Beirut and the Golden Sixties: A Manifesto of Fragility

Past Exhibition

This exhibition of paintings, sculpture, multimedia works and archival materials revisits a turbulent chapter in the development of Modernism in Beirut.

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Beirut and the Golden Sixties examines a romanticised era of global influence in Lebanon’s capital to highlight how collisions between art, culture and polarised political ideologies turned the Beirut art scene into a microcosm of larger regional tensions.

The exhibition traces a brief but rich period of artistic and political ferment. Following Lebanon’s independence from French-mandated colonial rule in 1943, Beirut became a destination for many intellectuals and cultural practitioners from the Middle East and Arabic-speaking North Africa. With revolutions, coups and wars unfolding across these regions over the next three decades, the influx of new inhabitants into Beirut continued throughout this period.

Encouraged in part by the Lebanese banking secrecy law of 1956, which prevented financial institutions from disclosing clients’ identities or assets, new streams of foreign capital also flowed into the city. Commercial galleries, independent art spaces and museums flourished. Beirut was bursting at the seams with people and opportunities, but also with ideas. However, underneath the prosperity and abundance, antagonisms festered and eventually erupted in a fifteen-year civil war.

Beirut and the Golden Sixties presents a crucial moment in modern history from the vantage point of an ongoing crisis, highlighting the entanglement of past and contemporary struggles. Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige’s multimedia installation, created specifically for the exhibition, sheds new light on the transformative effects of violence on art and artistic production and the power of poetry in opposition to chaos. With its wide-reaching artworks and archival materials, the exhibition introduces fresh perspectives on a pivotal period in the history of Beirut, a city where the question of art’s role in times of hardship forever lingers.

About the Artists Explore the Galleries
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Nicolas Moufarrege. The Blood of the Phoenix, 1975. Thread and pigment on needlepoint canvas. 126.7×162.6 cm. Nabil and Hanan Moufarrej (N3M Holdings, LLC). Shreveport, Louisiana

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Farid Aouad. Metro scene, 1960–1970. Oil on canvas. 195x390 cm. Courtesy Hala Wardé

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Khalil Zgaib, Untitled, 1958. Oil on masonite, 60 x 100 cm. Saleh Barakat Collection, Beirut

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Huguette Caland. Visage, 1979. Oil on canvas. 81x81 cm. Courtesy of Huguette Caland Estate

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Etel Adnan and Simone Fattal. La Montagne Liban, 1973. Oil on canvas. 54x64 cm. Courtesy of the estate of the artist

About the Curators

Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath have been the directors of Hamburger Bahnhof – National Gallery of Contemporary Art in Berlin since January 2022. They are founders of the multidisciplinary curatorial platform artReoriented, which they launched in New York and Munich in 2009. Bardaouil and Fellrath’s practice is rooted both in contemporary global art and in the field of classical modernism. They have held teaching positions at various universities, including the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, the Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts and the Academy of Fine Arts in Nuremberg. At the Venice Biennale, they were curators of the National Pavilions of Lebanon in 2013, the United Arab Emirates in 2019 and France in 2022. They were recently curators of manifesto of fragility, the 16th Lyon Biennale (2022).