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Revolution in Lebanon, October 17, 2019, Marwan Tahtah (Courtesy of the artist)

Lebanon Then and Now: Photography from 2006 to 2020 is an immersive 360° exhibit at the MEI Art Gallery featuring the works of 17 of Lebanon’s most exciting art and documentary photographers. Originally planned as a physical exhibit, Lebanon Then and Now has been reimagined as a virtual show in light of MEI’s temporary closure due to the global coronavirus pandemic.

Curated by Chantale Fahmi, the show's 50 powerful images capture the aftermath of Lebanon's long civil war (1975-1990), as well as the street protests that erupted on October 17, 2019 in response to the corruption and political mismanagement that triggered Lebanon’s financial collapse. The exhibit tells the story of the troubled calm that presaged Lebanon’s current storm and of the struggle for greater social justice and democracy that continues to this day in the shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The exhibit has been organized in collaboration with the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris, the Beirut Museum of Art, USA (BeMA USA), the Beirut Center of Photography (BCP), and the Association for the Promotion and Exhibition of the Arts in Lebanon (APEAL).

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Virtual Gallery Tour

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About the Artists

The exhibition features the works of 17 of Lebanon’s most exciting art and documentary photographers, and one filmmaker: Lamia Maria Abillama, Pierre Aboujaoude, Vladimir Antaki, Hussein Beydoun, Myriam Boulos, İeva Saudargaite Douaihi, Blanche Eid, Maria Kassab, Dalia Khamissy, Jana Khoury, Emilie Madi, Vicky Mokbel, Elias Moubarak, Tanino Musso, Badr Safadi, Jack Seikaly, Omar Sfeir, and Marwan Tahtah.

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Beyrouth Centre Ville, 1991 (film, 22 mn)

Tanino Musso
b. 1952, Italy; lives and works in Milan

Tanino Musso is an Italian filmmaker who has spent his life documenting social struggles and cultural changes for the Italian broadcasting corporation (RAI). Because of his professional skills, in 1991 Tanino Musso was invited to participate in a photographic mission, “Beyrouth Centre Ville,” organized by the Hariri Foundation. The mission was to document the aftermath of the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990) in the city of Beirut one year after the war ended. In the film, the wide-spread destruction of the city center is laid bare accompanied by portraits of Beirut’s citizens attempting to maintain a sense of normalcy and routine within the wreckage. The entire film was shot on 8mm handycam, with Musso being one of the first filmmakers to use the new technology. The film featured in the Institut du Monde Arabe exhibit, Lebanon: Between Reality and Promise

Lebanon Through the Lens of Photography

The webinar, held on July 16, featured speakers from the exhibit’s lead participating partners, the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris, and the Beirut Museum of Art, USA, as well as the exhibit’s curator and artists. They reflected on the significance and the power of the show during this difficult moment in Lebanon’s history as it faces near financial collapse. They also explored the role of photography as a medium to represent, reflect upon and amplify a country’s economic and social condition, as well as the power it has to capture the raw emotion and immediacy of an uprising and to inspire solidarity and a sense of unity.

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Photo: "The Shipwreck" by Maria Kassab, 2018 (courtesy of the artist)

A Conversation with the Curator and Artists

Curator Chantale Fahmi and featured artists Vicky Mokbel and Marwan Tahtah join MEI's Kate Seelye to discuss "Lebanon Then and Now," their roles documenting the country's development, and their forthcoming work in this episode of MEI's Middle East Focus podcast.

Photo: "EDL: On-Off/In-Out" by Vicky Mokbel, 2015 (courtesy of the artist)

Reflections on the August 4 Explosion

In this episode of the Middle East Focus podcast, Patrick Baz, Kristine Khouri, and Emilie Madi join MEI's Lyne Sneige to discuss the impact of the Beirut Port explosion on Lebanon’s artistic community; how museums and galleries are working to preserve cultural heritage; and how photojournalists recorded this tragic moment in Lebanon’s history.

Photo: "From the Street with Love," by Emilie Madi, 2020 (courtesy of the artist)

Additional Resources

MEI's Oman Library has compiled useful links relating to the artists and works in this exhibition, as well as general information and research resources on the themes it explores.

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