Jack Lang and Claude Lemand, Lebanon and its artists

Arab World Institute in Paris, 2 men, Jack Lang and Claude Lemand
Left, Jack Lang and Claude Lemand

A link: jeunesartistesduliban@imarabe.org. I immediately open with a call of the Arab World Institute in Paris for support (deadline October 2020) to young Lebanese artists touched by so many tensions, and now also by the recent huge fire.

The Covid-19 stirs art, which does not make specific scientific contributions, no vaccines or new treatments, but can help combat poverty. In general terms, it is well known that art is an indirect catalyst for every area of research and often also a good companion of the research’s protagonists. Then, geographical and cultural circumstances can concur in the art making process.

Here’s a remarkable example. In Paris, Claude Lemand, from Lebanon, and his wife France have been promoting contemporary Middle Eastern art as collectors for several decades. In addition, their homonymous gallery is an important reference point of that type of art. In the Ville Lumière there is also the largest museum of contemporary Arab art at the Arab World Institute whose  original and fascinating building was designed by the archistar Jean Nouvel, the ringleader of a special group. The Arab World Institute has been carrying out an intensive activity of study and promotion. The idea was promoted by Valéry Giscard d’Estaing in the early 1980s, but shortly thereafter François Mitterrand gave definitive and important impulses, such as the placement of the work on the banks of the Seine. The diplomatic and intercultural exchange value is clear as well as effective.

Arab World Institute in Paris, a picture
The Arab World Institut in Paris, by Jean Nouvel, Paris, 1981-87. Courtesy: Philippe Ruault and Georges Fessy

Within their front-line engagement on the Middle East, the couple of collectors and the Arab World Institute have now launched an interesting action on behalf of Lebanese artists (years ago they had donated to that institution well over a thousand works by Middle Eastern artists). Therefore, Lebanese artists between the age of 21 and 35 should send their own project of work expressing how they “feel, see and imagine” their Beirut. Of course, there will be no lack of attention to quality. A committee will select 20 artists who will be covered in every expense and their works will be purchased and destined to the museum of the Arab World Institute. More importantly, their works will also be exhibited in the exhibition “Lights of Lebanon” which will be held between March and July 2021.

Great patron of this collaboration is a man of great value, universally known and esteemed for his important contributions to culture and society: Jack Lang. Previously served as minister for several times, he is now the president of the Arab World Institute towards which is committed to giving new and updated international impulses. He has always made culture and humanitarianism his flag, as a deep socialist beyond any current political events. In fact, even when he militated with François Mitterrand, he never turned his eye off Culture (he was the cultural leader and spokesman of the French Socialist Party). Professor at various universities, mayor of Blois (centre Loire-valley), cultural assignments abroad. Just two examples: president of the Jury at the International Film Festival in Berlin; in 1997 he took over Giorgio Strehler in the guide of the Piccolo Teatro, in Milan.

With this news, sadness eases a little if it is possible. However, this initiative is a significant signal of how we can think of others even in our very difficult time. It cannot be added that public administrators find this initiative an opportunity to stimulate young people who are somehow neglected everywhere in their legitimate perspectives (let alone in the field of art).