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Laure d'Hauteville, Founder of BEIRUT ART FAIR: "This region is the place to be"

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Laure d'Hauteville, Founder of BEIRUT ART FAIR: "This region is the place to be"

Having just completed its 9th edition, founder and fair director of BEIRUT ART FAIR Laure d’Hauteville admits that she’s already spent months working on its 10th. This year’s fair successfully highlighted photography, with directors of photography museums and biennales alike making the trip to Beirut to visit ‘Across Boundaries’, their Focus exhibition. We spoke to Laure about her history with the arts in this region, some key fair events, and what she hopes for the future of BEIRUT ART FAIR:

 

First of all, congratulations on yet another successful edition of BEIRUT ART FAIR! 2018 saw its 9th edition and as this fair’s founder and director, you’ve been there since the beginning. Could you tell us about why you felt that Lebanon needed such a fair?

I did also create the first art fair in the Middle East in Beirut in 1998 called ARTUEL, which ran until 2005 and stopped due to political reasons in Beirut. At the time no one knew what an art fair was, and people only bought art from galleries. The fair was really successful!

Together with the Art Paris team I then went to Abu Dhabi and we created the fair Art Paris Abu Dhabi (now the Abu Dhabi Art Fair). In 2009 the political situation was better in Beirut and that’s when I launched BEIRUT ART FAIR in 2010. In 2013 and 2014, I created the Singapore Art Fair. I wanted to bridge the gap between East to West, linking Singapore to countries such as Lebanon.

Image courtesy of BEIRUT ART FAIR 

The evolution of culture and the arts in the region has been undeniable over the last few years. With regards to BEIRUT ART FAIR, what would you say have been the main changes you’ve noticed as this region evolves?

Art and culture have always been present in Lebanon, the country has 8,000 years of history. Many people passed through and left a part of their history. In every Lebanese family, you have an artist; in every Lebanese family, you have an art collector! Lebanon is very important because of its diasporas everywhere in the world (more than 14 million). They actively support their country and art is a way of communication, of peace, of exchange between the populations. Since BEIRUT ART FAIR happened, and previously ARTUEL’s art fair, we can see more new collectors, not just in Lebanon but also the region. People in the region have today a real interest in art by its heritage. Buying art is a way to support and better understand our history. Since this fair, we have seen changes even in universities in Lebanon and the region. We now have MBA courses about art management, art curating, art mediators, etc. In other art fairs in the region, the most important buyers are known to be from Lebanon. This small country has proved to be important in sales and numbers.

 

2018 is set to be BEIRUT ART FAIR’s biggest year, with a 45% increase in exhibition space. Its capacity just keeps growing, from physical size to the number of galleries and visitors. Are there any challenges that you face with directing a fair that seems to increase in volume year after year?

We did invite many Europeans art collectors and directors of museums and institutions this year. They were very happy to discover other artworks that they may not have seen in Europe. For them this was a new market, it brought new perspectives, new ideologies, and was very different than what they’re used to. Most of them bought some art! It is important that when a fair grows up for it to renew its visitors year by year. In 2018, I travelled to many countries (Europe, Mashreq, Gulf, North Africa, USA, Mexico, amongst a few) to meet and invite art collectors. They were very happy to discover the art from the Middle East. 2019’s edition of BEIRUT ART FAIR will be a challenge because it will be our 10th anniversary. I have already started preparations a few months ago for our program to attract more and more visitors. Beirut is the place to be for discovering!
 

Image courtesy of BEIRUT ART FAIR 

This year, BEIRUT ART FAIR welcomed new international galleries from France to the United States, Switzerland to Ivory Coast. How did a broader international participation affect this year’s fair?

I have travelled to meet them. They heard about BEIRUT ART FAIR from the Lebanese diaspora. It’s great to see that Lebanon has its influences. It has been a successful fair for the international galleries.

 

What was a personal highlight of yours in this year’s edition of BEIRUT ART FAIR? Could you tell us about some works that stood out to you?

The highlight of this edition was photography. In Lebanon, we have important institutions that work to preserve historical photographs from all over the region. You cannot find this in other countries. The market was ready to host and understand photography. The Focus exhibition ‘Across Boundaries’ (the title of this photography Pavilion) showed more than 130 photos coming from 30 private and institutional collections in Lebanon from the 1900s until today. It has been a huge success. Many directors of photography museums and biennales of photography came to visit it. They discovered that this region is the place to be.

Also, about modernity in painting, I wanted also to give a tribute to Paul Guiragossian, the most important painter from the region. It was the first time that an exhibition showing documentaries, films and newspaper articles were showed. I wanted it like this for art collectors to understand the notion of preservation, documentaries, and the work of a foundation.

Image courtesy of BEIRUT ART FAIR

The Focus exhibition ‘Across Boundaries’ received quite a bit of attention just one day after the opening of the fair. 100 works of Lebanese photography from 30 collections were sourced and showcased with the help of collector Tarek Nahas; this sounds like an excruciating amount of research! What were the main motivations behind including this exhibition as part of the fair?

One year ago, I asked Tarek if he would accept the role of curator of this exhibition together with BEIRUT ART FAIR’s team, to showcase Lebanon’s treasures in its collections. It was also important for the public to understand better the history of Lebanon and the region because we haven’t had accurate history in schoolbooks since 1943 (as a result of the French Mandate).

 

From the aforementioned Focus exhibition to REVEALING by SGBL that put 13 emerging artists in the spotlight, to Patrick Boustani’s live recreation of Beirut, it’s no doubt that BEIRUT ART FAIR is composed of so many different artistic expressions. What would you say was the most well-received section of this year’s edition?

I had many compliments about each spotlight. It depends on what people want to see. Some don’t like photography, some like only modernity, some prefer to discover the new talents. Patrick Boustani wanted visitors to feel the atmosphere of Beirut, like “Beirut East” (for the contemporary section), “Beirut West” (for the modern section), Downtown (for the contemporary and classical section), the trees like a line (for the green line in Beirut – separating the East and West), spaces to relax, the VIP Lounge with its DJ, like the nightlife in Beirut, the café (with Meat the Fish and its Young Lebanese-American Chef) the bookstore, etc. 

Image courtesy of BEIRUT ART FAIR 

Where do you see BEIRUT ART FAIR in 10 years time?

As the country where all art lovers meet! I want BEIRUT ART FAIR to be a place for freedom, for expression, a place where every artist can express itself without any censorship like Lebanon was in the 70s. This will be our focus next year for our 10th anniversary. I’m sure not many people might remember, but some of the most important artists in the world have come to and from Beirut.

 

To find out more about this year's edition of BEIRUT ART FAIR, click here


Any views or opinions in the post are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the company or contributors.



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