Beirut exhibition where art serves philanthropy
BEIRUT - “K oudourat,” a collective exhibition of Lebanese and foreign artists coupled with an auction of artworks is an example of how art can be invested to serve humanitarian work, in this case helping children with special needs, curator Rania Halawi said.
The exhibition, in the church hall of Saint Joseph University in Beirut, showcased more than 50 works donated by 38 artists to raise funds for the Early Childhood Intervention-Lebanon (ECIL), which provides free medical and psychological support to children 3 years and younger.
“The idea of the exhibition/auction came about when a young emerging artist donated paintings to ECIL because he had no cash to give,” Halawi said. “I was approached and from there we decided to enlist the support of the largest number possible of rising as well as well-established artists.”
The theme “Koudourat” — “capacities” in English — was built around a common feature of art and childhood, Halawi explained.
“When the artist [begins] on a new painting, the canvas is blank. It takes time for him to decide on what he wants to draw, to start feeling what he wants to express. He then starts with the first brush, which develops into an artwork,” Halawi said.
“The same applies to children. When they are born, they are like blank canvas. Depending on how much care, love and education you give them, their capacities will develop and are reinforced, especially in the first three years of their life.”
Of the 53 paintings and sculptures on display, 13 were auctioned during the 1-day exhibit and the rest were sold at fixed prices. They were donated by established Lebanese painters, including Hassan Jouni, Chucrallah Fattouh, Pascale Massoud, Mohammad el-Rawas, Oussama Baalbaki and Hrair Diarbekirian, as well as emerging artists Samir Tamari, Camelia Chahine and Shadi Abousada. Artists from the United Kingdom, Syria, Iran and Senegal, including well-known Lebanese-Senegalese artist Hady Sy, also donated works.
Halawi said she approached the artists directly, avoiding going through galleries that contract them.
“I introduced the theme of the exhibition and the work of ECIL. The artists were very receptive and the majority came back with a very positive response,” she said. “Artists are usually concerned about where their works will be exhibited, who are the other artists also exhibiting and for what end or for what cause is the exhibition. It is very important for them and their image.”
“There are big names. Some artists did paintings especially for the exhibition, which was organised for the first time as a fundraising means for ECIL,” Halawi added.
Prices of artworks ranged from $100-$5,000. The highest bid in the auction was $4,500 for “Paysages” by Lebanese painter Mazen Rifai.
“We expected to raise more money but it was good enough in view of the economic situation in the country. The funds raised will help ECIL sustain its work for another year and treat a bigger number of children,” Halawi said.
ECIL has 12 specialised workers, including speech therapists, physiotherapists, psychomotor therapists, behavioural therapy and social workers.
“The exhibition will weave the way for ECIL to be able to fulfil its mission and provide the best service for the future of our children,” said Halawi. “Through their participation, the collaborating artists believe it to be a step forward in giving the children a better future.”
In all, 36 paintings were sold, bought by individuals and institutions, including Lebanon’s Central Bank to add to its well-garnished collection.
“The remaining paintings will be hopefully placed on an online art platform, Artscoops, to be sold online,” Halawi said.
Commenting on the first show that she had curated, Halawi said: “I was very happy in curating this exhibition because I felt how much humanity and care we still have in our society.”
“I felt that despite everything that we have been through in Lebanon, financial hardships and economic slowdown, people still care for each other. There is human solidarity. All these artists donated their works with all their hearts for a cause that they strongly believed in,” she added.