Held under the patronage of His Excellency Mr Saad Hariri, President of the Council of Ministers, Beirut Art Fair is known for its high concentration of excellent artwork, connecting professional artists in Lebanon through various exhibitions taking place in the capital city.
The event began in 2010 under the direction of Laure d’Hauteville, who now curates exhibitions but used to be a journalist. Pascal Odille, a member of CNES (Chambre Nationale des Experts Spécialisés), whose expertise is contemporary and modern art, is the artistic director. Beirut Art Fair teams up with the Modern and Contemporary Art Museum (MACAM) each year, and overall in 2017 featured work from 51 galleries, showing 1,400 pieces of art produced by a total of 230 artists from across 23 countries.
Split across three themes – Territory, Document and Intimate – the Beirut Art Fair attracts people with a huge range of tastes and interests. So it’s no surprise that 2018 is set to be its biggest year, with a 45% increase in exhibition space and enough people to fill it, with 32,000 expected compared to 2017’s 28,000.
The Beirut Art fair centres around a Focus exhibition, which in 2018 has the title Access Boundaries and will look at the progression of Lebanese photography in the past century. Showcasing pieces from private and institutional collections in the country, the offering includes over 100 artworks and installations.
However, the fair as a whole puts the spotlight on the modern and contemporary work of artists from all around the world. Countries including the United States, United Kingdom, France, Italy, Switzerland, Belgium, Germany, Palestine, Armenia, Ivory Coast and Belarus will participate in the 2018 edition. From the US, ART by Bankmed takes participants on a journey of street art led by KAWS. The designer, whose real name is Brian Donelly and who recently worked with Dior, will present 40 figurines focussing on ‘current aesthetic and sociological questioning’.
REVEALING by SGBL (sponsored by the Société Générale de Banque au Liban) comes back for a third year, putting 13 emerging artists in the spotlight who are predicted to go on to do big things. As part of that, the Byblos Bank Award ceremony takes place for the seventh year in a row.
Another highlight for this year is Patrick Boustani, an urban planner and architect who will be using his artistic talent to recreate a model of Beirut live as the event takes place. However, Lebanese nationals and international attendees alike might most look forward to Lebanon Modern! A Tribute to Paul Guiragossian, which celebrates the painter’s work. With 25 years passing since his death, the Paul Guiragossian Foundation presents sound and video recordings for the first time.
Guests can also enjoy roundtable talks, debates and discussions on collecting, heritages pieces and the understanding of art.
Artistic flair spills out into the streets, with the Beirut Art Week overlapping the start of Beirut Art Fair. Kicking off September 18 and running until September 25, it’s a time when the general public gets to enjoy the wonders of art, even if they may not ordinarily choose to. Those in the city during Beirut Art Week are likely to see incredible sculptures popping up by the roadside as well as in stores. It even takes the idea of revelling in art one step further, by hosting open-air cinema on an archaeological site.
Beirut Art Fair is free.
For the public, Thursday 20 and Friday 21 see the programme run from 3pm to 9pm; on Saturday 22 and Sunday 23 it begins earlier, at 12pm, and runs until 9pm.
The invitation-only Art Collectors Preview takes place Wednesday September 19 (4pm–6pm), after which the VIP Opening is hosted from 6pm to 10pm, for those with a VIP Pass.
Those with VIP Lounge by Arab Bank (Lebanon) access will get to exclusively experience the bank’s collection of home-grown art and enjoy food catered by local chef Tara Khattar. The VIP Program also offers special conferences and workshops, as well as a look at private collections from across the country. It’s also an opportunity to meet with experts at signings and discover a library of rarely seen books for purchase.
Taking place in Hall 3 of the Seaside Arena (formerly BIEL), the gathering is situated on the Downtown area’s scenic Beirut New Waterfront. The good news is it’s only a 15-minute taxi ride from the airport and just six minutes from the buzzing Downtown area where many of the discounted partner accommodation options are based.
Think before you book a stay. A number of hotels have teamed up with the event – including official partner, the five-star Le Gray – to offer visitors discounted rates close to the action. These hotels, within a short car journey, include The Smallville Hotel (13 minutes), L’Hôte Libanais (eight minutes), Saifi Suites (seven minutes), Hotel Albergo Relais et Chateaux (11 minutes) and Hamra Urban Garden (10 minutes).
Check out the website for more information on rates.