September 18, 2016

Beirut’s Art Scene: A Top 10 Guide

I enjoyed this article by the Guardian and wanted to share it with you...This art guide highlights a number of local restaurants.

As the city prepares for the Beirut Art Fair, we take a tour of new galleries, museums, shops and restaurants popping up in its bohemian neighbourhoods

The last 12 months in Beirut have seen the reopening of the historic Sursock Museum and the inauguration of Aïshti, a cutting-edge modern art foundation, while from 15-18 September the Beirut Art Fair will showcase 40 galleries from 18 countries. Then, at the end of the month, the doors will open for Beit Beirut, a centre dedicated to the memory of decades of conflict witnessed here. But if Beit Beirut aims to come to terms with the past, dynamic locals have their eyes set on future projects, and despite uncertainty in the surrounding region, the Lebanese capital has energy and enthusiasm in abundance. After visiting the new museums, rather than follow guidebook recommendations for the luxury downtown area, take a tour of the more bohemian quarters popping up: Badaro, Mar Mikhael and Gemmayzeh.


Sursock Museum

A symbol of Beirut’s renaissance is the reopening of the sumptuous Sursock Museum after a seven-year, £10m renovation supervised by renowned French architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte. Built in 1912 in an extravagant mix of Ottoman and Venetian styles, the white, wedding-cake exterior of swirling balustrades has been left intact while Wilmotte has created a series of airy salons to exhibit the museum’s impressive collection of contemporary Lebanese art and provocative temporary shows such as the current Lets Talk About The Weather (until 24 October), where artists address the problems of climate change.

Free, Greek Orthodox Archbishopric Street, Ashrafieh, Open 10am-6pm daily, except late-night Thursday (noon-9pm) and Tuesdays (closed)


Aïshti Foundation

The decision of businessman Tony Salamé to commission a private museum in his home town to showcase his contemporary art collection has put Beirut back on the global art map. The venture is comparable to François Pinault’s private museum in Venice and Bernard Arnault’s Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris. Designed by British architect David Adjaye, Aïshti covers four floors, currently exhibiting 170 pieces by the likes of Lucio Fontana, Urs Fischer and Alice Channer from Salame’s collection of an estimated 2,000 works. Salamé made his millions retailing luxury fashion brands, and the building also houses a futuristic shopping mall alongside the foundation’s art exhibitions – as well the swish ArtPeople cafe.
Seaside Road, Antelias,


Opened by a jewellery designer, a gallery owner and architect of Beit Beirut Youssef Haidar, Gramm is a fragrant emporium of shelves stocked high with herbs and spices, honey and olive oil, dried flowers, date molasses and grape vinegar, mountain cheeses and Lebanese wines from the vineyards of Batroun and the Bekaa valley. The deli also doubles as a casual lunchtime cafe for Lebanese meze, serving afternoon tea and early evening aperitifs. Local specialities are the pink pepper, baef rose, aromatic za’atar spice, orange blossom and sticky-sweet Maamoul cakes.
El Artz Street, Saifih, on Facebook. Open Mon-Sat 8am-8pm


Under Construction

Mar Mikhael is the nightlife centre of Beirut, and the main drag, Armenia Street, is alive with bars, bistros and clubs. Kick off with cocktails, an absinthe or a glass of arak at Anise, probably the coolest bar in town, followed by a huge burger at The Happy Prince, made from dry-aged black angus beef. Then, on to the latest bar to make its mark on Armenia Street. The unfinished, half-renovated facade of Under Construction could be a metaphor for the whole city. Inside, the roomy concrete and industrial-themed interiors are packed out till the early hours.
Armenia Street, Mar Mikhael, on Facebook. Open daily 5pm-3am


Pipe Brothers

Badaro is Beirut’s latest hot neighbourhood and its main boulevard is lined with cool cocktail bars, terrace cafes that could be in Paris or New York and designer boutiques such as the Pipe Brothers’, whose eye-catching first collection of handmade lamps look like something Heath Robinson could have invented. The lighting fixtures (for desk, ceiling, wall and floor) are created by the resourceful brothers, Toni and Alexi Abou Sleiman, and all made from recycled industrial pipes and steel tubes.
Route de Badaro, Badaro, Open Mon-Fri 10am-7pm, Sat 10am-1pm

Plan Bey Gallery

Beirut has plenty of exclusive high-end art galleries, but this new Plan Bey location offers something different: affordable limited-edition art and photo prints by Beiruti artists such as Mazen Kerbaj and Cherine Yazbeck, handmade artist books, graffiti stickers and political comic books including Barrack Rima’s Beyrouth Bye Bye – where the city drowns under mountains of garbage and is attacked by crocodiles and ninjas.
Gouraud Street, Gemmayzeh, Open daily 11am-8pm, closed Sundays



Liza Soughayar’s eponymous Paris restaurant has made a name for itself as the French capital’s top address for Lebanese food, but this passionate Beiruti decided to risk all by opening up in her home city too. Renovating a grand 19th-century mansion, she exhibits challenging artworks by young Lebanese artists, and two of the four dining rooms are decorated with audacious one-off wallpaper replicating the old Lebanese Pound bank note and silhouettes of bombed Beirut buildings. The cuisine is a surprising, modern interpretation of traditional dishes such as kebbe nayye (lamb tartar) and loukoz bel selek (sea bass with tahini), while the hummus and tabbouleh are out of this world.
Main dishes £10-£18. Doumani Street, Achrafieh, Open Tues-Sun, 12.30pm-3.30pm and 8pm-11.30pm, closed Sunday nights and Mondays



In a minimalist modern building in the fashionable Gemmayzeh neighbourhood, Ginette is a bright multi-concept store over three levels that includes a breakfast-and-lunch cafe, boutique spaces showcasing young Beiruti designers, organic cosmetics and accessories, to an art gallery exhibiting everything from contemporary photography to plant sculptures. At breakfast, order a barista French press coffee and labneh (thick unstrained yogurt, with mint, thyme and black olives), while at lunch there are speciality quinoa dishes, vegetarian and gluten-free salads.
Gouraud Steet, Gemmayzeh, on Facebook. Open daily 8am-8pm



Opened at the same time as the Aïshti Foundation, Marfa’ is a more modest art project but another example of a Lebanese returning to Beirut to help bring the city back to life. Joumana Asseily was based in Paris and Los Angeles before returning to work at the dynamic Beirut Art Center and has now opened Marfa’, which means port in Arabic, to promote local artists and invite emerging international artists here. Between containers and warehouses in the sprawling port zone, Marfa’ occupies an old ship repair workshop, whose bare white walls are perfect to present contemporary installations of video, photo and sculpture.
1339 Marfa’ district, marfaprojects. Open Tues-Fri noon-7pm, Sat 2pm-6pm, and by appointment

Grand Meshmosh Hotel

Halfway up the picturesque Saint Nicolas Stairway – steep steps that climb up to the Sursock Museum – the Meshmosh (apricot in Arabic) is a new cool hostel where travellers can choose between simple dorms, private double rooms or the luxurious rooftop suite. A copious Lebanese breakfast is served on their terrace, the reception doubles as a popular cafe and bar, and friendly owner Michel Chebli is a mine of information. The Meshmosh covers all four floors of a distinctive pastel apartment block in a quiet residential area, though it is walking distance from the nightlife and bars of Mar Mikhael.
Dorm bed £17, doubles £45. Route Saint-Nicolas, Gemmayzeh, on Facebook

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