, whilst in 1990 they were merely considered as agitators.

In January 2009, the Beirut Art Center opened its doors in a former furniture factory. The flawless rooms of this art center swiftly became the arena for a well-endowed program and unexpected encounters. A year later, it was the turn of Solidere, the company responsible for the reconstruction of downtown Beirut, to inaugurate its Beirut Exhibition Center.

At the end of 2010, the whole Arab world toppled in a movement that was as unexpected as it was uncertain: the so-called Arab spring. Faced with these challenges, the Lebanese art scene continues to move and amaze, renew and reinvent itself.

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The artists selected for the exhibition Art is the answer !

Ziad Abillama, Ziad Antar, Ayman Baalbaki, Mohamad-Said Baalbaki, Chaza Charafeddine, Zena el Khalil, Fouad Elkoury, Najla el Zein, Hiba Kalache, Karen Kalou, Nadim Karam, Abdulrahman Katanani, Taline Kechichian, Alfred Tarazi ; Design and stylisme : Karim Chaya, Karen Chekerdjian, Nada Debs, Milia Maroun, Wyssem et Cécile Nochi, Ranya Sarakbi

As a welcome to the invited Lebanese artists, French photographer, residing in Brussels, Franck Christen chose to present two of his works at the Villa Empain: Cèdres, Bcharré, (2002, courtesy Gallery Kettaneh Kunigk, Beirut). The Boghossian Foundation publishes 500 copies of this diptych in.

The catalog of this exhibition, introduced by art historian Gregory Buchakjian, is published in French and English.

The exhibition and the catalog are coordinated by Diane Hennebert and Christophe Dosogne, assisted by Magali Defrenne.

The Boghossian Foundation is pleased to cooperate with Solidere for the organization of this exhibition. After its presentation in Brussels, the exhibition will be shown at the Beirut Exhibition Center, beginning 2013.

The Boghossian Foundation is also associated with Art Brussels (annual Contemporary Art fair in Brussels, April) and with the Beirut Art Fair (July), who participate in the promotion of this exhibition.

On April 24th, 25th and 26th 2012, the Boghossian Foundation will organize International Meetings around the theme Art is the answer! at the Villa Empain. These meetings will give the opportunity to evoke, with artists and philosophers, the concept of art, seen as a state of mind and a way of life, as well as a creative answer to conflicts.

Acknowledgements

The Boghossian Foundation thanks all those who contributed to the organization of this exhibition, mainly
SSolidere, partner of the Boghossian Foundation for this exhibition,
the presented artists,
Shirin Abali, and
Randa Armanazi, Solidere, Beirut
David Atal, Fotodart, Paris
Sam Bardaouil
Gregory Buchakjian
Sarkis Buchakjian
Caline Chidiac, Nada Debs Studio, Beirut
Franck Christen
Sandra Dagher
Laure d’Hauteville, Beirut Art Fair
Martine de Limburg Stirum, Art Brussels
Nada el Asaad, Association for the Promotion & Exhibition of the Arts in Lebanon, Beirut
Léa Gauthier, Black Jack Editions, Brussels
Rose Issa
Nadim Karam, Atelier Hapsitus, Beirut
Martine Kiwan, Atelier Hapsitus, Beirut
Arlette Khoury, Solidere, Beirut
Janine Maamari
Omar M. Mazhar, Rose Issa Projects, London
Alexandre Medawar, Logic + Format, Beirut
Jessica Morgan, The Daskalopoulos Curator Internatinal Art, Tate Modern, London
Stéphanie Moussalem, spockdesign, Beirut
Edith Moussali, Karen Chekerdjian Store, Beirut
Anastasia Nysten, Karen Chekerdjian Studio, Beirut
Pascal Odille, Beirut Art Fair
Maya Parisi, Jopa Editions, Brussels
Mary Salame Boghossian
Diane Yared, Solidere, Beirut
Saleh Barakat, Agial Art Gallery, Beirut
Carol A. Chehab, Agial Art Gallery, Beirut
Aïda Cherfan, Aïda Cherfan Fine Arts Gallery, Beirut
Verena Ferraro, Galerie Tanit, Munich
Naïla Kettaneh Kunigk, l’Espace Kettaneh Kunigk, Beirut & Galerie Tanit, Munich
Almine Rech, Almine Rech Gallery, Brussels and Paris
Khaled Samawi, Ayyam Gallery, Beirut, Damas and Dubai Lea Sebnaoui, The Running Horse Contemporary Art Space, Beirut

The Boghossian Foundation is also supported by the Brussels-Capital Region, the Belgian National Lottery, the RTBF (Belgian French speaking radio and television) Jean Verheyen, Member of Axa Group, the Circle of Friends of the Villa Empain.