September doesn’t only mark the start of the working year, but the start of the cultural and artistic season in Beirut. Opening the exhibition ball this season, the seventh edition of the Beirut Art Fair regrouped a variety of painters, photographers, and sculptors from all over the world.
One thousand and five hundred artworks from more than 45 galleries, 20 countries, created by 300 artists from 28 nationalities were on display at Biel from Thursday, September 15, to Sunday, September 18. This year’s edition included a mixture of local and International artists, such as Christine Kettaneh, some of Banksy’s original artwork, and Italian artist Matteo Basilé.
For the past few years, the BAF has been an artistic annual rendez-vous for art connoisseurs and amateurs to uncover new talents. With the support of Byblos Bank, Bankmed and SGBL, the BAF emphasized on the emergence of local talents this year.
Per usual, the Byblos Bank held its annual youth photography award, with Elsn Lahoud as this year’s winner. SGBL shed light on emerging young artists with a micro exhibition called “Revealing.” Within the space, each gallery exposed one of its talents to collectors in the hopes of launching the career of their protégés. Female painters from 1945 to 1975 were privileged this year, with a space called “Lebanon Modern,” featuring works from artists such as Cici Sursock and Laure Ghorayeb. Another stand worth stopping at was the Elie Saab photo booth. The haute couture house is sponsoring the photography and fashion contest of Hyères, which offers the winner a four weeks residency in Beirut. Last year’s winner, Evangelia Kranioti, who photographed the romanticized version of Beirut was worth the detour.
The exhibition seemed to have a fairly decent success this year. However, there was almost no press coverage of the exhibition. The BAF does have quite a famous reputation, but the lack of coverage may have affected the entrance rate. Though the exhibition presented a variety of artworks in terms of content, it lacked some animation and action compared to the previous years. Elsa Fadlallah, an AUB junior, was disappointed by the displayed oeuvres.
“Although the pieces exhibited were good, there was a sense of déjà-vu. I didn’t feel like I discovered anything new. The BAF is a platform where national, as well as international artists can share their art, and this year’s fair didn’t rise up to meet its past standards,” said Fadlallah.
On the other hand, some people preferred this rather static exhibition, in which multiple media and textures met. Taymour Kanaan, a USJ student argued in favor of “the mixture of different fixed pieces, such as paintings created with raw material, or untraditional pictures.”
“It did lack a bit of interaction, but they made up for that in terms of paintings and sculptures,” Kanaan said.
All in all, the BAF remains one of the only exhibitions in Lebanon that englobes such a variety of artists from different backgrounds. A BAF press release stated that next year’s edition will have an exhibition dedicated to design, and will showcase both local and regional talents.