There has been a change in the art scene throughout Lebanon these past few years. From artsy cafes to apartment communities, more people are embracing an alternative culture. The days when Hamra used to be one of the only centers for culture are long gone and Beirut is experiencing a boom in a subversive culture aimed at using knowledge and art to combat the country’s shaky reality. The city’s history of war and progression has made it a must-visit for any art or culture lover! Here is your guide to the best places to see in 24 hours.
First opened in 1961, the mansion was dedicated to art by Nicolas Sursock and has a regular selection of local contemporary art. The venue itself is a piece of art as it combines Venetian and Ottoman elements with many of its original interiors still preserved. Some of the names in the museum’s permanent collection include Shafic Abboud, Etel Adnan and Assadour, who are prominent artists in the country. Get introduced to local 20th and 21st-century art and expand your view of international works. This museum is a must-visit for an art lover in Beirut.
If you’re looking for a cultural space to rest after your walk in Sursock, go into any venue in Hamra street or visit Beirut’s numerous book cafes. Many of these have a unique interior any art lover would enjoy. Get introduced to Beirut’s burgeoning intellectual community at its locals’ favorite spots.
Dar Bistro and Books
Dar Bistro and Books is a boutique bookshop with a curated collection of books and a lively community. The little bistro hosts several different cultural events throughout the year and is any art lover’s dream. Bask in the local intellectual community and immerse yourself in a new art scene with this little hub.
Another bookshop and cafe, Oliver’s Kitchen is a perfect place to relax after a day full of cultural tourism. Its urban yet rustic aesthetic coupled with its board game community and library makes it the ultimate hangout. Enjoy a cup of coffee and a good conversation at this amazing venue.
The Alleyway, Gemmayzeh, Gouraud Street, Beirut, Lebanon, +961 1 566 375
More refined and urban than the latter, Paper Cup is a coffee place and bookshop dedicated to local and international prints. They have a carefully curated selection of art, fashion and design. The venue also doubles as a work space for the creatively inclined and is its own community. The venue also issues its own magazine The Sounder and is one of Beirut’s hubs of culture.
Art galleries are sprinkled around Beirut and their culture is as alive as ever! With Beirut’s annual art fair it’s natural that the community is constantly replenished and has survived the country’s tumultuous history.
Art on the 56th
Founded by Noha Wadi Moharram in 2012, Art on the 56th is a thriving art hub in Gemmayzeh, Beirut. Home to the up-and-coming talent in Beirut and the region, the gallery is the perfect place for an art enthusiast. Its location in a picturesque historical building gives Art on the 56th a balanced aesthetic and juxtaposes its contemporary exhibits.
While not exclusively an art gallery, Station Beirut caters to local contemporary and even revolutionary artists. With a regular stream of events almost avant-garde in their provocativeness, the space offers a curious look into Lebanese alternative culture and arguably the country’s future.
Beirut Art Center
Dedicated to experimental local art, Beirut Art Center is one of the city’s biggest hubs of culture. Non-profit and not requiring entrance fees, the center is a venue truly dedicated to the emphasis of beauty. It has a main exhibition space, auditorium and bookshop as well as an abundant space for art lovers to hang around. The aim of Beirut art center is to produce and perpetuate modern knowledge.
All that being said, just walking around Beirut is any art lover’s dream. From street art to war-torn buildings, the city has a history like no other. The juxtaposition between Downtown Beirut, the newer districts and the older streets offers a unique visual panorama of the city’s different faces. Walk around Hamra for a more gritty urban vibe and end up in Beirut’s center – the image of refinement and curated modernity. Check out the graffiti littering the streets, usually an expression of locals’ needs and observe the people. Even the city’s architecture is subject to curious urban planning and a differing amount of development. Check out old buildings that are a short walk from high rises and take on all of history’s influences on this unique city.
If you’re looking for a more personal and literally homey community, L’appartement is for you. There is a curious community concerned with culture growing in every Lebanese city, with the center being Beirut. This small venue is a one of the biggest examples of the locals coming together and giving alternative culture a voice in a more traditional country. More and more of the locals are embracing knowledge – a knowledge that surpasses the country’s rocky political situation. A subversive new generation challenging the status quo and embracing a truly artistic aesthetic. With art exhibitions, live music events and even dance workshops, L’appartement proves a staple on any art lover’s must-visit list.
L’apparetement, Achrafieh, Beirut, Lebanon, +961 3 543 076