Paul Guiragossian at Beirut Exhibition Center

Paul Guiragossian at Beirut Exhibition Center

Art Reoriented

Paul Guiragossian, Self Portrait, 1951. Gouache on paper, 30 x 24 cm. Courtesy of the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Ramzi Saidi.

November 13, 2013

Paul Guiragossian
The Human Condition

November 20, 2013–January 6, 2014

Organized by Paul Guiragossian Foundation

Beirut Exhibition Center
Beirut Water Front

Curators: Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath

Paul Guiragossian: The Human Condition is the hitherto most comprehensive retrospective for the artist consisting of more than 100 paintings and works on paper, many of which never exhibited before, alongside an extensive range of original archival documents spanning five decades of his life. Curated by Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath of Art Reoriented, a multidisciplinary curatorial platform based in Munich and New York, this is a long overdue re-assessment of the life and work of a pioneering artistic and intellectual figure from Lebanon and in the Arab world. On commenting about the show, the curators said: “Paul Guiragossian spent his entire life exploring through his art the human condition in all its facets until his passing in 1993. Twenty years on, while the predicament of the Arab world remains behest with so much turbulence, the exhibition offers a message of hope through presenting the visionary philosophy that lies behind Guiragossian’s work, not only in his contribution to Arab Modernity at large, but to his never ceasing faith in the ascendance of the human being.”

The exhibition contextualizes the multiple strands of Guiragossian’s career within a contemporary curatorial reading, highlighting his pivotal position amongst a specific generation of artists. It sheds light on his pursuit of a formalistic vernacular that constantly sways towards abstraction without fully rejecting figuration. The exhibition equally emphasizes Guiragossian’s preoccupation, through his art and writings, with an alternative paradigm to the Occidental narrative of modernity and his visionary articulation of an Arab-specific modernism that operates beyond the parameters of rupture vs. tradition, imitation vs. innovation and the rhetoric of post-colonial identity politics.

The exhibition is envisioned as a non-chronological, non-linear space where several interconnected galleries are based on one of the central topics that the artist kept on revisiting over the years: “Self,” “Family,” “Woman and Motherhood,” “Faith and Despair,” “Laborers and Street life,” and “Exile and Belonging.” These are recurring themes that drove the conceptual impulse underscoring Guiragossian’s relentless search for a formalistic expression that could best describe the infinite complexity of the human condition. “The exhibition does not follow a conventional exhibition format,” the curators added. “Paul Guiragossian believed that art existed beyond the dimension of time and it was important to reflect this philosophy in the presentation of his oeuvre.”

The exhibition is organized by the Paul Guiragossian Foundation that was initiated in 2011 by Guiragossian’s wife and five children to protect and promote the legacy of the artist. Manuella Guiragossian, exhibition advisor and daughter of the late artist, added: “Combining the substantial archival materials that the Foundation has assembled over the years with the vision of the curators, this retrospective will emphasize important aspects of his life and writing that will shed new light on his pivotal position within the art history of the region and beyond.”

Paul Guiragossian: The Human Condition is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue. A comprehensive monograph on the artist, authored by the curators, will be published in 2014.

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About the artist 
Born in 1925 to Armenian parents survivors of the Armenian Genocide, Paul Guiragossian experienced exile since a very tender age. In the 1940s he enrolled at the Yarkon Studio of art in Jaffa. Around 1948, the Guiragossians were evacuated from Jerusalem by the British and were sent on ships to Lebanon; the country that the artist would ultimately adopt as his home. There he would discard the academicism still adopted by many of his peers to develop the abstract compositions for which he would become known.

Through years of self-education, trial and error, and scholarships to the Accademia di Belle Arti di Firenze in 1957 and Les Ateliers des Maîtres de l’École de Paris in 1962, Guiragossian would receive acclaim both in Lebanon and beyond for his work as an artist and his prolific writings as an educator and a self-taught art historian and critic. Over the following two decades and until the rest of his life, Guiragossian would gradually liberate himself from the confines of the discernible human figure. Yet, no matter how far his interrogation of the possibilities of painting reached, Guiragossian could never entirely sever himself from an obsession with the infinite manifestations of the human condition.

About the curators
Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath are the co-founders of Art Reoriented, a multidisciplinary curatorial platform based in Munich and New York since 2009. Their exhibitions include ItaliaArabia, Iran Inside Out; Told Untold Retold, the inaugural contemporary art exhibition for Mathaf: the Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha; Tea with Nefertiti, the international traveling show for Mathaf: the Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha; L’Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris; the Instituto Valenciano de Arte Moderno in Valencia and the Staatliches Museum Ägyptischer Kunst in Munich. They are currently preparing a Mona Hatoum exhibition for Mathaf, and a thematic exhibition for the Gwangju Museum of Art in South Korea, both opening in 2014. In 2013, Bardaouil and Fellrath curated the Lebanese Pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennial. Their new book Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter… and Spring: Conversations with Artists from the Arab World is published by SKIRA and will be released before the end of 2013.

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November 13, 2013

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