Talking about art – aesthetic reflection in Egypt and Lebanon (Monique Bellan)

The project sets out to explore the way art is debated and discussed in various media such as newspapers, magazines and archival material. During the first third of the twentieth century newspapers and magazines began to debate art exhibitions with greater intensity and frequency. As hitherto predominantly oral discussions of art gave way to written reviews, aesthetic categories and political contention generated a discourse that oscillated between conservative and avant-gardist points of view. The project focuses on Lebanon and Egypt and investigates developments that took place simultaneously in these two very diverse political and cultural contexts, drawing comparison with similar debates underway in Europe and elsewhere. New artistic currents and movements such as surrealism (in Lebanon an unofficial group discussed surrealist ideas in the 1930s, in Egypt the group Art et Liberté, founded in 1938, introduced and spread surrealist thinking in Egypt and organized exhibitions) generated artistic and political controversy and debate on aesthetic as well as political questions. The project aims to delineate the most pertinent discussions on art and aesthetics from the 1930s up to the present day and to track a highly political discourse on art. It seeks to shed light on the art system in general and in Lebanon and Egypt in particular, and the relations between the fields of art, its institutions, critique and the market.

Author: Dr. Monique Bellan