Simone Fattal: Beirut and the Golden Sixties: A Manifesto of Fragility

Gropius Bau, Berlin, DE
25 Mar – 12 Jun 2022

Beirut and the Golden Sixties: A Manifesto of Fragility revisits a turbulent chapter in global modernism in Beirut from the 1958 Lebanon crisis to 1975, the year that witnessed the outbreak of the Lebanese Civil War. The exhibition showcases a heterogeneous mix of artists whose drive for formal innovation was matched only by the tenacity of their political convictions. Beirut and the Golden Sixties traces the antagonism between Beirut’s politicised cosmopolitanism and its surrounding trans-regional conflicts.

With around 220 artworks by 35 artists, more than 200 archival documents and a new work by Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige especially commissioned for the show, it is the most comprehensive presentation to date of a pivotal period in the history of Beirut.

“Our programming at the Gropius Bau looks at history from a contemporary perspective while emphasising the inter-relatedness of art to current and past socio-political conflicts. The exhibition Beirut and the Golden Sixties takes a lens on a city in continual redefinition, telling the story of artistic reinvention. As well as opening up the Gropius Bau to underrepresented perspectives, the exhibition stresses the key role of artists in defining common ground and shaping the politics of geography, culture and history.” —Stephanie Rosenthal, Director, Gropius Bau 

Presented in five thematic sections, the exhibition introduces the breadth of artistic practices and political projects that thrived in Beirut from the 1950s to 1970s. An influx of intellectuals and cultural practitioners from the Middle East and Arabic-speaking North Africa flowed into Beirut over the course of three decades marked by revolutions, coups and wars across the regions. Foreign capital flowed into the city; new commercial galleries, independent art spaces and museums flourished. Beirut was bursting at the seams, not only with people, but also with ideas. Yet beneath the surface of a golden age of prosperity, antagonisms festered before eventually exploding in a 15-year civil war.

“We are fully conscious of the responsibility that comes with tackling such a politically charged period in Beirut’s modern history at this critical moment in time. Besides highlighting a number of complex factors that underscore many of Beirut’s ongoing struggles, the exhibition speaks to our commitment to challenging the metanarratives of modernism by highlighting centres of artistic production that have often been relegated to the margins of art history. Rather than looking backwards, we approached the period from the vantage point of the multiple crises currently wreaking havoc in Beirut. This contemporary gaze onto the past provides a new point of entry, allowing us to investigate our current moment by looking to the most creative and critical minds of an earlier generation of thinkers, writers and makers.” —Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath, Associate Curators, Gropius Bau (since January 1, 2022 Directors at Hamburger Bahnhof–Museum für Gegenwart–Berlin).

A comprehensive multi-media installation is created specifically for the exhibition by Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige, who live and work between Paris and Beirut, contemplating the transformation of artworks by acts of violence. 

With works by Shafic Abboud, Etel Adnan, Farid Aouad, Dia al-Azzawi, Alfred Basbous, Joseph Basbous, Michel Basbous, Assadour Bezdikian, Huguette Caland, Rafic Charaf, Saloua Raouda Choucair, Georges Doche, Simone Fattal, Laure Ghorayeb, Paul Guiragossian, Farid Haddad, John Hadidian, Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige, Jumana Bayazid El-Husseini, Dorothy Salhab Kazemi, Helen El-Khal, Simone Baltaxé Martayan, Jamil Molaeb, Fateh al-Moudarres, Nicolas Moufarrege, Mehdi Moutashar, Aref El Rayess, Adel al-Saghir, Mahmoud Said, Nadia Saikali, Hashim Samarchi, Mona Saudi, Juliana Seraphim, Cici Sursock and Khalil Zgaib

Beirut and the Golden Sixties: A Manifesto of Fragility is curated by Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath, Associate Curators, Gropius Bau (since January 1, 2022 Directors at Hamburger Bahnhof–Museum für Gegenwart–Berlin). The exhibition is organised in collaboration with the 16th edition of the Lyon Biennale of Contemporary Art.

March 25, 2022