Sanah Rehman 9th Sep, 2020

Over $100,000 (1 lakh) was raised by 60+ artists who took part in a fundraiser to support the people affected by the catastrophic blast in Beirut. 

On 4 August 2020, a large amount of ammonium nitrate stored at the port of Beirut exploded, leading to more than 200 deaths, 6,500 injuries and leaving an estimated 300,000 people temporarily homeless. The explosion, which was heard as far as 250kms away in Cyprus, is considered as one of the most powerful non-nuclear explosions in history. It added salt to Beirut’s wounds as it happened at a time when the capital was already struggling with an economic crisis, devaluation of currency, social unrest and rising cases of Covid19.

Artists have always played an important role in nation building and this fundraising initiative bears testament to their unwavering support. For the Love of Beirut, led by Ruwa and Gulf Photo Plus in partnership with Beirut Center of Photography, In My House, and Jadaliyya, featured contributions from independent Lebanese artists, as well as members of NOOR ImagesMagnum Photos, and the international community. 

The sale brought together a selection of over 60 visual artists who generously donated from their most coveted bodies of work to support relief efforts in Beirut. These pieces were produced as fine art, open edition prints (sized at 10×15 inches and costing USD 135 + shipping) that were sold and shipped worldwide with 100% of net proceeds going to the Lebanese Red Cross.  The online print sale began on 10th of August, lasting for two weeks, by the end of which 822 prints were sold from #ForTheLoveOfBeirut campaign and 86 prints from an individual print sale by photographer Roï Saade, collectively raising 1,00,503 dollars. 

 In the GPP Director Mohamed Somjis own words “within twenty-four hours of the August 4th blast, we got to work, rallying artists from Mauritania to Bahrain. We utilized our gift of Beirut, our network, to share our images and to reach out to our international colleagues who shared intimate connections to the city, creating thoughtful and nuanced work around our region.The artists represented in the sale have been hugely generous, offering their most personal and coveted work to support the city we love. We have been deeply moved by their sacrificial love for Beirut as well as by the heart of our community that has rallied together to purchase prints to support the Lebanese Red Cross and recovery efforts following last month’s blast.”

Ruwa Space Director Tanya Habjouqa further adds “Ruwa Space and Gulf Photo Plus will continue to pursue our common goal of embracing the rich, vast experiences of contemporary Middle Eastern artists. We will continue to encourage collaborations between publishing houses, academics, fellow creative artists, and local, community-centered institutions, functioning as a resource for connection, knowledge, creation, and cultivation in the region.”  

A few selected photographs from the campaign include works by:

Myriam Boulous

Ahmed praying in Mar Mikhael. He is part of a Palestinian association that is helping the victims of the explosion.

Omar Sfeir

As Sfeir photographed Lebanon’s October Revolution and captured its surreal moments, he was reminded of the work of French surrealist artist, artist Rene Magritte. His work pays homage to Magritte’s painting, “The Lovers,” but with a distinctly Lebanese feel.

MohamedAl Kouh

Fraction of Beirut, 2012. This hand colored gelatin silver print is testament to Beirut, the cradle of history and culture. This was his first glimpse of the city from his hotel room window which looked nothing like the idealistic views in postcards. 

Stephanie Sinclair

A young boy rides a horse along the Corniche, a walkway along the Mediterranean Sea, Beirut, Lebanon in 2006.

Newsha Tavakolian

Portrait of Negin in Tehran, 2010

Pierre Mohamed-Petit

France, Provence, 2015, BW 5×4 Negative darkroom lith print.  Constellation of Elements, and the fragile threads composing the binding element. These experiments explore the fluidity and the relation between mankind and the elements from the soil and water. 

Tanya Habjouqa

Young Palestinian girl in the ruins of Kufr Biryam village in Galilee. A village forcibly displaced in 1948 now a“nature reserve”. 2016

Sima Ajlyakin

Live With It. Sasha preparing backstage for a fashion shoot. Beirut/ Lebanon. Year 2018. “Live With It” is a series of photographs that documents various of aspects of the transgender community in Lebanon – from the glamour of their lives to the struggles they face. Lebanon’s seemingly open-minded and socially liberal reputation contradicts the lived reality of transgender individuals who are judged and mistreated by their peers, family members, coworkers, and society in general.

Natalie Naccache

Free. A pink coloured pigeon flies between buildings. Doha, Qatar. 2014

Augustine Paredes

A Boy Sleeping In Hostel Beirut.

The complete list of all artists who participated can be found below:

Abdo Shanan, Abdullah Dhiaa Al-deen, Alex Atack, Andrea Bruce, Augustine Paredes, Benedicte Kurzen, Bryan Denton, Charbel Khoury, Dania Hany, Elsie Haddad, Elwely Vali, Eric Gottesman, Faris Treish, Fethi Sahraoui, Ghaith Abdulahad, Heba Khamis, Huda Abdulmughni, Hussain Almosawi, Iman Al Dabbagh, Lamya Gargash, Laura Boushnak, Lindsay Mackenzie,, Lola Khalfa, Manu Ferneini, Mariam Alarab, Maryam Khawasneh, M’hammed Kilito, Michael, Robinson Chavez, Mohamed Somji, Mohammed Al-Kouh, Mustafa Saeed, Myriam Boulos., Nadia Bseiso, Nadine Koudsi, Nariman El-Mofty, Natalie Naccache, Newsha Tavakolian, Olga Kravets, Omar Sfeir, Patrick Baz, Pep Bonet, Peter van Agtmael, Pierre Mohamed-Petit, Randa, Shaath, Ravy Shaker, Reem Falaknaz, Rehab Eldalil, Rena Effendi, Rita Kabalan, Rola Khayyat, Sabiha Cimen, Salih Basheer, Samar Hazboun, Sara Naim, Sara Sallam, Shaima Al-Tamimi, Sima Ajlyakin, Smita Sharma, Stanley Greene, Stephanie Sinclair, Tamara Abdul Hadi, Tanya, Habjouqa, Tarek Haddad, Tasneem Alsultan, Thana Faroq, Yazan Khalili and Zied ben Romdhane.

Similarly, Art Relief for Beirut, an Instagram initiative founded by New York-based artist Mohamad Kanaan encouraged artists to contribute works for sale to raise funds for either of the two organizations-Lebanese Red Cross or Impact Lebanon. Artists who have participated so far include prominent names like Ali Cherri, Hajra Waheed, Omar Khouri, Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Helen Cammock, Oscar Murillo, and Tai Shani who have collectively raised 77,000 dollars till now.

More than a month after the blast, Beirut remains in crisis. It is the generosity and benevolence of the community, and in particular artists of all mediums, that continues to shine hope in the darkest of situations.  

Gratitude to Emily Eagen of GPP for helping us obtain this information.

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