356m - From the highway, you might mistake it for a humble parking lot. However, at...
A Cornerstone of Beirut's Art Scene
Karantina is undergoing a transformation with the nearby port busier than ever and new offices are opening in the area – despite the often putrid smells. Photographer Roger Moukarzel is based here, so is Bernard Khoury, the architect who did the B018, the subterranean night club, to many Beirutis synonymous with the area and Sfeir-Semler Gallery, an art gallery one floor up form Khoury’s offices.
The view from the fourth floor of the Tannous Building is arresting and ranges from the lower slopes of Achrafieh to the Beirut River, Burj Hammoud and beyond. The city seems to seep into the space with a loft/industrial flair, effectively interacting with the artwork on show. Marwan Rechmaoui’s exhibition Fortress in a Corner, Bishop Takes Over, showcasing Beirut’s spatial history and landmarks sewn on blazons.
Labelled a speculative inspection of the written and oral histories of Beirut’s neighbourhood districts, this body of work, the artist’s second solo exhibition at Sfeir-Semler consists of sites and sculptures that have become part of the collective and popular culture.
To mark the twentieth anniversary of her “top-notch blue-chip gallery in Hamburg, Germany,” gallery owner Andrée Sfeir-Semler decided to open a space in Beirut in 2005. The 1400 square metre space that she chose in Karantina effectively became the first white cube gallery space in the Middle East.
Since inception, the gallery has made a name for itself through the artist showcased but also for facilitating exchanges between Western-based and Middle Eastern artists. One point in case is Elger Esser, a German photographer who created a body of work during extended stays in Lebanon.
Among the artists represented and exhibited at Sfeir-Semler over the past decade are The Atlas Group/Walid Raad, Esser, Alfredo Jaar, Emily Jacir, Amal al Kenawy, Till Krause, Hiroyuki Masuyama, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Akram Zaatari, Wael Shawky, Yto Barrada, Etel Adnan, Sol LeWitt, Rabieh Mroué and Christine Streuli amongst others.
Sfeir-Semler Gallery is a must-visit for anyone interested in the local and broader Middle Eastern art scene.