Meet BeMA: The New Beirut Museum of Art

The institution is slated to open in 2020.

A shot of Beirut. Courtesy a Museum in the Making.
A shot of Beirut. Courtesy a Museum in the Making.

As Lebanon prepares to launch its modern and contemporary art museum in Beirut, the Association for the Promotion and Exhibition of the Arts in Lebanon (APEAL) announced the name of its forthcoming institution, which will be BeMA: Beirut Museum of Art (Beyrouth Musée de l’Art in French and بيروت متحفالفن — بما. in Arabic).

The national “Museum in the Making” campaign kicked of in February 2015, with an architectural design competition announced in October. Peter Palumbo, chair of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, headed the jury reviewing the open call for design proposals. Members, who included the late Zaha Hadid, Hans Ulrich Obrist, and Julia Peyton-Jones, recently named 13 firms to the short list of potential candidates, with a winner expected to be announced this fall.

An aerial view of West Beirut and the Mediterranean shoreline. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

An aerial view of West Beirut and the Mediterranean shoreline. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

The museum is slated to open in 2020, and will be located on a site owned by the Université Saint-Joseph in Beirut. The institution is currently conducting a search for a director, and plans to announce details about its collection and programming in the coming months.

APEAL, a non-profit organization that hopes promote international-quality arts programming featuring both Lebanese and international art envisions BeMA as “a multidisciplinary hub of art and design dedicated to showcasing modern and contemporary Lebanese culture,” according to a press release.

Shafic Abboud, Untitled (1926). Beirut plans an art museum to showcase the work of Lebanese artists. Photo: courtesy the Shafic Abboud Family.

Shafic Abboud, Untitled (1926). Beirut plans an art museum to showcase the work of Lebanese artists. Photo: courtesy the Shafic Abboud Family.

Although the opening is still some years off, BeMA has already begun programming in the region, launching an artist-in-residence program with Temporary.Art.Platform in Ras Masqa, Lebanon, in March. The six participating artists, Ali El-Darsa, Youmna Geday, Raymond Gemayel, Ieva Saudargaité, Petra Serhal, and Myriam Boulos worked on a number of different projects. BeMA is also publishing an ongoing series, “Works on Paper,” consisting of commissioned projects from 12 artists which are included in Lebanon’s daily newspapers, and curated by Amanda Abi Khalil.

BeMA isn’t the only sign of a growing art scene in Beirut. In November, collector Tony Salamé opened the Aishti Foundation, a massive private museum in a shopping mall 20 minutes from the city’s downtown area.


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