is a unique collaboration between cultural institutions spanning Washington DC, Paris, and Beirut with one shared goal: to bring into focus through photography some of the dizzying social, political, and economic developments that have marked Lebanon over the past decade and a half. Produced by the Middle East Institute (MEI) with its partners in Paris and Beirut, Lebanon Then and Now presents under one virtual roof selections from two seminal shows: Lebanon: Between Reality and Fiction, organized by the Arab World Institute in Paris (Sept.11- Nov. 24, 2019); and Revolt (Nov. 14, 2019-), organized by the Beirut Museum of Art, USA (BeMA USA), the Association for the Promotion and Exhibition of the Arts in Lebanon (APEAL), and the Beirut Center of Photography (BCP). Together they tell a very contemporary story about the country, while highlighting the critical role that Lebanon’s artists and creatives play as the interpreters and archivists of the country’s unfolding narrative.
Originally planned as a physical exhibit for the summer of 2020 in the newly launched MEI Art Gallery in Washington DC, Lebanon Then and Now has been reimagined as a virtual exhibit in light of MEI’s temporary closure due to the coronavirus pandemic. The show, featuring 17 Lebanese photographers and 50 images, presents two very different perspectives on Lebanon. Selected photos from the Arab World Institute exhibit offer a view into a country exploring the aftermath of its long civil war (1975-1990), while the BeMA USA/APEAL/BCP exhibit takes audiences inside the raw emotion of the street protests that erupted on October 17, 2019 — and continue to this day — in response to the corruption and political mismanagement that triggered Lebanon’s recent financial collapse.
Lebanon: Between Reality and Fiction, curated by Hanna Boghanim, opened in September 2019 at the Arab World Institute as part of the Third Biennial of Contemporary Arab World Photography and drew large crowds over the course of its three-month run, which corresponded with the start of the Lebanese uprising. Nineteen photographers, artists, and filmmakers, most of them Lebanese women, explored Lebanon’s social, urban, and geographic realities. Taking an artistic and sometimes conceptual approach, their work reflected on a society struggling with the scars of civil war and conflict, while navigating the country’s post-war ethos marked by youth aspirations and shifting gender norms, rampant urban development and commercialization, ongoing corruption, and the impact of the war next door in Syria.
Revolt, curated by Chantale Fahmi for BeMA USA in collaboration with APEAL and the Beirut Center of Photography, opened in November 2019 in an outdoor exhibit space near the heart of the protests in downtown Beirut. Twenty five photographs shot by 10 Lebanese photo-journalists captured a pivotal moment in the country’s history. They revealed the anger, energy, and passion that united people across classes, religions, and ages against the country’s corrupt ruling elite. The billboard-size images were hung next to the “Egg,” an unfinished but iconic pre-war structure facing Martyrs’ Square that became a headquarters for the protesters, and hang there to this day.
The two shows, now curated as one by Chantale Fahmi for BeMA USA, tell the story of the troubled calm that presaged Lebanon’s current storm — a storm that has been made worse by the additional socio-economic impact of the Covid-19 crisis. However, the combined shows also reveal something hopeful: the desire of Lebanon’s youth for an alternative to the country’s broken sectarian political system; the resilience and determination of the Lebanese to chart a better path, and the value they place in the arts and creative expression - all key ingredients in the potential for renewal of a country whose global cultural influence far outstrips its size and geography.
b. 1992, Lebanon; lives in Beirut, Lebanon
Lamia Maria Abillama
b. 1962, Lebanon; lives in Beirut, Lebanon
b.1964, Lebanon; lives in Beirut, Lebanon
b. 1980, Saudi Arabia; lives in Paris, France
b. 1973, Lebanon; lives in Beirut, Lebanon
b. 1980, Lebanon; lives in Beirut, Lebanon
b. 1966, Lebanon; lives in Tripoli, Lebanon
b. 1994, Lebanon; lives in Lebanon
b.1985, Beirut, Lebanon; lives between Beirut and Berlin
b. 1989, Paris; lives between Beirut and Paris
b. 1987, Germany; lives in Lebanon
b. 1992, London; lives between Los Angeles and Beirut
b. 1997, Oman; lives and works in Beirut, Lebanon
b. 1981, Lebanon, lives and works in Lebanon
b. 1993, France; lives and works in Lebanon
b.1975, Lebanon; lives and works in Lebanon