Art exhibition in Beirut
Focus Area
Culture & Tourism
Local Partners
Beirut Art Center
Geographic Scope

SEAL sponsored the 2015 and 2016 exhibition program at Beirut Art Center in Beirut.

Beirut Art Center's activities in 2015 and 2016 included a number of exhibitions that were organized throughout the year as part of a two-year program (2015-2016) titled Present Time, Ourselves. The art projects and collaborations were presented in a diverse range of media and disciplines and ran in parallel with a series of events including talks, performances and round table discussions, in addition to an educational and outreach program aimed at widening the exchange of ideas with a larger number of diversified audience.

The exhibitions of this program aimed to present practices involving very diverse media. A large number of the artworks presented involved “time-based media” and “time-based arts” such as cinema and dance, positioned in relation to visual arts. The purpose was to make an art center in a town and country living a long term crisis achieve a kind of awareness of time as a medium for sharing: which world do we stand in, from which historical perspective do we recognize ourselves? There are many aspects to the question of the present time, such as: on what level do we address the audience, and what definition of art do we want to activate?

Half of the sum of the SEAL grant was attributed to financing the 2015 program, which included 4 exhibitions. Unfinished Conversations with artists John Akomfrah, Penny Siopis and Zineb Sedira and Retrospective by Xavier Le Roy were important highlights of the 2015 program. 

With Unfinished Conversations, Beirut Art Center also initiated commissions to produce, translate and source texts that revolve around Stuart Hall’s thought and writings. Moreover, the projects that were launched around those exhibitions were aimed to engage more people of different ages and backgrounds so they could engage in conversation. Retrospective by Xavier Le Roy attracted a record number in terms of attendance, and initiated a major involvement from different groups of people, but also individuals who were first-time visitors of Beirut Art Center. To further explore that, Beirut Art Center organized a series of workshops on body, movement and space with the Lebanese dancers/performers who collaborated with Xavier Le Roy.

The other half of SEAL's grant was attributed to the 2016 program, including Landversation Beirut: Otobong Nkanga, a solo show of the Nigerian artist dealing with land as a place to build a community (February), Esma’, a group show about listening and some relationship between music and visual art (April), and a solo show of the artist Hassan Khan untitled The Portrait is an Address (September).

Beirut Art Center’s program for each of these exhibitions included a series of events, workshops and educational activities, screenings, and roundtable discussions. 

BAC contributes to the development of the cultural economy in the country on different levels: 

• Artist Economic Professionalization

By producing new works and giving visibility through large-scale exhibitions, BAC helps many artists in developing their career, selling their artworks, generating incomes, and helping their families and communities.

Moreover, BAC also supports emerging artists in Lebanon through its annual exhibition, Exposure. This exhibition provides to these promising artists a greater visibility on the local and international art scenes. BAC supports them financially by producing their new works for the show, helping them surmount the financial difficulty that may impede their success. BAC presented five editions of Exposure, and the benefits of this yearly awaited, emerging artist exhibition are very palpable.

• Staff Professionalization

BAC's staff has expanded throughout the years. When BAC first opened, its staff consisted of seven members. At present, the center employs 11 staff members that come from various religious affiliations and social-economic backgrounds. BAC often employs young people that are starting to work in the cultural sector. They benefit from an important experience that will allow them to develop their careers in this field.

• Contribution to a Larger Economy

In order to produce its yearly program, BAC also contributes to a larger economy, involving different categories of human labour in the Lebanese workforce. These include art critics, designers, translators, educators, and librarians, butalso technicians, shippers, caterers, insurance agents, and blue-collar laborers, among others.

• Audience Outreach and Tourism Economy

BAC has become a landmark in the art field. International curators, researchers, gallery owners, journalists and other international cultural actors, come regularly to Beirut to discover the art scene, and visit BAC’s exhibitions. BAC also invites international artists, curators, and scholars from abroad to participate in its exhibitions, parallel events, and educational program on a regular basis. This contributes to the Tourism Economy. Moreover, an important part of of BAC’s mission is to make contemporary art accessible to a wider audience. This isdone by using different communication tools and by developing an outreach program for schools, universities, and community centers. We believe that increasing BAC’s audience will also aid in developing the Cultural Economy in the long term.


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