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Beirut re-brushed

Despite Lebanon's political and security challenges, Beirut is witnessing an upsurge in the art scene with established and new museums exhibiting Arab artworks.
TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY RIMA ABUSHAKRA A general view shows the Sursock Museum in Beirut on June 27, 2008. Gemmayzeh boasts some of Beirut's most magnificent mansions owned by the Sursock family. The Sursock Museum was once a private home built in 1912 and now is host to an impressive permanent art collection. The house had a splendid garden that kept it apart from its closest neighbour, also another Sursock mansion. But recently the garden was razed to allow for the construction of a 25-storey apartment bl

In an Al-Monitor article in 2013, I suggested that partly because of the civil strife, traditional core cities in the Arab world such as Damascus, Cairo and Baghdad are facing, as well as increased cultural investments by Gulf states, the center of gravity for art and culture in the Arab world was shifting eastward to Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Doha. The article created controversy both within the Gulf states and the wider Arab world.

Sadly, these “core” Arab cities have only faced more setbacks since 2013. Terror attacks have escalated and museums have been looted. But there is reason to celebrate. For instance, prompted by the grotesque destruction of the Mosul Museum by the Islamic State thugs, Baghdad brought forward the opening of its national museum 12 years after it closed; Egypt finally reopened the National Museum of Modern Art in Cairo as well as the Mahmoud Said Museum in Alexandria, which also houses the Wanly brothers collection. Elsewhere in the Arab world, Morocco inaugurated a brand-new museum dedicated to art in Rabat, Amman’s Darat Al Funun continues to present a world-class series of exhibitions and Algeria is celebrating the naming of the northeastern city of Constantine as “capital city of Arabic culture in 2015” by UNESCO as part of its mega investments in cultural projects.

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