Johny Mokbel has amassed one of the finest collections of Lebanese art in private hands. Whether it is Chafic Abboud or Ayman Baalbaki, the Mokbel Art Collection holds Lebanese artwork from a wide array of time periods and art forms. The Mokbel Collection is also one of the first collections in Lebanon to be showcased to the public and promoted through its own website and at the Menasart fair.
1. Johnny, can you tell me when you started to collect art?
2. What initially got you interested in art?
3. What was the first piece you ever collected?
Summer Day I & Summer Day II by Paul Guiragossian
4. Do you still love that piece?
5. When did you first start collecting?
1999 seriously collecting Lebanese-made art
6. How has your collecting taste developed?
It developed well, as today I am open to all types and school of art providing that the quality is in there
7. Do you still collect the same artists you collected when you first started?
8. Your collection consists solely of Lebanese art, why have you chosen to focus your collecting on Lebanese art?
Quality and still-affordable prices
9. As a follow up question, do you think Lebanese art should be categorized with Middle Eastern art? Why, why not?
If you scrutinize Christie’s last couple of auctions you will notice that Lebanese artists have a good bite of the cake despite the fact that we are a small country with only 4 million inhabitant in comparison to Syria, Iran, Egypt, Turkey … so I believe that Lebanon must have it’s own identity and say ‘art from Lebanon’ however since Lebanon has been always a message and a source of inspiration and reference to the countries in our surrounding why not make them benefit as well from our strength so why not? Let is be categorized with Middle Eastern art.
10. Who are some of the artists you collect and what characteristics of these works attracts you?
Paul Guiragossian, Chafik Abboud, Aref Rayess, Ayman Baalbaki, Tagreed Darghout, etc to each one his own style of expression
11. Are the artists you collect from the same time period or do you mix contemporary and more traditional works?
I mix and it is a part of my personality
12. What are some of the characteristics Lebanese artwork share? How would you define Lebanese art?
For the young artists the artworks convey their post war trauma and so our society as for the founding fathers of modern Lebanese art they are the continuity but made in Lebanon of other international schools
13. What do you think of the art scene in Beirut today? The galleries, collectors etc.?
14. What do you think is needed to further enhance Lebanon’s art scene?
Market our art scene and artists more aggressively
15. Do you normally buy your artwork from the artist directly or from a gallery/dealer?
It depends where the opportunity to catch the right piece is. Sometime you find it in the primary and some other time in the secondary markets (auction) from where I buy is not important for me what is important is the piece itself and that’s all, all the rest are details
16. What do you think of the Middle Eastern art scene at the moment?
It is booming
17. Would you ever think of collecting non-Lebanese artwork from the region? Why? Why not?
Yes why not but you need a bigger budget to do it right now
For more information on the Mokbel Art Collection, check out the website here: