By Matteo Montaldo
Ralph Hage unveiled his art exhibition ‘Chronicle of Three Wars’ at Beit Beirut Museum on 10 August 2023. The exhibition is curated by Maie El-Hage.

Ralph Hage unveiled his art exhibition ‘Chronicle of Three Wars’ at Beit Beirut Museum on 10 August 2023. The project generated much local and international interest and coverage. The exhibition is curated by the author Maie El-Hage.

By Matteo Montaldo
The artist Ralph Hage (right) and the curator Maie El-Hage (left) –
(Photo copyright by Matteo Montaldo)

Earlier this month, the Beit Beirut Museum was the venue for the art exhibition, ‘Chronicle of Three Wars’, featuring the works of Ralph Hage. The exhibition, curated by Maie El-Hage, offered an exploration of Lebanon’s modern and contemporary histories, marked by tragedies, catastrophes, and the persistent anticipation of war. The project has the support of the Canada Council for the Arts.

Digital paintings by Ralph Hage are printed on canvas and exhibited in the museum proper (photo by the author)
This piece / diptych is titled “Sar Shi [Something Has Happened]” and it is in direct reference to the August 4, 2020 blast that exploded at the Beirut Port, and the artist’s experience of it (photo by the author)

The opening reception took place on 10 August 2023 at the third floor of the Beit Beirut Museum. Curators, collectors, gallerists, artists and a crowd of art-enthusiasts gathered and inaugurated the much-anticipated art exhibition. The building proper was the ideal place for this exhibition that centers on Lebanon’s tumultuous histories. The Beit Beirut building was formerly the Barakat building, a private property and residence built in 1924 by architect Youssef Aftimus for the family of Nicholas Barakat, in the neo-Ottoman style. Its ochre-colored yellow stones garnered it the nickname ‘the Yellow house’. Situated on a strategic location, it was used during the Lebanese Civil War by snipers; after the war it was to be demolished. Thanks to the campaign by architect Mona al Hallak, it was saved, and in 2003, it was expropriated. It underwent a renovation campaign in coordination with the Municipality of Paris and with the efforts of architect Youssef Haidar. Finally, in 2017 the building reopened as a Museum for the city of Beirut. Such a structure that witnessed first-hand the atrocities of war is deserving of art shows that acknowledge its history and pays tributes to the fallen.

The Curator Text and the QR code, the latter of which makes the artist book available to the public as a free open source (photo by the author)

The exhibition is composed of 7 large-scale digital paintings printed on canvas, and an artist book that is printed and displayed in the exhibition space. There is a QR code on the wall; visitors can download the artist book as a free open source, with the possibility of donating to the Lebanese Red Cross. In the artist book, the artist explores through photography and texts the destruction of his family’s home in Achrafieh following the tragic August 4, 2020 blast that took place at the Beirut port, killing hundreds and devastating thousands. The artist takes his family’s home as a microcosm to reflect on the blast, but also on previous, consecutive tragedies that Lebanon has undergone. These include the famine of the First World War, which the artist’s grandmother experienced first-hand; and the Lebanese Civil War, which the artist himself has lived through. These destructive events haunt the Lebanese to this day.

By looking through the artist’s eyes, we sample one family home’s destruction as a microcosm of our collective experience of the blast. We see evidence of the ruination, but we also witness the will of the artist to fight back; and not through erasing, but through acknowledging, actively documenting and creating.

Maie El-Hage, the curator

We were grateful to see the public reception expanding exponentially. The event had substantial local and international media coverage. Furthermore, the exhibition was well-received by the Lebanese and international communities in Lebanon and abroad.

The artist and the curator in front of the painting titled ‘It was a Dream I Had’ (photo copyright Matteo Montaldo)

It was really an honor for me to work with Ralph Hage on this project; an endeavor that involved our efforts for a little over a year now. Realizing the project in the Beit Beirut Museum was a very rewarding experience. Truly, Ralph Hage’s work is a beacon for the art community in Lebanon and the region.

The last day to see the art exhibition ‘Chronicle of Three Wars’ by Ralph Hage at Beit Beirut is tomorrow, Tuesday 29 August from 12pm to 6pm. The show ends on 30 August.

Follow Ralph Hage on Instagram here and check his website here.

Follow the author and curator Maie El-Hage on Instagram here and check her website here.

Check the photographer Matteo Montaldo’s website here.