As an educational, integrative platform, Art.Form is providing a welcome reminder that art’s worth needs to be viewed holistically, with the creative and social factors considered alongside its commercial Value.
It all started with the October 2019 protests in Lebanon, where colourful illustrations and thought-provoking messages were sprayed onto buildings around Beirut and its surroundings, reflecting the mood of the country and, once relayed in photos across social media, helping to galvanise support for the cause worldwide.
These examples of street art also served as an important reminder that groundbreaking, informative art can be found anywhere around us and not only inside prestigious museums and galleries.
During those turbulent times, these thoughts were shared by Hiba Chéhab, Ali Atwi and Maya Turk – three art professionals based in Beirut, who witnessed the protests first-hand and saw the way in which street art acted as a catalyst for change.
“We’ve all long viewed art as an important power which was very much in evidence during the protests in Lebanon,” Chéhab explained.
Turk agreed, adding, “The manifestation of street art also reaffirmed our belief that when art is made more widely accessible, it has the ability to make a difference in the lives of people, to break down stereotypes, inspire and educate.”
Chéhab, Atwi and Turk decided to create a project that would build on these ideas and also take them a step further. The result is Art.Form, an educational integrative art platform launched a few weeks ago that aims to enhance art’s understanding through interactive, inclusive means, with a focus on the artists’ experiences, as well as audience participation.
The protests of 2019 demonstrated one way in which art conveys powerful messages through the masses which helped decentralise and democratise art, and, to achieve its aims, Art.Form will be undertaking projects outside of traditional art, as well as in cultural hubs and centres.
“There are undoubtedly some fantastic initiatives and institutions in the central areas, but we want to add to them and extend art’s reach farther afield and hopefully target new audiences,” Atwi explained.
Turk explained that one of Art.Form’s missions, aside from promoting artists and their work, is to help them broaden their horizons, to be recognised and valued not only in Lebanon but internationally as well.
In keeping with this ethos, Art.Form chose Mountada Sour, Tyr, as the location for its first initiative in May 2023 – a book launch held at Kain Bookstore in the presence of its author, the Lebanese artist and lecturer, Hussein Hussein. At the event, which was organised in partnership with Lebanon Readers Society, the audience had the opportunity to discuss the book, titled “La page manquante de l’Histoire de l’Art rebelle. Les Incohérents 1882-1893”, in the presence of the artist, and then visit his studio.
Hussein chose this topic for his PhD and discussed with the audience at the book signing his attempt to elevate the “Incohérents” to the status of rebel artists. This specific event highlighted one of Art.Form’s core values – that of prioritising the educational aspect of art, rather than focusing primarily on its commercial value.
Its founders recognise that the commercial aspect of art is important and, indeed, part of Art.Form’s mission is to advise clients on art acquisition. However, the team all agree that while it’s satisfying to see the regional art market booming, the educational element can easily get lost along the way. Their belief is that it’s crucial to step back and remind people that art has creative and social value, as well as commercial value.
Against this backdrop, Art.Form’s forthcoming projects will include outreach initiatives in schools and universities, enabling its founders to achieve one of their key aims, which is creating educational programmes and workshops for organisations and institutions in remote areas.
Chéhab, Atwi and Turk explained that the focus will remain firmly on encouraging lively discussions on art, with plenty of crossovers between artists and audiences. “Something we’ve often remarked upon is how Lebanon used to be a hub for these kinds of debates and activities, with intelligentsia gathering in cafes and studios discussing issues of the time, hanging out together,” they noted. “It may sound a little nostalgic and we’re not looking to recreate ‘La Belle Epoque’ but it would be wonderful to see important, timely conversations, inspired by art, occurring among today’s young generations.”
For more information on Art.Form, go to art.form.lb on Instagram or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chéhab has a background in psychology, learning and development, and art gallery management. Art.Form has enabled her to combine her passion for art and education. Chéhab holds a Master’s in Clinical Psychology from Saint Joseph University Beirut and a Certificate in Art Management from ESA Business School, Beirut.
Atwi is an interior architect, art advisor, furniture designer and painter. His experience has enabled him to establish a solid network that includes artists, art galleries and art consultants on a global scale. He has successfully collaborated with several artists to curate their exhibitions and art projects. Atwi is a trusted consultant for several art collectors in the Middle East region.
Turk is the founder and CEO of Maya Turk studio, an interior architecture firm. Having developed an appreciation of and interest in art over the years, she began building her own personal collection, which inspired her to specialise in Art History and Curating at the American University of Beirut in 2018. This step paved the way for her to further expand her knowledge in art history through theoretical engagement with practical curatorship and exhibition research.
In 2022, Turk combined her passion for art and continuous learning by completing a certificate in Arts Management at ESA. Since then, she has been consulting for clients in art acquisitions.