DUBAI: A fascinating exhibition is being held in the grounds of Deir El Kalaa, an eighteenth-century monastery with extensive Roman ruins in the hills above Beirut. The open-air show presents the works of 37 Lebanese and international contemporary artists, forging a dialogue between antiquity and modernity.
Titled “Lost in the Right Direction,” the exhibition showcases works of design, photography and installation in different parts of the ruins. Running until Jan. 9, it has been organized by Art Design Lebanon (AD Leb), a cultural space directed by Annie Vartivarian.
Vartivarian set up AD Leb in honor of her late daughter, the up-and-coming designer Gaïa Fodoulian, who was killed in the Beirut explosion in 2020. “What is important for me is to just keep Gaïa’s name and memory alive,” she told Arab News. The title of the show was taken from an Instagram post written by Fodoulian.
Archaeology professor Assad Seif gave the artists tours of the site, feeding ideas into their artworks to help in the layout of objects and to offer a deeper understanding of the monastery’s history. “Every piece is in its right place,” said Vartivarian, “It’s lost but people have to find it out.”
At a time when morale in Lebanon is low, the show’s themes are varied, exploring loss, memory, the passage of time, the Lebanese landscape and a sense of hope. In a setting of ruins and mosaic floors, it offers a contemplative experience.
Looking at the art on display, Cambridge-born Nathaniel Rackowe’s stainless steel sculpture of black beams, tipped with golden endings, was inspired by drawings made by Fodoulian, who sketched stalagmites found in the caves of Lebanon’s Jeita Grotto.
Beirut-based Adrian Pepe, versed in embroidery, presents “Hush” – a floor to ceiling work in felt, with its nomadic associations.
Furniture designer Karen Chekerdjian produced “Adam’s Box II,” a bench made of sand collected from different Lebanese regions, with a base of cylindrical and triangular forms.