Wednesday, December 8

Beirut’s Wounds Displayed in Port Blast-Damaged Art Exhibit | Beirut explosion

Across the entrance is a version of Guido Reni’s 17th-century portrait of Saint John the Baptist, torn to shreds. Nearby, a chandelier lies dotted on the ground where it fell. Mirrors are cracked, paintings are cracked, and the ceilings in some rooms are half caved in.

Beirut is slowly rebuilding after the Aug. 4 explosion that destroyed much of its eastern coastal neighborhoods and razed galleries and hotel lobbies where some of Lebanon’s most famous art was displayed.

A new exhibition in the city seeks not to put together works of art, but to remake them, despite the cuts in the canvases and the scrapes in the sculpted stone. Wounded Art, a collection of works damaged and destroyed by the blast, opened this month at the city’s Audi Villa, a severely affected mosaic museum.

In small rooms with curated music and passages of Lebanese scripture and verse, lights mounted behind the canvases draw attention to the damage done to each work.

” The idea was to rebuild the artwork without touching it,” says the curator, Jean-Louis Mainly. “To rebuild it with music, with Lebanese poetry and literature, and of course with light.”

Nayla Romanos Iliya’s Entangled Love sculpture had stood in the lobby of the five-star Le Gray hotel in Beirut, a few hundred meters from the port. The blast destroyed the building, severely damaged the room and sent Iliya “into a coma,” he said.

” I couldn’t function, I wasn’t interested in working, I couldn’t create anything, I couldn’t think, it was too much to deal with,” he said. “ The fact of proposing to show an art that probably endured what I did was the magic formula for me. I felt the blood rush through my veins again. “

Works by  AndLineseButto, center, and SalibDouayhy, left and right, at the Wounded  Art exhibition
Works by AndLineseButto, center, and SalibDouayhy, left and right, at the Wounded Art exhibition. Photography: c / o Villa Audi

He chose to include Entangled Love along with another of his damaged sculptures, Salaam, which had also been in the hotel lobby, located in the center of the city, which was the focus of the Lebanon’s protest movement in 2019.

“For me the sculptures were witnesses to everything that had been happening in Beirut and the blow of grass was this explosion, and they ended up falling and damaging themselves.”

The exhibition also includes works of art created since the explosion, and some subjected to “enhanced relief,” including a piece by British painter Tom Young, who roughly sewed the torn canvas of one of his works.

The ruined center of San Juan de Reni is covered in projections of other historical depictions of the Baptist, until the light suddenly goes out, leaving a brown canvas surrounded by stripes of color and a single recognizable foot.

” The main idea is: why do we have to restore?” Mainly said. “Why can’t we just live with the wound? Why do we have to forget it? And how far do we have to go to live with this wound in our daily life? “

In a city facing concurrent health and economic crises along with the continued impacts of the blast, these were more than cosmetic issues, he said. ” These are the questions we ask ourselves, and all the pieces of this installation are, in fact, answers.”

The exhibition, sponsored by Banque Bemo and the Audi Foundation, will be open until January 16.

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