Huguette Caland: Faces and Places

Past Exhibition

This exhibition traces Caland’s journey across three continents, encompassing the faces and places that inform her rich oeuvre, all while highlighting the predominant theme in her work, the line.

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Faces and Places is Huguette Caland’s largest solo museum exhibition in the world, featuring six decades of her paintings, drawings, caftans, smocks and sculptures, including a selection of never before exhibited works. The exhibition is organised around three different geographical locations that define Caland’s personal and professional journey: Beirut, Paris and California.

Born in Beirut in 1931, Caland was the daughter of the first president of the independent Lebanese Republic. She completed her formal education at the American University of Beirut, where she developed an intimate relationship with line drawing. One of her professors encouraged her to start drawing at the top of the page, not letting go until completion. She mastered this technique, which appears throughout her work as her practice evolves from figuration to abstraction.

As a young woman in Beirut, the concept of independence was critical for Caland; ‘Lebanon was fighting for its independence and I was fighting for my mind’, she said. She expressed this initially through her appearance. At the age of 34, one week after her father's death, she rejected the Western fashions worn by her peers for traditional abayas (caftans). These became an important aspect of her artistic journey.

Caland defied social expectations by moving to Paris in the 1970s. ‘I didn’t leave for my art because you can do art wherever you are. I left because I wanted a career.’ In Paris, she developed a series of paintings titled Bribes de Corps. These minimalist abstract works expose the different shapes and forms our bodies can take, challenging notions of beauty embraced by society. What was heavy became delicate; what was wobbly became a visual delight.  

Freedom of artistic expression drew Caland to California in 1987, where she shifted from abstract representations of the body to a more detail-oriented painting style, evoking cross-stitching techniques. These works capture the spirit of the woven textiles, rugs and tapestries, which Caland grew up with. Despite living thousands of miles away, her memories of Beirut and Paris – of family, friends, nostalgic imagery of her childhood in Lebanon, her own children – emerge in the paintings she developed while living in America.

Curator, Mohammed Rashid Al Thani
Assistant Curator, Noora Abdulmajeed 

Artist Bio

Huguette Caland (1931–2019) studied painting at 16 years of age under the private tutelage of Fernando Manetti, an Italian artist who lived in Lebanon. Shortly after her father's death in 1964, Caland enrolled in Fine Arts at the American University of Beirut, graduating four years later. After moving to Paris, she collaborated with many renowned poets and artists, including Adonis, Georges Apostu and Pierre Cardin. After 17 years in Paris, Caland moved to Venice, California, where she established her dream studio. Her work has been the subject of many solo exhibitions, most notably at the Tate St. Ives, Cornwall, United Kingdom (2019); Institute of Arab and Islamic Art (IAIA), New York (2018); Nathalie Karg Gallery, New York, United States (2016); Galerie Janine Rubiez, Beirut, Lebanon (2015); Lombard Freid Gallery, New York, United States (2014); and the Beirut Exhibition Center, Lebanon (2013). Caland's work was also recently exhibited in the Venice Biennale, Italy (2017); Made in L.A. 2016, the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, United States (2016); and the Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris, France (2012). Her work is represented in both museum and private collections, including Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), the Hammer Museum, the Tate, the British Museum, Centre Pompidou, San Diego Museum of Art (SDMA), the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation. On 23 September 2019, Caland died in Beirut at the age of 88.