Lebanon on canvas
Almost 20 years have passed since Johnny Mokbel founded the Mokbel Art Collection with his wife, Nadine. Today, the collection has evolved from a precious treasure trove of handpicked contemporary and modern Lebanese works into a multinational project dedicated to supporting Lebanese talent throughout the Middle East.
Here, Johnny tells Artscoops about his methods for identifying new talent and the challenges that collectors face.
Jamil Molaeb, Liberty, Oil and pastel on paper, 65x50 cm, 2001
What was behind your decision to start collecting art?
I found that Lebanese modern art dating back to the late 1990s was still undervalued and decided that it made sense to invest in it. Who wouldn’t if they could?
Tell us more about your journey into the art world…
You are combining value and beauty so it is a beautiful journey to chose.
Have your tastes changed since you first started collecting in 1998?
Although I naturally have some preferences, I’ve become more open and will today consider almost all types of art.
Marwan Sahmarani, Huroub 3, Gold leaf, gloss paint, acrylic, textile, crayon and charcoal on paper, 140x200 cm, 2012
How do you discover young talents?
If I like what I see, it’s a discovery.
What are your criteria when selecting a piece of art?
I go by drawing, colour composition, quality of execution, subject, size, provenance and signature of the artist in that order.
Does your collection follow a concept or a specific theme?
It’s all Made in Lebanon modern and contemporary works.
Do you have a favourite work?
All of the pieces in our collection are equal favourites.
Aref Rayess, Untitled, Oil on canvas, 98x97 cm
What fascinates you most about art?
The fact that it’s timeless.
What is the biggest challenge when operating in the art world?
Trying to make predictions, such as whether an artist is likely to go up or down in value.
How has your knowledge of art developed and strengthened over the years?
Simply by exercising my eyes on a daily basis.
Do you use advisors or choose works by yourself?
I always make my own decisions.
Is there ever a time when you can say a collection is complete?
Yes, when the cash begins to run out.
Yvette Achkar, Noces Sanglantes, Oil on canvas, 137x106 cm