For our four-legged friends

A fundraising auction of delightful works on paper will help provide much-needed support for Lebanon’s rescue animals, while also honouring the legacy of the kind-hearted and talented designer Gaïa Fodoulian 

There’s no doubt that Lebanon’s animals have been among the many innocent casualties of the crisis that continues to engulf the country, with the number of abandoned pets and poorly strays ever increasing from what has long been a critical level.

Against this backdrop, one key local group - the Gaïa Fodoulian Association - is looking to take the support it offers rescue dogs and cats up a level by raising funds to build a shelter for our four-legged friends in need.

Its latest fundraising initiative is an art and design live auction that will take place on July 20 at the Sursock Museum, with featured works on display at the venue from July 15 onwards. 

Titled ‘Take me away to Better Days’, the auction will showcase a fantastic mix of unique and limited edition works by more than 20 artists and designers. All profits will go towards supporting the animals looked after by the association, which works tirelessly to provide the best possible care for the animals, ensuring they’re given medical treatment and a loving, comfortable temporary home, until they’re adopted.

As the name makes clear, the association is part of a legacy set up by the art patron and gallerist Annie Vartivarian, and other family members, to honour her daughter Gaïa Fodoulian, who tragically lost her life in the Beirut Port explosion of August 4, 2020, aged just 29.

“Gaïa had a very sensitive and compassionate nature,” Annie explained. “When spotting an abandoned dog or injured cat, for example, she could never just leave them. She wanted to show ‘haram’ to everyone.”

Since being established almost two years ago, the association has rescued over 75 dogs and cats from dire and often heart-breaking circumstances. With the organisation’s work increasing, the need for a new shelter that can provide better medical and fostering services is becoming more urgent than ever. 

“Until now, we’ve put the dogs and cats in boarding accommodation, but that has been very expensive,” Annie said. “Building our own shelter to temporarily house the animals is the best solution all round.”

Aside from being an animal lover, Gaïa was also a talented qualified designer and, in the months before her untimely death, when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, had channelled her energy and passion into launching AD Leb, a ground-breaking, online platform and cultural space aimed at championing the work of local and international artists and designers. 

“Gaïa was really excited about the project, after being down, like so many, during lockdown,” she said. “She described it as a virtual gallery or gallery without walls and was busy working on ideas, like branding and the website, just before the explosion.”

Her tragic death in the blast could have brought AD Leb to a standstill just months after its launch. However, still reeling from the shock, Annie made the difficult but brave decision to continue with the initiative, encouraged to do so by her brother and other family members. “I realised that it was vitally important – a way of fulfilling Gaïa’s vision and keeping her dreams alive,” Annie explained.  

‘Take me away to Better Days’ is a collaborative project for AD Leb, ArtScoops and Agenda Culturel. Annie explained that the name of the auction is a quote created by Gaïa – one of many that her daughter came up with for life’s ups and downs, and which she regularly posted on social media.

“She was always creating wonderful sayings that were so relevant to our life experiences. In fact, we’ve used them as titles for all our AD Leb shows to date,” Annie said.

Annie has also ensured that AD Leb’s ethos reflects Gaïa’s approach to the contemporary art scene by pushing boundaries and taking risks with its digital format and avant garde approach to curating. “We wanted to break rules and do things differently when bringing art and design together,” she explained.

This mindset is evident in the ‘Take me away to Better Days’ auction, which Annie has decided will focus exclusively on a delightful selection of works on paper. “This decision might surprise some people, but for us, it’s all about experimenting and trying out new ideas, while keeping Gaïa’s memory alive and raising money for a cause she was truly passionate about,” she said.

‘Take me away to Better Days’ features works by a broad range of artists and designers, namely: Gaïa Fodoulian herself; Ahmed Badry; Basir Mahmood; Nathaniel Rackowe; Hatem Imam; Hassan Zahreddine; Eileen Cooper; Nada Debs; Caroline Tabet; Oliver DeGem; Christine Safatly; Joanna Andraos; Colette Arslan; Adrián PéPe; Ieva Saudargaitė Douaihi; Roula Salamoun; Hussein Nassereddine; Chérine Yazbeck; Rina Jaber; Charbel Haber; Sibylle Tarazi; Radhika Khimji; Karen Chekerdjian; Nathalie Khayat; Sirine Fattouh; Dia Mrad; Samer Bou Rjeily; and Nayef Francis. 

The ‘Take me away to Better Days’ auction takes place at the Sursock Museum on July 20 at 6 PM. Featured works can be viewed at the museum from July 15-19.

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