DUBAI: At a time when cultural life in France has taken a hard hit, a new boutique art fair featuring works from the Middle East and North Africa will arrive on the Parisian art scene from May 27 to 30. The MENART fair will present the works of 22 galleries from 13 different countries.
“In Paris, you have an art fair devoted to Asia and Africa, but you have nothing on the Middle East and North Africa”, explains the founder of the fair Laure d ‘ Hauteville to Arab News. A longtime Arabophile, d’Hauteville brings a wealth of knowledge to the fair after living in Beirut for 30 years and founding one of the main cultural events in the Lebanese capital, the Beirut Art Fair.
It was a year after the end of the Lebanese civil war in 1990 that d’Hauteville arrived in Beirut, where she worked as a cultural journalist and advisor to art collectors. She created the Beirut Art Fair in 2010. But since the uprising of 2019, the explosion of the port of Beirut and in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and the current severe economic crisis in Lebanon, the fair has been suspended, so d ‘Hauteville continues to promote regional art through his latest adventure in his native France.
“The Beirut Art Fair is sleeping a bit now. I’ll wake him up when possible, ”she said. “I don’t want to now because it’s not good for the galleries and the mood of the people. This is not the right time. But MENART Fair is a Beirut Art Fair baby and the baby will grow up and cross countries to say, “We exist and maybe Lebanon will be healthier and we will come back to Beirut.
Among the participating MENART galleries, two are from Saudi Arabia – Mono Gallery and Athr Gallery. The fair will also host, according to Mr. d’Hauteville, groups of notable museums such as the Palais de Tokyo, the Center Pompidou and the Museum of Modern Art in Paris. Respecting social distancing, mask wearing and capacity limitation measures, the event will take place in an intimate setting at the Cornette de Saint Cyr auction house, founded in the early 1970s.
The elegant space, spread over three levels, is housed in a traditional building in the 8th arrondissement of the French capital. “People will see how we have taken advantage of the architecture to showcase the works of art that we will be exhibiting,” says d’Hauteville. It consists of ornate white walls, Art Deco windows and large fireplaces, providing an interesting contrast to the vibrancy and modernity of the works of art on display.
Through the open access lounge, d’Hauteville and her colleague, curator Joanna Chevalier, aim not only to introduce the French public to the artists of the region, but also to erase misconceptions about the Middle East through the culture and creativity. “What I don’t like here in Europe is when people talk about the Middle East, it’s always a matter of politics,” says d’Hauteville. “We don’t just have politics. We have art, music and fashion design… We are alive.
Female artists are therefore a crucial part of MENART, in part to counter misconceptions about how women lead their lives in the Middle East. “It’s important to know that many of the artistic and cultural initiatives are produced by women,” says d’Hauteville. Works by Lulwah Al-Homoud, Nada Debs and Hiba Kalache, among others, will be on display at the fair. A number of modern Arab masters, including Etel Adnan, Hussein Madi, Mahjoub Ben Bella and Baya Mahieddine, will also be represented.
“We have some really fantastic artists who are famous in their countries, but not in Europe. We therefore wish to highlight their work to the European public, ”said Mr. d’Hauteville.