The disastrous and deadly explosion which ripped Beirut apart on 4 August 2020 reopened old wounds and will forever remain an emotional scar for the Lebanese people. Today, thousands of Lebanese have joined forces through their inspiring and benevolent community to try and turn their trauma into positive and constructive change.
Art for Beirut, a non-profit organisation founded in the aftermath of the blast by members of the Lebanese diaspora from London, Paris, Montreal, New York and Cairo, has now joined the current movement to pursue long-lasting and effective change in Lebanon. It aims to bring together the art community to fuel art initiatives which will help to rebuild the future of Beirut, preserve its cultural heritage and support its people.
The organisation’s ambition is well within reach. For its first initiative, Art for Beirut partnered with Sotheby’s and Creatives for Lebanon to organise an online charity auction entitled “To Beirut with Love”, which took place between 7 and 15 December 2020. The non-profit successfully raised over £280,000. The auction included a selection of handpicked donations of artworks and unique pieces from contemporary artists, fashion and jewellery designers with leading international profiles and growing reputations.
All of the proceeds have been shared amongst five carefully selected Lebanese charities with the help of Impact Lebanon, a non-profit organisation incorporated in the UK, and LIFE (Lebanese International Finance Executives). The chosen NGOs include Nusaned, Beit El Baraka and Baytna Baytak, which focus on sheltering displaced families and rehabilitating residential homes and local businesses, Al Fanar, an organisation that supports entrepreneurs and small and medium sized businesses, and House of Christmas, which focusses on preserving and restoring cultural buildings.
A creation which stood out was a custom gown by Elie Saab, the Lebanese ‘king of couture’, last worn by Emma Stone on the Oscars red carpet in 2015. Other donations included a jacket belonging to Mick Jagger, Lebanese designer Nicolas Jebran’s costume for Madonna, Spice Girls’ Geri Halliwell’s outfit worn in the music video ‘Wannabe’, a gold My Dior cuff designed by Victoire de Castellane, and Damien Hirst’s gold ‘Pill bracelet with diamond skull’
Highlights included artworks by Sir Frank Bowling, hailed as one of the finest British artists of his generation and a late modern master, as well as the late Huguette Caland, the ground-breaking Lebanese artist who celebrated freedom of expression in both her work and her life, and leading Lebanese photographer Fouad Elkhoury. The auction also showcased artworks from artists such as Nabil Nahas, Hassan Hajjaj, Hass Idriss, Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige, Nathalie Du Pasquier, The Connor Brothers, Huda Lufti, Herve Nabon, Sheikha Awad, Aaron Young, Chucrallah Fattouh, Nevine Bouez, Peter Regli, Zad Moultaka, Shahad Al Azzaz and Herve Van Der Straeten.
“Art for Beirut is a way for us to turn our collective sorrows into something positive, following the devastating Beirut port explosion,” says co-founder Nour Sabbah. “We have been longing for change in a country that has suffered immensely, and still is today more than ever. Today, we have understood that the fate of the country rests in the hands of its people in an unprecedented way and as members of the Lebanese diaspora, we wish to leverage our situation, through our projects, to not only provide financial support but to also empower Lebanese artists and artisans, find them opportunities for international exposure and finally give a suffering population the chance to regain hope and preserve its dignity. We have various upcoming exciting new projects in the pipeline for 2021 related to art but also architecture, fashion, food and music.”