A New Fair in Paris Spotlights Art From the Middle East and North Africa. Here’s Our Pick of 5 Hot Artists to Watch at Menart

The new fair formed as an alternative to the recently canceled Beirut Art Fair

A stand at the Menart fair, 2021.

The first edition of Menart, the Paris fair dedicated to art from the Middle East and North Africa, opened yesterday at the Cornette de Saint Cyr auction house near the Champs-Elysées. 

The fair was born as an alternative to the Beirut Art Fair, which was thwarted by the economic crisis and severe explosion in the city last year.

“The Beirut Art Fair can no longer take place following the recents events, so I wanted to create a small fair uniquely dedicated to countries from that region,” said Laure d’Hauteville, who founded the Beirut fair in 2010 as well as Menart (the latter with support from French businessman Paul de Rose). Paris curator Joanna Chevalier is Menart’s artistic director.

Twenty-two participants are showing art across three floors, including French galleries Nathalie Obadia and La La Lande, as well as Elmarsa from Tunis, Shirin Gallery from Tehran, and Eiwan Al Gassar from Doha.

Painting features prominently at the fair, which runs through May 30, as do works by women, who make up well over half of the 76 artists on view. Below, we’ve highlighted five artists whose work we think is worth getting to know.


Ayman Baalbaki

Ayman Baalbaki, Les Silos de Beyrouth (2021). Courtesy of Saleh Barakat Gallery.

Who: Baalbaki was born in 1975, the year the Lebanese Civil War started. His large-scale, richly textured paintings depict destruction and loss. He garnered attention with his “Mulatham” series (2008-2013) of self-portraits depicting the artist as a rebel wearing a red-and-white keffiyeh masking his face. On display at Menart is Les Silos de Beyrouth (2021), a painting of Beirut’s port after the devastating explosion in August 2020, priced at $85,000. 

Based in: Beirut

On view: Saleh Barakat Gallery (Beirut)

Why he’s worth watching: Baalbaki featured in the pan-Arab exhibition “The Future of a Promise,” alongside Mona Hatoum and Kader Attia, at the 54th Venice Biennale in 2012. His work has been acquired by the Tate Modern, the Ramzi and Saeda Dalloul Art Foundation in Beirut, and the Fondation Carmignac in France.

Prices: $16,000 to $250,000

Up next: Baalbaki is representing Lebanon, along with Mouna Rebeiz, at the 59th Venice Biennale in 2022. Curator Nada Ghandour is juxtaposing Baalbaki, an artist living in Lebanon, with Rebeiz, an artist in the diaspora.


Soraya Sharghi

Soraya Sharghi, Untitled (2021). Courtesy of Leila Heller.

Who: This 32-year-old Iranian artist is known for her vibrant, fantastical, psychedelic paintings that reinterpret Persian and Biblical mythology, such as a figure of Eve imagined as a bold and powerful woman. They also reveal the influence of Japanese anime. Her technique combines screen printing and Khātam, an ancient Persian inlay technique. Fun fact: She used to work as an assistant in Takashi Murakami’s studio in Tokyo.

Based in: New York

On view: Leila Heller (New York and Dubai)

Why she’s worth watching: Sharghi, who has an MFA from San Francisco Art Institute, had her first exhibition in Europe last year at Setareh in Düsseldorf. Her work is part of the Sarikhani Collection, dedicated to Iranian art, in Oxfordshire. 

Prices: $40,000 to $48,000

Up next: Sharghi is one of nine women artists participating in the Phillips Mill Foundation for the Arts’s inaugural residency program in Pennsylvania this summer.


Slimen Elkamel

Slimen Elkamel, Autour du tournesol (2021). Courtesy of Galerie La La Lande.

Who: The 38-year-old Tunisian artist makes mesmerizing, imaginative paintings that reveal influences from France’s “free figuration” art movement, which began in the 1980s. His aesthetic universe draws on the tradition of storytelling and poetry that marked his rural childhood in the region of Sidi Bouzid. On view are paintings from his new “Bucoliques” series.

Based in: Tunis

On view: Galerie La La Lande (Paris)

Why he’s worth watching: His work is in the collections of the Fondation Blachère in France, the Kamel Lazaar Foundation in Tunisia, Jean Claude Gandur Foundation in Switzerland, and the Museum of African Contemporary Art Al Maaden in Morocco, which included the artist’s work in the exhibition “Welcome Home” in 2019-2020.

Prices: €8,000 to €12,000

Up next: Elkamel is having a solo show, titled “À Coeur Ouvert,” at the Jean Nouvel-designed Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris in February 2022.


Rebecca Brodskis

Rebecca Brodskis, Zahara (2021). Courtesy of Lara Sedbon X Durazzo Projects.

Who: The 34-year-old artist, who grew up in France and Morocco, comes from a filmmaking family. On show are soulful, cinematic portraits of Berber women based on photographs taken by her grandmother Jacqueline Brodskis, who had a studio in Rabat, Morocco. In Brodskis’s distinctive, block-colored portraiture, she portrays mixed-race couples dancing, people with vitiligo, and scenes of parenthood.

Based in: Tel Aviv 

On view: Lara Sedbon X Durazzo Projects (France)

Why she’s worth watching: Brodskis has recently had gallery shows in London, Berlin, and Tel Aviv. Her work has been acquired by Museum Aznam in Jakarta, and by collectors Alan Lo in Hong Kong, Serge Tiroche in Israel, and Beth Rudin DeWoody in Florida.

Prices: €6,000 to €12,000

Up Next: Her work will be presented in the fourth edition of Messe in St. Agnes, a fair organized by Galerie König in Berlin, from September 10-19, where each young artist will have his or her own booth.


Mohamed Hamidi

Mohamed Hamidi, Untitled (2020). Courtesy of Galerie 38.

Who: Hamidi, who turns 80 in August, is a leading Modernist painter in Morocco, but his work is still relatively unknown in the U.S. His paintings are characterized by primary colors, Braque-inspired doves, butterflies, and sensual forms. In 1969, he participated in an outdoor manifesto for contemporary art in Marrakech with five other artists to revolutionize the city’s art scene. Back then, the eroticism of some of Hamidi’s paintings shocked people in Casablanca, says Fihr Kettani, co-founder of Galerie 38.

Based in: Casablanca

On view: Galerie 38 (Casablanca)

Why he’s worth watching: The Centre Pompidou and the Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha have acquired his work. Since the late 1960s, he has been closely aligned with the late artist Farid Belkahia, whose work is currently on view at the Pompidou.

Prices: €16,000 to €18,000

Up next: A monographic book by Michel Gauthier will be published by Skira in September.

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