Nelida Nassar 10.26.2013
Curators Janine Maamari and Marie Tomb are newcomers to Lebanon’s vibrant art scene, having organized only two shows in their young collaboration – however, Maamari has prepared with a group of Lebanese, in the United Kingdom, two exhibitions “Romantic Lebanon” is one among them – but they are already seeking to develop a new exhibition model that this critic is naming “Moving Museum.” The “Moving Museum” hopes to explore the intellectual convictions and personal visions that underlie many of the most prestigious and influential shows in the world today. Among the aesthetic and theoretical issues exhibits raise are globalism, post-colonialism, capitalism, vernacular identity, memory, the future of cultural tourism, the exhibition as spectacle or utopian ideal, and, finally, the relationship between artist and curator. Appropriating aspects of their model from Western sources, they have made the “Moving Museum” a new kind of organization that blurs the boundary between commercial gallery and public institution. While it does not represent artists, it does produce thematic shows in conjunction with galleries and major art fairs, funding its not-for-profit activity by selling works of art.
Neither of the curators comes from a family of artists. Maamari, a trained psychologist is with her husband collectors of Lebanese and Oriental Art and Tomb is pursuing her doctorate dissertation in the United Kingdom. What the two curators are attempting to do is completely new for Lebanon. Speaking about the limitations of the gallery model, they observed that people don’t go to galleries in the same way anymore. Instead, they go to fairs and to biennales that draw huge and very keen audiences – collectors, curators, enthusiasts.
They launched their model last year with a show called “Rebirth” which featured both established and younger Lebanese artists responding to the theme of rebirth – clearly a vigorous affirmation that the Lebanese war years were well behind them. Like “Rebirth,” “Journeys through our Heritage,” their second exhibition, includes only Lebanese artists, some who work locally and others who reside abroad. Maamari and Tomb asked curators and galleries for advice, and this, with the collaboration of French curator Daniele Giraudy combined with their own research and personal tastes resulted in a short list of artists for “Rebirth” exhibition.
“Journeys through our Heritage” includes only artists not previously exhibited in “Rebirth” and who are less than 35 years of age. They were invited to create a work stylistically related to one by an older, established Lebanese artist, even though the European Renaissance and Enlightenment’s apprenticeship paradigm never existed in Lebanon. Both shows have been artist-driven and theme-based. Each artist was given a solo presentation and could do whatever he or she wanted as long as the artwork reflected the designated theme. In the absence of a Lebanese contemporary art museum, Solidere “The Lebanese Company for the Development and Reconstruction of Beirut” donated for both exhibits its 1200 square meters “Beirut Exhibition Center.” The extensive display of sculpture, performance art, photography, painting, and video art yielded uneven results. The artists did sell some work, but since the curators’ organization is a not-for-profit, the proceeds went to supporting the artists and funding new projects.
The “Moving Museum” model can potentially stands out as a laboratory for experimentation, aesthetic liberation and archival documentation – a laboratory where the curators’ own experience and knowledge are also being tested. As they negotiate venues for artistic expression, intellectual critiques, and humanistic concerns in their own societies and others, they are challenged by the assumed certainties of a bygone past and the uncertainties of a constantly evolving future. The two innovative curators Maamari and Tomb unequivocally recognize that they are still modifying and improving their “Moving Museum” paradigm which disrupts the traditional logic of the existing galleries and art fairs. This is an experiment worth following.