Over 50 painters from eight Arab countries took part in the Arab Art Fair (AAF) held in Lebanon last week, marking the event’s post-pandemic comeback with an aim of inspiring regional artists in adversity to pursue their dreams.
“This fair shows that we Arabs can cooperate and be one hand to continue spreading our culture and civilization,” Syrian painter Layla Ousta said at the five-day event.
Ousta said that the difficulties facing Arab countries should not stop artists from pursuing their artistic dreams. On the contrary, painters can express their pain and concerns and convey different messages through artwork.
“What does not kill you makes you stronger — this is how I see things. So we will continue with our passion for art as it runs in our blood,” she said.
According to the event’s organizer, Beirut-based exhibitor EDUCITY, the AAF is the first such event in the region to focus on advancing the art market by making art accessible to people.
The first edition of the Arab Art Fair was held in 2019, before the COVID-19 outbreak, said AAF Director Farhat Farhat, who insisted on rebooting the event again this year.
“This event conveys a message of persistence amid the current crisis … and that there is a light at the end of the tunnel,” noted Farhat.
Gathering artists with broad backgrounds shows that the Lebanese and Arabs have faith in the country’s vital cultural role, he said.
Held at the Zaituna Bay, a popular tourist destination in downtown Beirut, the event offered a venue space of 200 U.S. dollars per square meter for each painter.
But the price is still out of reach for some crisis-ridden artists, including Farah Agha, an Iranian painter residing in Lebanon.
“I had to sell some of my small pieces of jewelry to showcase my work here. I wanted to live this experience with other artists from different nationalities,” Agha said, adding that her “inner self” thrives on painting.
Kamil David, a Lebanese painter, said he is “optimistic about selling some artwork despite the crisis.”
Jimmy Homsy, another Lebanese painter, said he managed to sell some of his small paintings at affordable prices, adding although the economic crisis persists, life is moving on for many Lebanese.