This year’s MenasArt Fair took place in Beirut between July 13-16. The chosen venue was Biel in downtown Beirut. It was significant that this year’s event took place in a newly renovated part of Beirut, built for the sole purpose of hosting international exhibitions. The first glimpse I got of the fair was on the opening night. As I headed toward the entrance I was pleasantly surprised by the long line of cars ahead of me. This was surely a positive sign.
I got out of my car and headed to the entrance, where members of the MenasArt team were standing by greeting the evening’s guests. I walked in and was very impressed with the size of this year’s exhibition. Twenty-four galleries from across the MENA region were represented at the fair. Despite the turmoil in the region and the fact that several galleries dropped out of the event, the exhibition hall looked full, and was very well organized. The gallery booths were spread along the exhibition hall, while the café and speaker’s hall were on opposite ends of the space.
The first thing I noticed at MenasArt was the amount of languages and Arabic dialects being spoken. It became clear to me from the very beginning that this fair was truly international, and one that represented works from across the region and beyond.
The opening night was very busy, with hundreds of guests attending. I did not attend last year’s MenasArt but was informed by many that this year’s fair was much better organized, and subsequently had a much higher attendance. I must comment that the fair’s PR team did a great job in getting the word out there. This year featured lectures and speeches by various collectors, academics, and art investors, with at least 3 interesting talks every day.
One great section of this year’s MenasArt was the ‘Great Collectors of Lebanon’ hall, where twelve of the greatest Lebanese art collections were on display, including those of Johnny Mokbel and Saleh Barakat. The collections included the works of Lebanon’s master painters including Shafic Abboud, Farid Aouad, Ayman Baalbaki, and Nabil Nahas. This is the first collective effort I have noticed on behalf of collectors to pool their collections together to create a space to show their works. I commend them for sharing their work to the public. In Lebanon especially, given the absence of museums, the only works the public have access to are those that are part of collections. Without collectors contributing to the region’s art scene, as these twelve have kindly done, the Middle Eastern art scene will never fully reach its potential. I hope many more collectors will start providing public access to their works.
I greatly enjoyed the fair, and enjoyed the fact that there were different events and speeches to attend each day. While there were many great works, I did find some works to be quite disappointing however. By Friday, I noticed that some galleries had almost sold all their displayed works while others had only sold one or two pieces. Overall however, the fair was a great success. It was well organized, well publicized, and had interesting events planned for each day, as well as having great galleries and artwork represented under one roof.
Check out some of my favorite pieces from the fair (organized by gallery):
Lam Art Gallery (Saudi Arabia):
‘Fayrouz’ by Corinne Martine, 130 x 130 cm:
‘Abdelhalim’ by Bassem Alsharqi, 160 x 146 cm:
FA Gallery (Kuwait):
‘The Kiss’ by Shurooq Amin, 120 x 130 cm:
‘Remaining Kuwait II’ by Hamad Al Saab & Ali Sultan, 130 x 162 cm:
Agial Art Gallery (Beirut):
Untitled by Oussama Baalbaki, 150 x 180 cm:
Mark Hachem Gallery (Beirut):
Works by Sabhan Adam:
‘A Bench with a View 2’ by Zena Assi, 170 x 170 cm:
‘Linkage’ by Mohammad El Rawas, 170 x 150 cm:
Ayyam Gallery (Beirut):
Ayyam Gallery booth:
Works by Nadim Karam:
Janet Rady Fine Art (London):
Work by Camille Zakharia:
Galerie Epreuve D’artiste (Beirut):
‘Bee’ by Bokja:
Le Violon Bleu (Tunis):
‘Femme Allongee’ by Lalla Essaydi, 245 x 102 cm:
‘Sur Le Fil’ by Meriam Bouderbala, 107 x 189 cm:
Ward Culture & Art Center Egypt:
Painter Khaled Hafez alongside two of his works:
Ated Ahmed’s works:
Great Collectors in Lebanon:
‘A La Belle Polonaise’ by Shafic Aboud, Courtsey of Mokbel Art Collection:
Untitled by Farid Aouad, Courtesy of the Saleh Barakat Collection:
A piece by Ayman Baalbaki with its owner Johnny Mokbel: