Of particular importance is the show’s emphasis on Beirut as a burgeoning art centre in the Middle East. Reclaiming a cultural and national identity within the lasting traces of war is a dominant theme in much of the artistic work selected for the exhibit, as is the city’s perishable environment, and the fundamental challenges it poses for those in institutional dominance. ‘The presence of the Civil War seems to converge most visibly around the concept of what is missing: justice, history and countless individuals’, art historian Dr. Sarah Rogers remarks in an essay in the catalogue entitled Culture ’45 and the Rise of Beirut’s Contemporary Art Scene.
Lebanon, better known for its self-destructive cycle of war, identity politics, recovery, and cosmopolitanism, has also been the site of long-standing intellectual renaissance movements, and was even recognised as a cultural capital until the Civil War erupted in 1975. The war’s end in 1990 coincided with the rise of the international art market. ‘In the absence of an institutional structure for ephemeral practices – installations, performances, leaflets – artists circulated their work in the urban environment’, Dr. Rogers explains.
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