American Univesity of Beirut

Exhibit – “Crucial Turns: A Critical Mapping of Art at AUB”

​​​​​​​​​​​AUB faculty, students and staff gathered on the evening of Tuesday, May 23rd at the Nami Jafet Memorial Library for the opening ceremony of a capstone exhibition curated by three AUB Art History students displaying material depicting critical turns in Art at AUB since in the foundation of the Fine Art Department since the 1950s.

The exhibit is curated by Katharine Gordon, Lama El Khatib and Nour Osseiran, all three of which are AUB students, who initiated and completed this project as part of the “Theories, Methods, and Practices of Curating” (AHIS284) seminar at AUB; a seminar that acts as a capstone for the students within the Art History major.

The course is instructed by Angela Harutyunyan, Associate Professor at the Department of Fine Arts and Art History at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, AUB, who said that the importance of this exhibit is that it is a first attempt to bring to light the rich history of art at AUB as formed by and formative of the art scene in Beirut and Lebanon at large. For the students, it is an opportunity to understand and historicize art and art history education that they themselves are undergoing.

The exhibit gives tribute to artists such as Walid Sadek, Daniele Genadry, David Kurani, Arthur Frick, and John Carswell. The material displayed include original paintings that were generously provided by the artists, in addition to photos, sketches, posters and other primary sources found at the Archives and Special Collections department at the University Libraries.

The exhibit will remain on display at the lobby at Jafet Library until Friday, June 2nd.

The curators believe that the exhibition brings together a montage of key moments and figures in and around the Art Department at AUB since its inception and throughout its tumultuous history by using archival material, which provide a general overview of what has been documented – from 1946 until today. Presenting these documents alongside contemporary art works, the curators hope to engage the audience in a critical journey of the art department at AUB.

Lama El Khatib talked about the concept behind the exhibit saying, “As part of the capstone class for the Art History major, we were asked to curate an exhibition based on a concept and structure that we developed on our own. This prompted a series of questions and concerns about our position as students, yet simultaneously those who will ultimately enter the art world and the job market in the future. This made us want to take a closer look at art education, and investigate the connections between institutions, artists, faculty and students, as well as links between institutions and their historical and urban context. We decided to look at AUB as a key institution and a case study.”

Nour Osseiran spoke of the process and how it affected their understanding of Art at AUB saying, “In order to better understand the significance of AUB as an institution which mediated the relations between artists and students, we chose to focus on archival material available at Jafet Library, before we reach out to artists for their work. There was so much rich material to work with and we realized that this project would involve careful work and selection. We spent many days going through the scrapbooks and boxes organized by the archivists. It was a very eye-opening experience for us; we realized how much AUB has been influenced by artists, and has influenced artists since the inception of the major. Carefully reading through the material allowed us to critically understand the intricate map of people and institutions that navigate the artistic space in Lebanon.

Katharine Gordon added. “This project took a lot of coordination between different people on campus, and it was really a new experience for us. Not only were we able to gain more knowledge of working with archives, but we also realized the realities of planning and putting together an exhibition from scratch. It was a very valuable practical exercise, but also very rewarding. The project is not only something that we recommend for future majors, but it’s also something that is important for students to better understand connections that AUB has with the city, and with the creative minds who live here.

Kaoukab Chebaro, Assistant Professor and Associate University Librarian for Archives and Special Collections at the University Libraries said, “This is an excellent attempt to integrate the Libraries’ primary sources with teaching and learning at AUB” and then added that the libraries are more than happy to have taken part in this exhibit.

Describing the future outcomes of this project, El Khatib hopes that “Looking into AUB as a study could act as a kick starter that launches future projects perhaps for us or other students that look into various institutions in a similar way, paving the way to better understanding art education in Lebanon and beyond: its history and its influence.“

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