Decades of economic growth and cultural prosperity culminated in Beirut in the 1960’s. Concurrently, several neighboring countries underwent a succession of turbulent political shifts prompting a prolonged influx of intellectuals and cultural practitioners into Beirut. A rise in affluent individuals with purchasing power and a knack for art triggered a boom in the art market. New art galleries dotted the city, non-commercial art spaces thrived, and exhibitions flourished. A Beirut-specific form of cultural cosmopolitanism was in the making. The city served as platform for a heterogeneous pool of artists, such as Shafik Abboud, Huguette Caland, Aref El Rayess, Saloua Raouda Choucair, Paul Guiragossian, Etel Adnan, and Amine El Bacha, where they could engage with the political, as well as the formal concerns of the time. Beirut was bursting at the seams, not only with people, but also with ideas. When looking back, this period is often referred to as the “Golden Age” of Beirut.
Fifty years on, Perspective #1 maps out the landscape of the numerous art spaces within Beirut throughout the long 1960’s. It is as such conceived as a critical inquiry into this “Golden Age” narrative. This first edition places the emphasis on the numerous cultural figures and spaces that contributed to a complex chapter of Beirut’s cultural history. Perspectives 1 equally seeks to locate the Saradar Art Collection within the city’s history of artistic practices by unearthing the historiography of a number of artworks hailing roughly from the 1960’s. It sheds light on where they were exhibited within this network of art spaces, and how they were critically received.
For this first edition, curators Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath have amassed an unprecedented amount of archival materials and primary sources consisting of more than 1,000 newspaper articles, unpublished letters, photographs, exhibition materials, film footage of exhibitions and studio visits, etc. spanning two decades of artistic production and covering more than 50 of the most active art spaces in Beirut between 1955 and 1975. This considerable corpus will be featured on a dedicated Perspective website in the form of a searchbale map and interactive timeline. The website serves as a research platform for artists, scholars of art history, curators and anybody else who is pursuing further knowledge about Beirut's history of art and its development. This will be followed by an academic symposium featuring contributions from established scholars in the field, along with first-hand witnesses and participants from the two-decade period that is covered by this first edition. The sessions and respective papers from the symposium will be made available online. Through both, the website and the symposium, along with the renewed assessment of selected artworks from the Sardar Collection within the critical discourse and artistic landscape in which these were first created and exhibited, Perspective #1 allows the Saradar Collection to become witness to a key period in the history of modernism in Beirut and beyond.
About the Curators:
Drs. Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath are internationally recognised independent curators and academics. They are Founders of Art Reoriented, a multidisciplinary curatorial platform based in Munich and New York, Chairmen of the Montblanc Cultural Foundation in Hamburg, and Affiliate Curators at the Martin Gropius Bau in Berlin. Bardaouil and Fellrath have held teaching positions at various universities including the London School of Economics and New York University. Their curatorial practice is equally rooted in the field of modernist studies, as well as in global contemporary artistic practices.Over the past decade, Bardaouil and Fellrath have jointly curated numerous critically acclaimed exhibitions including “Art et Liberté: Rupture, War, and Surrealism in Egypt (1938 – 1948)”, “When Process Becomes Form: Dansaekhwa and Korean Abstraction”, “Staging Film”, “Tea with Nefertiti”, “Told Untold Retold”, and “Mona Hatoum: Turbulence”. Their exhibitions have been shown in renowned museums and institutions worldwide such as Centre Pompidou in Paris, Arter - space for art in Istanbul, Reina Sofia in Madrid, Gwangju and Busan Museums of Art in South Korea, Mathaf - Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha, the Tate Liverpool, Villa Empain in Brussels, Kunstsammlung K20 in Dusseldorf, IVAM in Valencia, and the Moderna Museet in Stockholm. Their exhibition Ways of Seeing is currently on view at the NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery. In 2013 Bardaouil and Fellrath were the curators of the Lebanese National Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, and in 2016 they were part of the team of curatorial attachés for the 20th Biennale of Sydney. They are curators of the UAE Pavilion for the upcoming Venice Biennale in 2019.