2019 Talks and Roundtable Discussions

The debates focused on the subject of modern and contemporary art from the MENA region, aiming to enrich our understanding of it, from a historical, theoretical and critical perspective, to examine its impact and brainstorm its possible futures. The series of exchanges covered topics such as the making of the artist, the importance of art in telling an alternative story of the region, artistic scenes’ effect on their environment, and financial challenges faced by regional museums today. Celebrated British war photographer Don McCullin also discussed his work in Beirut in the nineteen-eighties, and a roundtable on Orientalist art. Enjoy reliving these moments below.

Don McCullin

In English

Photographer Sir Don McCullin 

Don McCullin is one of the world’s greatest war photographers. The impact of his black-and-white images is immeasurable, as the British photographer traveled the planet to shed light on extremely perilous situations, uncover hidden truths and relentlessly denounce injustice. McCullin depicts his subjects with empathy and compassion, and celebrates the dignity and resilience of mankind under the harshest circumstances. His work is in a class with the likes of Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank, W. Eugene Smith, and Gilles Caron.

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What "makes" artists and their works?

In French & English

From the studio to cultural institutions, what shapes an artist’s career?  Is the support of experts and cultural institutions necessary to promote undiscovered artists on the contemporary art scene ? How do theoretical approaches and visions inform the understanding of artists’ production? How can artists’ freedom and singularity be protected despite external pressures to fit a certain mold? How can the imposition of certain western criteria on artistic production be avoided, and how can different approaches be better integrated in non-western scenes?

Moderated by 
Joanna Abou-Sleiman Chevalier,
Artistic director


Valérie Arcache-Aouad, auctioneer, Beirut 
Richard Haykel, art collector
Elena Micheletti, Associate director, Primo Marella Gallery, Milan
Hady Sy, photographer and visual artist
Marie-Ann Yemsi, independent art consultant
 and curator

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The importance of the arts in telling an alternative story of the MENA region.

In English

As artists are witnesses to their times, do they have the duty to testify to the history-in-the-making they are experiencing ? Should artists take upon the task of writing History in the absence of an “official” version of it in MENA countries? How do modern and contemporary MENA artists contribute to writing the History of their countries and their region? What are the repercussions of artworks touching upon MENA History? 

Moderated by Dr. Marie Tomb, art historian of the Middle East
Rachel Dedman, independent curator
Rose Issa publisher, writer and curator
Lyne Sneige, Director of the Arts & Culture Program at the Middle East Institute (MEI), Washington D.C

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The impact of an artistic scene on its environment

In English

What is the role of institutions in the development of an artistic scene? Between emulation and competition, what is the role of belonging to a group of artists or a movement in fashioning artists’ production ? Who participates in the selection of artists and the development of an artistic scene? How can an artistic scene contribute to a society’s transformation?

Moderated by Olivia Bourrat, Scientific Director at Agence France-Muséums, Louvre Abu Dhabi (UAE) 
Faisal Al Hassan, General Manager at Warehouse 421, Abu Dhabi
Saleh Barakat, founder and director of Agial Art Gallery and Saleh Barakat Gallery, Beirut
Jean-François Charnier,  Scientific Director, French Agency for AlUla Development
Nada Ghandour, independent curator

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Museums' economic stakes: financing, philanthropy and more

In English

What are the challenges facing museums today in financial terms? Who finances museums? What are the limits of relying on philanthropy? Are there source of financing museums should refuse?

Moderated by  Olivia Bourrat, Scientific Director at Agence France-Muséums, Louvre Abu Dhabi (UAE) 
Ainhoa Grandes, President of the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA), Barcelona
Dr. Khalid Khreis, Director of the Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts, Amman
Véronique Rieffel, Curator, former Director of the Institut des Cultures de l’Islam, Paris

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An Orientalist Voyage

In French

Who are the European artists who painted or produced artworks responding to Lebanon and the Levant? What were their motivations to depict Lebanon and the Levant? What were their perspectives on Lebanon and the Levant?

Moderated by Dr. Ray Jabre Mouawad, Professor of History at the Lebanese American University (LAU), Beirut
Gaby Daher, arts and decorative arts expert
Philippe Jabre, collector
Jean-Louis Mainguy, scenographer and interior designer

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