In 2019, BeMA –celebrated its first participation at the Beirut Art Fair by featuring its Restoration Lab and education program in Lebanese Public Schools
BEMA showcased two of its major ongoing projects during its first participation at the Beirut Art Fair (BAF). The Restoration Lab and the Artists in Residency Program in the Lebanese Public School System were publicly unveiled at the fair, drawing attention to the work BeMA has been quietly doing in the past few years.
A collective exhibition featuring the students’ works was displayed at the BAF: Held under the theme of “Shaping Common Spaces,” BeMA, in partnership with the Ministry of Education and Higher Education, had completed its second year of the program in 10 public schools across Lebanon.
“The impact of the residencies on the students, teaching staff and the schools has been incredible and invaluable,” Maya Hajj, curator and program coordinator, said in a statement. “The success rate can simply be assessed by the sparkle in the eyes of the students who are discovering their abilities through the art sessions.”
The program will extend over 10 years and aims to reach 40 schools around the country.
The Restoration Lab was set up in 2017 to begin the process of restoring over 2,000 artworks on loan from the Ministry of Culture, with the support of the Cultural Preservation Programme of the German Federal Foreign Office.
To date, 200 out of 500 paintings have been restored and conserved – mending canvas tears, fixing flaked paint – by conservator Kerstin Khalife and a small team of Lebanese trainees and German students. Some 1,800 artworks have been cleaned and revarnished. Among the collection are stunning compositions by Yvette Achkar, Rafic Charaf, Amine El Bacha, Adel El Saghir, and Elie Kanaan, plus many other artists from the last 70 years.
The collection suffered during the Civil War due to poor storage, with many paintings left in uncontrolled conditions that are detrimental to paint and canvas. The newly restored works are now being stored correctly until the project is completed. They will be displayed at BeMA when it opens in three years.