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Grand Gallery Space in Mar Mikhael
On the ground floor of the multi-storey building next to Electricté du Liban (EDL), at the very beginning of trendy Mar Mikhael, gallerist Naila Kettaneh-Kunigk has conceived of a sizeable and ideal gallery space: Galerie Tanit Beyrouth, which stands out for having been conceptualized and built to be a gallery space; a grand space indeed.
“I had wanted a gallery in Lebanon for quite some time,” the owner explained. “I used to do nomadic shows during the war. At the time there was no serious gallery space here, this is why I decided to build one. It took me four years to have it.”
Studying political sciences in Paris, Kettaneh-Kunigk was first confronted with contemporary art. Following her German husband to West Berlin, then Munich, in the late 60s, she eventually decided to open a gallery there, with barely any money, back in 1973. The gallery’s name was inspired by an ancient abstract geometric Phoenician symbol that was found on weights.
The gallerist learnt how to run her Munich gallery by trial and error. She did, however, have quite a few highlights among them a Man Ray show and a show of German photographers Bernd and Hilla Becher.
In 2004, Galerie Tanit showed Present Absence a collective show of contemporary art from Lebanon in Munich. In Beirut she tries to give a chance to Lebanese artists not represented. She also puts effort in coaxing international artists – at times reluctant to travel to Beirut – to come to Lebanon.
Albeit the significant bureaucratic hurdles, she is committed to exposing Lebanese audiences to international works, and frequently shows the works of international artists in her Beiruti gallery.
Over the years, Galerie Tanit has gained an international customer base. In Lebanon, customers consist of mainly Lebanese, young middle-aged, until upper middle-aged individuals.