Nelida Nassar 05.14.14
The rejuvenated Beirut has recently been synonymous with art in the Middle East in the way that Paris is synonymous with romance. It’s certainly a city that has embraced this reputation. Slab A is the latest in a string of hip venues but the first that doubles as art and design gallery as well as a bar/café.
There’s no real central art area in Beirut, each neighborhood bringing their distinctive characteristics to art culture. As for the bars, they cluster around specific streets. Twelve years ago, Monot Street has had its hey days, Slab A is positioning itself to set the clock back by revitalizing the area artistically and culturally with stylish entertainment.
A suitably line up of live and recorded tunes will encompass soft to classical music creating a soothing mood. You can get your cultural fix with a cocktail in hand, in chilled out and sociable surroundings or around a delicious cup of coffee that you can pick accompanied with a piece of cake. This chic and contemporary gallery is design conscious; an exposed concrete, metal, wood, and glass space stacked on two-levels will host regular, changing exhibitions by local and international artists. Even the bar itself has the look of some kind of avant-garde installation designed by the suave owner Amer Wahoud.
The launching exhibition entitled: art and design in times of crisis features the artworks of a roaster of twelve local artists of different style and language Ara Azad, Noor el-Khazen, Sari el Khazen, Habib Fadel, Noor Haydar, George Mattar, Jean Marc Nahas, Marwan Nahle, Cyrille Najjar, Sybille Tamer, Missak Terzian, Tom Young and Purrl Jewelry. Some of them express the violence and state of the decay related to the civil war. Here is a gallery concerned with the country’s economic realities and its artists’ state as the title suggests, unafraid to set precedents.
Slab A is set to become a cult venue with an artistic feel. It is however this artistic approach that will attract directors, actors and painters and why not become the place where political Beirut will be spotted and get together: MPs, bankers and journalists. The gallery will also show top-calibre photography exhibitions: pictures by Helmut Newton and Guy Bourdin. “My aim is to produce a space, a work of art that was like a beehive in which all levels of society bump into each other,” says Amer Wahoud. “For me Slab A is a social sculpture in the sense of Joseph Beuys.” Yes indeed, art has always been an integral part of Beirut’s to which a bar/café tradition is added.
The crowd, unsurprisingly, is expected to be a hip and art literate bunch, stylish in dress and highbrow in conversation. It is worth a visit even if you’re not remotely interested in drinking or what’s on the walls. Beware so don’t go expecting a cheap night out and do buy any artwork while under the influence…!
Tonight, so swot up on your art knowledge, put on your cool clothes, snag yourself a seat in this friendly atmosphere and join in.