American University of Beirut exhibition
Beirut - Arabstoday
The American University of Beirut inaugurated on April 4 a new exhibition entitled “Profiles: Collecting Art in Lebanon” at the AUB Art Gallery, in which the profiles of 10 leading art collectors in Lebanon are showcased.
Examining practices of art collecting and art patronage in contemporary Lebanon, the exhibition displays 10 video interviews conducted with private art collectors and inheritors of collections including Saleh Barakat, Anachar Basbous, Georges Corm, Raymond Audi, Abraham Karabajakian, Ramzi Saidi and Afaf Osseiran Saidi and Tony Salamé. The art critic and publisher Cesar Nammour offers a historical perspective on the practice of art collecting, while Zeina Arida of the Arab Image Foundation speaks about collecting as an artistic strategy. Dima Raad, of the Ministry of Culture of Lebanon, also offers her perspective. On the lower floor of the gallery, the house of a Lebanese art collector—inspired by the home of the collector, Dr Samir Saleeby—has been reconstructed.
“From the beginning, certain roles in the art world have been firmly established,” explained Octavian Esanu, curator of AUB art galleries. “The artist produced, and the art collector bought or accumulated out of enjoyment, compulsion, concern for cultural heritage, or with the noble intention of showing the artwork to the public.”
Before the emergence of curatorship as a profession, it was often the art collector who exhibited the artist, acting as a lens through which the product of artistic labor was projected onto the public realm, added Esanu. “For this event at AUB Art Gallery, we decided to turn this lens around to shine a spotlight directly on the figure of the collector and on the practice of art collecting.”
A life-long collector and a major art donor to AUB, Dr Saleeby served as inspiration for the exhibition. Last year, Dr Saleeby donated his collection, which includes works by renowned relative Khalil Saleeby, to AUB, which prompted the University to set up the AUB Art Gallery to house the collection and hold other exhibitions. It was this body of artworks by Khalil Saleeby that served as the core of his collection, later complemented with works by other distinguished Lebanese artists whom Dr Saleeby befriended at certain periods of his life.
Unlike other countries, Lebanon’s art scene has been dominated by the private sector, which has always taken the initiative to preserve the nation’s cultural heritage, noted Esanu.
“In this exhibition, rather than providing a comprehensive account of existing collecting practices in Lebanon, we reveal certain established types: the private collector; the bank as collector; non-profit collectors; collectors who started from scratch and collectors who inherited their collections,” he added.