Art Movements

Women’s Central Role in Lebanon's Modern Art World

Episode Summary

A new exhibition takes a close look at the friendships of a major artist and critic in 1960s and '70s Beirut, and the charmed art world she helped bolster.

Episode Notes

Born in 1923 in Pennsylvania to Lebanese parents, Helen Khal would go on to become an important presence in the modern art world of Lebanon as a prominent art critic and artist. A new exhibition at Beirut’s Sursock Museum tells the history of that period through her friendships and relationships with a coterie of artists and writers who would become some of the most important artist voices in the region.

Commissioned by Ashkal Alwan for the Sursock Museum's biennial Home Works gathering of lectures, performances, exhibitions and events — most of which, with the exception of the exhibitions, has been indefinitely postponed because of the recent nationwide protests in Lebanon. The exhibition is titled At the still point of the turning world, there is the dance and includes work by Chafic Abboud, Yvette Achkar, Etel Adnan, Huguette Caland, Simone Fattal, Farid Haddad, Helen Khal, Saloua Raouda Choucair, Aref Rayess, and Dorothy Salhab-Kazemi.

Curators Carla Chammas and Rachel Dedman spoke to me about this incredible art historical show that combines paintings, ceramics, furniture, letters, publications, videos, and other primary source materials from the "Golden Era" from before the infamous Lebanese Civil War. We’ve included an assortment of images in this post to give you a flavor of the exhibition, and we’ve included the items the curators selected as personal favorites, which they also discuss on the podcast.

For this episode we’ve used the sounds from the recent streets protests in downtown Beirut, which were sparked by decades of growing corruption and new taxes that were proposed and since rescinded.

This and more in the current episode of our weekly Art Movements podcast.