‘Lebanese Artists in Solidarity with Agenda Culturel’ auction now underway
Publishing house marks 25+2 anniversary with large-scale art sale and other celebrations
Myriam Shuman, Agenda Culturel
To say things have been difficult for the Lebanese people in recent years would be a huge understatement.
However, already renowned for their resilience, resourcefulness and spirit, many citizens have continued to dig deep, despite facing a slew of challenges, and even found time to mark a special occasion in style.
One such event just around the corner is Agenda Culturel’s 25th anniversary celebrations, delayed from 2019, but now firmly on this year’s Fall calendar.
Myriam Shuman, who oversees the publishing house’s operations, explained that the team are now in the final stages of preparing a fantastic feast of entertainment, showcasing both the visual and performing arts, which will take place at Beit Beirut on October 28 and is now being billed as Agenda Culturel’s 25+2 birthday.
A highlight of the celebrations will be a large-scale art auction, titled ‘Lebanese Artists in Solidarity with Agenda Culturel’, which is being organised in conjunction with ArtScoops. “The auction is significant for us in that it marks the first time that we’re asking Lebanese artists and galleries to donate a piece of art to raise funds directly to support Agenda Culturel and ensure we can continue with our work on a firm footing,” Myriam explained.
The sale will showcase an impressive 80 or so pieces of work, created using a diverse mix of media. It will run from October 25-27 online, with viewing also available at Agenda Culturel’s offices, before culminating in a live finale at Beit Beirut (Sodeco) on October 28.
While the auction has no specific theme, there will undoubtedly be several highlights amongst the pieces for sale. On a separate note, and in keeping with Agenda Culturel’s role of championing the avant garde, the publishing house will also present the first Non Fungible Token (NFT) artwork during an auction in Lebanon.
The project – a collaboration with the Cheriff Tabet Gallery – will perfectly merge the old with the new, taking the form of a selected piece by the nonagenarian artist Samir Tabet, which is set to be digitalized. “We’re especially delighted that the subject of the artwork is apples, since we decided to dedicate our anniversary celebrations to the Lebanese Apple, in recognition of its symbolic and historic role as a vital fruit of the land and unifying beacon of hope for the future,” Myriam said.
While Agenda Culturel is looking to the auction to secure its future, the publishing house’s team have kept themselves busy during the pandemic-induced lockdowns by working on several new projects. Top of the list is a new English language version of their flagship publication, titled mymagenda.com, which will be launched during the birthday celebrations and represents the result of two years of painstaking research.
Myriam explained that the decision to produce a resource in English was made after the team identified a gap in the market. “We realised that despite demand, there wasn’t a single tool in English bringing all the art and cultural events taking place across the region under one umbrella, so coming up with content to meet that need definitely seemed like a good thing to do,” she said.
Other projects that have kept Myriam and her colleagues occupied during the worst of the pandemic included the launch of a popular series of interviews with personalities who shared their lockdown experiences, titled ‘Life in the Time of Corona’.
Myriam is convinced that Agenda Culturel’s strong digital presence was a bonus when the challenging environment forced the publishing house to suspend its print runs and move online. “Fortunately, we’d launched the website early and already had a strong, loyal following online,” she said. “Having everything in place made things much easier. In fact, our weekly newsletter has become a regular inbox feature which we know art and culture lovers look forward to receiving.”
Other successful projects include the Beirut Art Map (BAM), which, Myriam explained, brought all the galleries and their shows together in a single document, pre-Covid, and triggered follow-up projects in the form of a BAM for Guesthouses in 2020 and the highly successful, EU-sponsored, summer map for wineries, guesthouses and museums. “We were confident that people would want to go out and enjoy themselves in summer, after such a difficult time,” Myriam said of the summer initiative. “The project went down really well with readers, which inspired us to work on a winter concept that includes new categories, such as handicrafts and fairs. We’re now looking at new, tourism-related ideas and have expanded our digital tools to include podcasts and videos.”
Myriam said that while Agenda Culturel had long led the way in championing Lebanon’s art and culture scene, she was convinced it now had a bigger, broader role to play in helping Lebanon reinvent itself at what was unarguably a time of transition for the country.
“It’s been a privilege to have carved a niche as the go-to resource for all things art and culture related, but we also believe we can support Lebanon as it looks to regain its identity and map out its future,” she said. “We’ve been amazed at the generosity shown by artists donating to our auction and truly hope that this sale will not only provide a welcome opportunity to celebrate our milestone anniversary, but also enable us to throw our weight behind the country that we love and believe in through new projects.”