Beirut's Museum of Memory Opens Despite Challenges

BY Katrina Kufer / Oct 21 2017 / 12:29 PM

The Beirut museum opens its first exhibition commissioned by The Fondazione Merz and Liban Art though it still lacks a director or board of governors

Beirut's Museum of Memory Opens Despite Challenges
Photography © Josette Yousef. © Courtesy the artist, Fondazione Merz and Liban Art
Zena El Khalil. Sacred Catastrophe: Healing Lebanon. Installation view at the Museum of Memory, Beirut

The museum, which sat empty for over a year, is holding its first 40-day exhibition, which the lead architect told The Art Newspaper is a milestone in and of itself. The exhibiting artist, Zena El Khalil, highlights “the missing” of Lebanon’s civil war – inaugurating the bullet-ridden four-storey Art Deco building, which was used as a sniper post during the 1975-1990 war.

El Khalil’s works include sound, photography and installation, including 17,000 green sticks “planted” over two storeys to represent the thousands still listed as missing. The work, installed by the remaining family members of the missing, also directly references “The Green line” that divided Muslim West Beirut from Christian East Beirut, a position that's marked by the corner building and proved a key sniper post resulting in the deaths of thousands. “Due to the location, I wanted to create a piece that honoured the site,” El Khalil told The Art Newspaper. “The families of the missing are getting older and soon they will become a forgotten memory. They are green because of the location and green because our memories are still alive.”

While parts of the building have been renovated into white cube like spaces, the research centre and library remain empty, while the rest of the building has been preserved as it was left – including the bullet holes, sniper graffiti and sandbag walls that offer a chilling glance into a divided past.

No further exhibitions have been confirmed as of yet.