The art world is rallying behind Beirut

In the wake of the catastrophic blast in Lebanon’s capital, artists and creative initiatives are coming together in aid of Beirut

Omar Sfeir's photograph which sees two lovers embracing, their heads wrapped in the Lebanese flag
An image by Lebanese filmmaker Omar Sfeir, captured during Lebanon’s October Revolution, an homage to the painting The Lovers by surrealist artist Rene Magritte. Available as an open-edition print as part of Ruwa and Gulf Photo Plus
(Image credit: Lebanese filmmaker Omar Sfeir)

On 4 August, a colossal explosion ripped through the Lebanese capital, Beirut causing widespread destruction, mourning, anger and prompting many still-unanswered questions. Following the disaster, arts initiatives around the globe banded together to raise emergency funds for the immediate aftermath and beyond. Here are just a few of the platforms offering the Beirut people and its arts community some much-needed aid.

Art Relief for Beirut

Art Relief for Beirut was set up by Netherlands-based artist Mohamad Kanaan. Using Instagram as a call to action, Kanaan has been selling artworks and prints donated by a range of global artists. The joint 2019 Turner Prize winners, Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Helen Cammock, Oscar Murillo, and Tai Shani contributed work to the platform as a collective. Other artists who have submitted work include Aldo Álvareztostado, Cvmaea Halim, Anna Aagaard Jensen and Younès Rahmoun. In its short lifespan, the initiative has raised almost $100,000, funds directed to NGOs including Impact Lebanon, the Lebanese Red Cross and Baytna Baytak, a social initiative helping to locate housing for those who lost their homes in the blast. @artrelief4beirut

Fund the Arts in Beirut via Mophradat

Fund the Arts in Beirut was established by Lebanese-born artist Walid Raad and is coordinated through Mophradat, a Brussels-based non-profit organisation led by Raad with a mission to create opportunities for artists from the Arab world. The art fund pledges to use donations to support the Beirut arts community impacted by the explosion in ‘transparent and flexible ways’, and will announce its methodology in the coming weeks. A statement from Mophradat on 12 August read, ‘We will direct 100% of donations to arts individuals and institutions while keeping in the spirit of our mandate, to support artists and thinkers, feminist and queer people and initiatives, and provide tools to help sustain practices rather than focus on individual projects.’

Gulf Photo Plus

Ruwa, a creative platform for visual storytellers across the Middle East; and Gulf Photo Plus, Dubai’s centre for photography have joined forces for a print sale, titled For the Love of Beirut. Within 24 hours of the blast, they had rallied over 60 artists from 30 countries – all with personal connections to the city – to share images of personal significance that had been taken in and around the Middle East. Notable contributors include Magnum photographers Newsha Tavakolian and Peter van Agtmael; Pulitzer prize winning photojournalist Michael Robinson Chávez; and Beirut photographer Myriam Boulos, whose powerful images of post-explosion Beirut capture the urgent drive for change. ‘The contributions to the sale have been hugely generous, offering their most coveted work to support the city we love,’ say organisers Tanya Habjouqa and Mohamed Somji. Available to ship worldwide, the open editions are sized 10x15”, with all proceeds (net of actual costs) going to the Lebanese Red Cross. Until 26 August midnight Beirut time. 

An image by Lebanese photographer Myriam Boulos, shot the day after the Beirut blast

An image by Lebanese photographer Myriam Boulos, shot the day after the Beirut blast: 'Ahmad takes a break to pray in Mar Mikhael. He is part of الشفاء a Palestinian association that is helping the victims of the explosion'

(Image credit: Myriam Boulos)

Christie’s: We Are All Beirut

Christie’s Dubai and London have announced plans for an online charity auction to support the art and cultural communities in Lebanon. Under the title, ‘We Are All Beirut’ and taking place between late October and the first half of November, the auction will include 40 - 50 lots of global and regional art, design, jewellery and watches which will raise funds to rebuild Beirut’s cultural scene, including the historic Sursock Museum, which suffered extensive damage in the explosion. ‘We are committed to help and hope that many of our international clients, friends and collectors will follow our call to action.’ says Guillaume Cerutti, CEO of Christie’s. ‘Seeing the images of devastation on Tuesday 4 August will always remain in all our collective memory and our thoughts are with all families, friends and artists who have lost so much. We hope to raise enough funds with this initiative to make a significant difference.’