Lebanese American University


“What kind of artist do you want to be?”

Prominent gallery owner and curator Saleh Barakat spoke to students of LAU’s Fine Arts and Foundation Studies programs about various Lebanese artists and their lifelong obsessions.

Students and faculty from LAU’s Fine Arts & Foundation Studies programs were treated to a talk by renowned Lebanese curator and gallery owner Saleh Barakat.

“I’m a modest man by nature and so I only speak of art and artists I know well,” said Barakat during his presentation of artists he had either worked with or researched, and whom he found to be obsessed with one particular topic.

Barakat expounded on the lives and fixations of various “artists on a mission” while projecting photographs of their works. Whereas some obsessed over meaning and message, others wrestled with style, aesthetic and technique.

Most of those highlighted were veteran artists with decades’ worth of work centered on one concept or technique. They included Nabil Nahas and his series of cosmos paintings, Samer Sayegh and his calligraphic pieces, and Gebran Tarazi and his geometric works. Among the younger artists showcased were Ayman Baalbaki and Hadi Sy, whose compulsions were evident despite being, comparatively, in their infancy.

“Sy travelled 182,000 miles around the world over four long years collecting hundreds of vials of blood from people of different ages and races,” said Barakat of the young Lebanese artist whose work ‘One Blood’ incorporates portraits and blood samples from 546 people. “He was on a mission to show that we, people, are all the same despite our differences. He is definitely crazy… to have done all this to prove this one idea,” added Barakat with admiration.

The goal of the lecture, explained the owner of Beirut’s renowned Agial gallery to the students, was to spur them to define their purpose and goals. “There are different ways and different types of art. Obsession is one of them. I wish students focused more on engagement,” he said before urging the students to consider what type of artists they wanted to be.

Students and faculty members alike were keen to engage with Barakat and posed a series of questions during the 90-minute session. Asked whether, as a dealer, he saw art as a mission or a commodity, Barakat declared that it was first and foremost an expression for change. “Religion, politics and art, these are the three vehicles through which people can effect change. Most expressions take time to permeate, but those that are successful reverberate into trophies, and trophies have a price. That is the market.”

Recognizing the allure of success in the marketplace and the impact of changing trends on young artists, Barakat returned to his central message. “If you’ve got a mission, then you do what you have to do, even if your work will only receive acknowledgment later.”


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