Located in the heart of Beirut, BIEL hosted the 2015 edition of the Beirut Art Fair (BAF) from September 17 to September 20.
More than 1500 artworks by 300 artists were all gathered in one place for a colorful parenthesis in an otherwise dark Lebanon.
Since 2010, the BAF has been the yearly rendezvous for all contemporary artists in Beirut. Local artists such as Mazen Kerbaj and jeweler Henry Dakkak, Jr. were present, in addition to local galleries and showrooms.
International galleries joined as well, such as the Galerie Rauchfeld from Paris, exposing the work of foreign artists. Gathering more visitors year after year, the BAF is a meeting point for both amateurs and professionals.
When entering the BAF, one journeys into the different world of each artist, from the darkest paintings to the playful swimming pool installation. While some prefer to stick to the usual (ie. paintings on canvases), others like to show more audacity and originality by performing live in front of an audience, or even creating interactive games and inviting the visitors to play.
An example of this new artistic way of interacting with the public was Nadine Abou Zaki’s “Please don’t touch” performance. A man trapped in a pink sparkly sheet sat on a lit black platform, and every time someone touched him, a”statue”, he would move a part of his body, squirming in impossible ways.
Other random installations were present at the BAF, but one of the most striking setups was Nalbandian’s interpretation of the political situation in Lebanon. Instead of devoting their space solely to their product, the traditional Lebanese carpenters added plastic bags on the side to look like the streets of Beirut: full of trash.
“Important personalities will come to the art fair, and they must see in what conditions we live,” stated the person responsible for the booth.
In the middle of the scene, a bathroom cabinet was found in front of a Lebanese flag, symbolizing what should be the empty presidential seat. “We called this concept ‘Have a shit’ instead of ‘Have a seat’.”
Visitors surely got lost in this maze of contemporary paintings, a chaos of black and grey figures, before ending up in front of a picture of a Barbie wearing nothing but a bra. Showcasing Greek, French, and many other art pieces, the BAF seemingly presents the only time Lebanese citizens get to see such a variety of work in a single space.
Although the fair was rich with new concepts and installations, previous editions put the bar high for this year’s fair to truly impress. Romy Matar, a Graphic Design student at AUB, had higher expectations for the 2015 BAF: “Some of the stuff are déja-vu and traditional. There is a variety of stuff, but nothing too creative.”
Each year, the BAF offers a gateway into a range of different, creative worlds. Not only is it an exhibition for the artists to show their work, but it is also a means of adding some color and beauty into the hectic mess that is Beirut right now.