After Sursock reopening, more art venues coming to Beirut

After Sursock reopening, more art venues coming to Beirut

Beirut's Sursock Museum reopened on October 8 after a major renovation, and hopes are high for its ability to bring new life to the city's art scene. Before the month is out, two other art venues are due to arrive in the Lebanese city, and more plans are in the works.

The Sursock Museum, open to the public as of October 9, is re-launching with a range of exhibitions that focus on local art and artists, and a program that extends beyond the gallery walls to workshops, family events and artist-led walks through the city.

At the center of the city's cultural scene after its opening in 1961, the modern and contemporary art museum has been closed for expansion for several years and its reopening will help bring new cultural activity of the city -- helped along by a few more projects under way.

On October 25, the Aïshti Foundation, a contemporary art museum designed by the British architect-of-the-moment David Adjaye, will open in the nearby Jal el Dib.

Founded by Tony Salamé, owner and CEO of the Lebanese retail chain Aïshti, the Foundation will feature 2,000 works of painting, sculpture, drawing, video and new media, representing 150 artists and with a focus on art from the first 10 years of the 21st century.

Massimiliano Gioni, the associate director of the New Museum in New York, is organizing the venue's opening exhibition, according to The Art Newspaper.

Just ahead of the Aïshti inauguration, on October 22, a new contemporary art gallery called Marfa' is to launch in the port of Beirut with a show devoted to Lebanese artist Vartan Avakian, who also features at the Sursock.

Founder Joumana Asseily says her gallery comes at a time when the Lebanese art scene is in need of new spaces.

"The idea of creating a new gallery in Beirut emerged from conversations with curators and artists in Lebanon and abroad. ...We are looking for innovative ways to engage diverse audiences through the work of contemporary artists."

Those new venues are just the start. Earlier this month, an international competition was launched to find the design team for a modern and contemporary art museum slated for a 2020 opening.

A jury headed by Pritzker Architecture Prize chair Peter Palombo and counting Zaha Hadid as a member will choose the team to create a multidisciplinary hub of art and design across from the city's National Museum.

With plans to showcase modern and contemporary art and culture, it will be particularly devoted to fostering art from Lebanon and the Lebanese diaspora and is being called one of the most significant developments for the country's art and culture in a generation

Details of that museum have been promised in the coming months.