L’HOTE LIBANAIS picks up where it left off after meandering “From Jisr El Wati to Mar Mikhael” (episode 1) and “From Gemmayze to Beirut’s Historical Centre” (episode 2), with curator and gallery owner Saleh Barakat, taking you from Hamra to the Sea.
— AGIAL ART GALLERY
Crucial in getting Saloua Raouda Choucair (see episode 2) to be exhibited at the Tate was curator and gallery owner Saleh Barakat. He runs Agial Art Gallery and has been instrumental at curating memorable exhibitions, nurturing local talent and putting predominantly Lebanese and Arab art on the local and international map for decades.
Barakat has been running Agial since 1990, specialising in the promotion of contemporary art from the Arab world, mainly from Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain, Sudan and others. Over the past decade, he also focused on young emerging artists form Beirut and the Modernist heritage of the Arab world.
— SABAH, BY YAZAN HALWANI
Not far from Agial, street art and heritage come together on Hamra where, in homage to the legendary singer and actress Sabah, Yazan Halwani created a large street mural on the façade above Costa café: his radiant Sabah has brightened Hamra.
— HAMRA STREET
Before the war, where there is now Costa café was one of Beirut’s very popular cafés: The Horseshoe, founded by Munah Dabaghi in 1959. It was one “intellectual” sidewalk café on Hamra Street, frequented by Unsi al-Haj, a writer and poet, Raymond Jbara, a theatre producer, Rafic Sharaf, a poet, Munah al-Soloh, a writer, Nidal al-Ashkar, an actress and activist, Juliana Sarufin, a writer, Ghada al-Samman, a publisher, and Paul Geragosian, a Lebanese-Armenian painter. The Horseshoe was, according to Nadia Barclay’s thesis on Beirut’s Café Culture (16th century until present), “a place for liberal thought and political discussions.”
Before catching a show at the Piccadilly, then one of the Middle East’s largest theatres, seeing a movie at one of the cinemas nearby, or after such outings, locals and foreigners would gather at the Horseshoe. Francophone revellers favoured the Express. Just around the corner, on the left side, you can still see the façade of Al Hamra Cinema, in red letters on a white background, framed by stars.
With all this talk of cafés and coffee culture, why don’t you veer a little to the left just after Bank Audi and Librairie Orientale and have a cup of coffee and people watch and eaves drop at Café Younes? Established in 1935, it has survived all these years and draws an eclectic crowd. Their cardamom cappuccino is rather delicious.
— FROM SANTIAGO DE CHILE TO BEIRUT
Hamra Street boasts another huge mural, this one is by Chilean artist Inti that he did during White Walls. It remains the largest piece of street art in Beirut, a city that is rather lenient toward street artists.
— GALERIE JANINE RUBEIZ
Janine Rubeiz, a patron of the arts and key figure in Beirut’s social and cultural scene, established Galerie Janine Rubeiz. She was instrumental in establishing Dar el Fan, the first Lebanese cultural centre in 1967 near Sodeco. After it got destroyed early on in the war, Rubeiz focused her activities around her gallery, which she ran for many years from her flat in Raouche. Her daughter Nadine Begdache now runs the gallery in a dedicated space still in Raouche and remains strongly committed to modern and contemporary Lebanese art.
Keep an eye on us… Episode 4 is on its way!