A voyage of discovery
The founder and director of BEIRUT ART FAIR Laure d’Hauteville tells Artscoops about the challenges and thrills of making a major regional cultural event bigger and better year on year.
Laure d'Hauteville, Founder & Fair Director (© Vivian van Blerk)
1.The 2016 edition of the Beirut Art Fair promises to raise the bar even higher in terms of scale and diversity. What do you think sets it apart from other international contemporary art fairs and enables it to succeed in such a competitive climate?
BEIRUT ART FAIR’s ability to succeed in a competitive climate lies in the fact that it is always attuned to the expectations of art collectors and art enthusiasts. For that reason, we have decided to present the new space ‘REVEALING by SGBL’, which is a discovery platform dedicated to contemporary art, and the exhibition ‘LEBANON MODERN! by Bankmed’, that explores the specific history of modern art in Lebanon and highlights the role of Lebanese women artists between 1945 and 1975.
2.How has the fair evolved since its first edition in 2010? Do you think descriptions of it as a ‘discovery’ fair are accurate?
In just a few years, BEIRUT ART FAIR has become an international artistic event that attracts an ever greater number of visitors to Lebanon: professionals and art lovers from the region and from around the world. We started in 2010 with 3500 visitors, rising to 21,000 visitors in the 2015 edition, and generated $3.2 million - four times the total revenue of the first edition in 2010. The programme of BEIRUT ART FAIR is renewed each year with different highlights, which makes it a “discovery” fair.
Zad Moultaka, Come in terra II, 2014, Mixed media on paper, 88 x 97 cm
3.How do you rise to the challenge of ensuring that the Beirut Art Fair develops and excites year on year?
As already stated, the challenge is to bring out every year a new programme and create the trends in contemporary art in the Middle East/North Africa/South Asia (ME.NA.SA.).
4.What was behind the decision to make ‘young talent’ a key focus of the seventh edition of the Beirut Art Fair?
BEIRUT ART FAIR has always played a role in the discovery and highlight of young talents throughout its past editions. Even more this year, with the new dedicated space – ‘REVEALING by SGBL’ – for the discovery of the ME.NA.SA region’s most promising artists, all the way from Morocco to China, via Egypt and Palestine.
Halim Jurdak, Untitled, 2000, Collage & ink on paper, 52 x 47 cm
5.The ‘Lebanon Modern’ exhibition is another new concept for the 2016 Beirut Art Fair. What do you think this exhibition will bring to the fair?
For the first time, BEIRUT ART FAIR will honour Lebanese women artists from the modernist period with the exhibition ‘LEBANON MODERN!’. Through a selection of works originating from both private collections and from the Lebanese Ministry of Culture, the exhibition will showcase the strength and creative energy of women artists who are often unknown to the general public. A number of these artists have been the subjects of important retrospectives at leading international institutions, including Saloua Raouda Choucair (Tate Modern, 2013) and Etel Adnan (the Serpentine Gallery, London and the Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris, in 2016). Exhibited artists include (in chronological order by date of birth): Bibi Zogbé (1890-1973), Marie Hadad (1895-1973), Blanche Lohéac Ammoun (1912-2011), Saloua Raouda Choucair (1916), Helen Khal (1923-2009), Etel Adnan (1925), Cici Sursock (1926-2015), Yvette Achkar (1928), Huguette Caland (1931), Laure Ghorayeb (1931), Juliana Séraphim (1934-2005), Nadia Saikali (1936), and Seta Manoukian (1945). This exhibition will showcase the importance of Lebanon in the History of Arab Art for the whole world and how the culture is everywhere in the Cedars country!
6.What has been the reaction to the design section of the fair?
The design section of BEIRUT ART FAIR has been in existence since 2013 for three consecutive years. This year, we prefer to focus on Modern & Contemporary art. However, due to the success of design in Lebanon during the past three years in BEIRUT ART FAIR, a new fair will open in 2017: BEIRUT DESIGN FAIR, from September 21 to 24.
Guy Ferrer, Dual, 2016, Mixed Media on Paper, 54 x 56 cm
7.Painting, drawing, sculpture, video, by confirmed, rediscovered and emerging artists are all featured at the 2016 fair. Are there any genres/media/artists that you expect to be particular talking points at this year’s event?
The 7th edition of BEIRUT ART FAIR will feature 45 galleries based in 20 countries. With 27 galleries participating in the new ‘REVEALING by SGBL’ section, the 7th edition of BEIRUT ART FAIR will be specially geared towards the discovery of young talents with ties to principally the ME.NA.SA. region. Following a selection process overseen by leading collectors from the region - Basel Dalloul, Abraham Karabajiakian, Tarek Nahas - these galleries will present the young artists that they consider to be especially promising.
8.Your association with Lebanon and its art dates back over 26 years, during which you also organized the earlier ARTSUD fairs. What do you think sets the Lebanese art scene apart from those of its regional peers?
The art scene of Lebanon is characterized by an incredible, joyful dynamism, and it finds itself today in full expansion through a series of initiatives.
9.Has regional unrest had a negative impact on Lebanon’s art scene and its artists?
The regional unrest did not have a negative impact on Lebanon’s art scene and its artists and the evidence is a series of initiatives that have seen the light such as the re-opening of Sursock Museum, the inauguration of the Aïshti Foundation, The Dar el Nimer Foundation, Musée National Virtuel d’Art Moderne (initiative of the Lebanese ministry of Culture), La Maison Jaune ‘Beit Beirut’, and new art spaces, such as Marfa’ Project and Saleh Barakat Gallery.
Anonymous from Wiru and Abelam tribes from Papua New Guinea, 1960, Natural bark and rattan and pigments, 120 x 85 cm
10. What do you think the future holds for contemporary Middle Eastern art?
An increasing number of international museums are interested in the region, especially in Lebanon, which is considered as a cultural anchor in the Middle East. To create the future, we also need the past. The region’s art continues to attract professionals and it will grow more internationally. We live in an exciting period! Ten years ago, the ME.NA artists didn’t have much visibility. Watch today the attraction they exert on art enthusiasts, and this is just the beginning!
A host of new galleries, some of which are also from new countries, will participate in the 2016 edition of the BEIRUT ART FAIR.