Museums and galleries in Beirut are hit by a powerful explosion

Damage at the Sursock Museum in Beirut

Several museums and galleries in the Lebanese capital are badly damaged or completely destroyed by a shock wave and fire.

Two powerful explosions thundered on Tuesday evening in the port of Beirut. More than 70 people were killed, at least 4 thousand were injured. Initially, the Lebanese state-run National News Agency reported on a fire near the port of Beirut. According to Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab, the explosion in the port was caused by the long-term improper storage of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate.

Museums and galleries in Beirut are hit by a powerful explosion
Destruction in Saleh Barakat Gallery

The tragedy caused enormous damage to Beirut. Major galleries near the port, including Marfa and Galerie Tanit, were completely destroyed. On Monday, the Galerie Tanit hosted the opening day of the exhibition of the Lebanese artist Abed al-Qadiri The remains of the last red rose, which was supposed to run until September 25. The opulent Beirut branch of the Opera Gallery, located in the city center overlooking the coastline, was also badly damaged.

Museums and galleries in Beirut are hit by a powerful explosion
Destruction at the Sursock Museum

The shock wave spread throughout the Lebanese capital. It caused great damage to both Galerie Sfeir-Semler in the quiet area of ​​Quarantine and Galerie Janine Rubeiz in the Rausch area. Gallery owner Saleh Barakat says that one of his employees is in intensive care, the gallery is damaged. They barely had time to close the windows to protect the works of art.

Museums and galleries in Beirut are hit by a powerful explosion
Exposition of the Sursock Museum before the accident

The Sursock Museum of Contemporary Art, which was the center of Beirut’s cultural life in the 1960s and reopened its doors in 2015 after costly renovations, has also been badly damaged. The director of the Sursock Museum Zeina Arida says that this is one of the most powerful explosions that she has seen in her life. Fortunately, none of the staff were injured. She adds that the building has suffered a lot of serious damage, and given the current high dollar in Lebanon, she is not sure they can afford to buy new glass for skylights, windows, and front doors.

Several works from the museum’s collection were also damaged, including a portrait of Nicolas Sursock. Arida laments that it is awful to see the results of her five years of work completely destroyed!

The Ramzi and Saeda Dallul Art Foundation building, which houses more than 4,000 works by approximately 400 artists from various parts of the Arab world, was damaged, but its halls did not suffer. The director of the institution Basel Dallul told about it.

Museums and galleries in Beirut are hit by a powerful explosion
Damaged terrace of La Gray hotel

Laura d’Auteville, founder and head of the Beirut Art Fair, which is held annually at the Seaside Arena, formerly BIEL and located near the port, says that in her 29 years in Lebanon, she has never seen anything like it. Previously, she postponed the fair until 2021, but now she is not sure of anything at all. After what has happened, it will take a very long time for the thought of an art fair to return to the minds of people. D’Autville is currently working on the launch of the Middle Eastern Art Platform. In Paris, it will be presented in November during the Paris Photo fair. This non-profit platform will promote artists and galleries from the Middle East.

Just a five-minute walk from the port, on Martyrs Square, is the Hotel Le Gray. Until yesterday it was one of the most luxurious hotels in the city. As a result of the explosion, its furniture was destroyed, holes from debris appeared in the walls, and broken glass was scattered everywhere. Like the rest of Beirut,  it turned into a memory of itself.


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