A New Advocate for the Fine Arts
The latest addition to the magazine market, Gallery aims to bring art into more Lebanese homes and increase its accessibility, while steering clear of critique and academic narrative. Ramzi El Hafez, the publication’s editor, tells ArtScoops more
What prompted you to launch the Gallery magazine and what void do you see it filling in the market?
Gallery is for the young collector, the occasional art buyer and the regular art lover. It is focused solely on the art scene inside Lebanon, its local and non-local artists. Dormant until a few years ago, Beirut's art ecosystem has blossomed rapidly, with galleries mushrooming, auctions multiplying, plenty of new artists emerging, forgotten art being rediscovered and new collections being born. Museums are being planned or renovated, and private collections are being opened to the public. Even the Ministry of Culture has created a website dedicated to its valuable collection. It is therefore only natural to create a publication that focuses on local developments in visual arts, keeps readers informed about events and trends, and offers tips on art acquisition, collecting and preservation.
Gallery will not present artistic critique or academic narratives or become a reference for experts. Instead, it aims to bring art into homes and artists to people. It will publicise exhibitions and events so they become accessible to the widest possible audience. With the shrinkage - even disappearance - of cultural pages in the local press and broadcast media, the emergence of Gallery is a necessity. Gallery is a platform for all members of the local art family. It is an advocate of the fine arts and will collaborate with all elements of the art world in Lebanon to help it grow.
What has been the feedback from the first issues?
Reception of the first two issues of Gallery has been overwhelming. We had anticipated the need for such a magazine, but the reaction to its publication boosted and reinforced our initial assessment. Gallery has quickly become a place where artists, collectors, art lovers, critics, museums, art spaces and, of course, galleries, come together.
These are challenging times for the art industry on a local and international level. What impact do you see regional turbulence and global uncertainty having on the industry and where do you believe the opportunities lie?
Calamity has always been a catalyst for art. One has just to look at Syrian artists for example, to see the reflection of the suffering of Syrians in the work of their artists. Beirut has become a safe haven for artists emanating from Syria, Iraq and even Yemen. If one is to assess creativity and genius, turbulence and uncertainty are good precursors. But if the concern is about money, i.e. market value of art, then, yes, in the short term, there will be a downturn in prices. This is good news for young collectors to get a second chance to add some art to their collections that they previously could not afford. Also, during challenging times, some people are forced to sell their art. While this is unfortunate on an individual level, it has long-term benefits, unveiling works that have remained unseen for decades, and also allows museums to make purchases of seminal work.
How do you think social media platforms and digital tools have changed the way art is being bought, sold and promoted?
Obviously, the digital world has increased access and awareness to all types of art and has allowed remote participation in auction and e-commerce, and direct purchases from galleries. Museums have started publishing their collections online. All this bodes well for the elevation of art appreciation from and to our culture.
What is your advice for emerging artists in the region trying to break into the art scene?
Suffer! Then paint your suffering. Do not copy styles and price moderately to be able to enter as many collections as possible.
From your own observations, what art is proving popular at auctions and among collectors?
All types, except installations, works on paper and prints. There is a renewed interest in old masters, but contemporary art still takes the lead.
Will you give us an insight into your personal art collection?
I collect modernist and contemporary works from artists in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Egypt. Included is a collection of old portraits, as well as many works of rising stars. I usually stay away from abstract work.