The ongoing disasters created by the explosion that shook the country on the fourth of August of this year are still haunting every Lebanese citizen. However, the resilience of our people is what inspires us and keeps us going, especially when art is used to thrive for better ends. Indeed, Aramé Gallery celebrated its 10th anniversary by reinstating its showroom, exposing meaningful and diverse pieces of art. I had the opportunity to visit it on its opening night on the 18th of December 2020.
Aramé Art Gallery was founded in Yerevan, Armenia. Its Beirut branch opened in 2010, currently established in Gemmayzé, and it caters for Gulf countries. They organize many exhibitions, notably at Beirut Souks since 2012. They represent art from Armenia, especially contemporary art, displaying it to the Lebanese population that showcases the most appreciation for art despite the harsh situations we are currently going through.
I got to speak to Michael Vayejian, the Middle East and Gulf Countries representative of the gallery, who was present there, with a client, on the day of the explosion. Recalling the events, he shared that “sixty-four paintings were damaged, and the gallery was completely destroyed, since it stood barely 270 meters from the blast site”. After a night of both physical and mental problems, he decided to start renovations the very next day, his heart filled with gratefulness. “The financial damage was big, the economic situation too, but we were adamant to reopen.” Concerning their neighbors, Vayejian admitted, “The rest of the business center got destroyed too, but the art gallery’s slowly rebuild inspired the other owners to reconstruct too.”
While exploring the expressive paintings exposed, I noticed the different styles used and the heterogeneity of themes explored. As the representative explained, they display the works of the best 26 Armenian artists with worldwide recognition, their niche market being art from Armenia. They also collaborate with other galleries and embassies with an exclusive deal from the Armenian embassy’s side. Concerning the themes and artistic movements, he replied: “We prefer to present art for different tastes, like the styles of this exhibition: from abstract, to figurative abstract, figurative, and surrealism”.
Some of the works of Marat Margarian explored natural landscapes in daunting symmetry, sharp details, yet with a dreamy aura wrapping up the canvases, while others portrayed the daily life of villagers in its simple state. In contrast, the paintings of Armen Gevorgian reflected a unique style with darker shades: the slender protagonists painted in dystopian environments filled with metaphorical objects and animals let the viewer wonder on the societal issues raised through this art. My personal favorites would be the works of Ruben Grigorian: the figurative yet surrealist style of the painter grabbed my attention, with its emphasis on the female body, black and white shades, and nature, portrayed through headless models in empty fields.
The paintings I saw reminded me of the importance of art: from reflections on societal issues, to depictions of beauty, to the simple product of wandering thoughts, art remains a meaningful tool of expression and an escapade to the viewer. The gallery’s ambitions align with mine, as they want people to come and see something positive in this country. “The paintings, and art in general, give inspiration and positive feelings, for people to think clearer and become more peaceful”, affirmed Vayejian. As more young adults and university students visit such exhibitions, it is our collective jobs as art lovers to encourage all citizens to support and visit these expositions. After the devastating year Lebanon went through, art rises from the ashes, remaining one of our only means of hope, to fight for a brighter future.