• Overview
  • The collection in numbers
  • The collection of the lebanese Ministry of Culture
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So far, BeMa’s Collection is composed of three separate loan collections, which together provide a comprehensive overview of Modern and Contemporary Lebanese art.

The first, a collection of 700 paintings and works on paper belonging to the KA (Abraham Karabajakian and Roger Akoury) Collection, covers a range of Modern and Contemporary artists including Paul Guiragossian, Shafic Abboud, Helen Khal and Ziad Antar.

The second, a collection of approximately 150 pieces including paintings, works on paper, artist sketchbooks and sculptures, belongs to the collection of Claude Lemand and come to Beirut from Paris.

The third, a collection promised by the Lebanese Ministry of Culture, makes up the vast majority of the works given to the museum and consists of over 2300 paintings and works on paper, most of which are Modern, but which also include a number of Contemporary and 19th Century pieces.

While this collection is sizeable, many of the pieces have suffered from damage and require restoration. BeMA’s agreement with the Ministry requires the restoration and conservation of the works chosen for exhibit at the Museum.

The conservator in charge of this undertaking is Kerstin Khalife. She will be responsible for restoring 400 of the most important pieces in the collection over the course of the next four years. This will be done in partnership with the Department of Restoration of Paintings and Sculptures of the State Academy of Fine Arts in Stuttgart and the project will include the training of Lebanese students in restoration studies. Funding for the restoration laboratory was secured through a grant from the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Middle Eastern art, which is also part of the Museum’s remit, will eventually feature in the Collection but for the moment, that collection is still being built.

  • KA Private Collection: 700 artworks

    • 400 paintings
    • 200 works on paper
    • 50 photographs
    • 50 sculptures
  • Claude Lemand Collection: 150 pieces

    • 20 sculptures
    • 50 works on paper
    • 80 paintings
  • Ministry of Culture Collection: 1687 pieces

    • 1188 paintings
    • 340 works on paper
    • 135 sculptures
    • 14 photographs
    • 10 mixed media
To serve as the foundation of its exhibition, BeMA has secured the peerless trove of Contemporary and Modern Lebanese art held in trust by the country’s Ministry of Culture.

The comprehensive collection is comprised of 2358 pieces and includes the masterworks of almost 500 Lebanese artists dating back to the 19th Century. The vast majority of pieces are paintings rendered on canvas (approximately 1100) but the inventory also includes with 360 works on paper, 130 sculptures and 13 photographic works. The earliest works are by Daoud Corm (1852-1930) and the latest were created in 2015. The collection, most of which was generously donated by the artists at the time of creation, also includes a careful selection of pieces purchased by the Ministry during Lebanon’s annual Salon D’Automne, which were chosen for the relevance of their subject matter and the importance of the artist to their contemporary scene.

In sharp contrast with surrounding countries, creativity has enjoyed a prominent place in Lebanon’s cultural life from the onset. Much as in Europe, where artists and the arts developed organically, Lebanon’s open, pluralistic and experimental society lent its artistic minds the space and the encouragement to express themselves and their stories.

As such, the history of the country and its people can be read in the Ministry’s collection. From the early 19th Century masters like Khalil Saleeby, who painted portraits with exquisite accuracy, to the Moderns like Khalil Zgaib, who brought village weddings to life through the use of bold, folkloric color and brave, Contemporary figures like Yvette Achkar and Shafic Abboud, who experimented with Abstract Expressionism, as you watch Lebanese art evolve, it becomes clear that it was very much part of the global discourse on art history and trends.

Assembled over the course of Lebanon’s 70 years as an independent nation, the breadth and depth of the spectacular collection is unparalleled. With over 1865 artworks from the 20th Century alone, it covers a vast array of subjects and includes works by all of the important Modern Masters, many of whom are represented in multiple pieces that not only illustrate the growth and development of their career but also serve as neat summations of the particular era in which they were working. The collection is also important for bringing many of Lebanon’s otherwise forgotten talents to light, artists who may have not been considered blue chip by commercial standards but who merit praise, if only from an academic perspective.

With a small area dedicated to earlier works that will contextualize the collection, the narrative that unfolds at BeMA continues telling the story of Lebanese history and culture from the point at which the National Museum, which is just on the other side of the road, leaves off. Between them, the two institutions will tell a continuous story of Lebanese artistic and cultural heritage that spans six thousand years.

Currently spread across five sites - the Presidential Palace, the Parliament (Serail), the Presidential Summer Residence (Beiteddine), the UNESCO Palace and assorted Ministry of Culture offices - that are not all open to the public, the opening of BeMA will mark the first occasion that the collection, a source of national pride, has been assembled in one place for everyone to enjoy.

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