Artist Abdallah Hatoum documents the evolving Beirut landscape in a unique way While most artists
are busy recording the changing landscape of Beirut on film or with paint, one man is demonstrating
a unique talent with a series of metal installations of urban sites ravaged by a civil war.
28-year-old Lebanese artist AbdallahHatoum studied Graphic Design at the Lebanese American University, but
he was never really satisfied with its limitations to print or digital artworks. “I also felt an absence of the tremendously
rich Arabic design culture in its programs, which is a field have a particular interest in,” he says.
After working in Orient 499, an artisan boutique in Beirut, which offers bespoke Middle Eastern handicrafts, he became
interested in object making. Working on the store’s visual merchandising and displays really sparked his imagination.
“It was more of an attempt to reconcile my desire to make things and in the meantime to express myself in a
playground I identified with. It was the right place.”
During his daily walks through the streets of Beirut he has become witness to the ever-changing signs
of urbanization. He laments the lack of vision shown by developers, but, it also gave him inspiration to design a
series of metal installations. Most are replicas of actual facades of old buildings in Beirut, biding their time until the
wrecking ball hits. Some of his murals are accurate reproductions while others are dramatized.
“The fact that these places and buildings are waiting to be brought down at any day to make room for money-hungry
investors with terrible development plans gave me the urge to document them in a picturesque way.”
“I reinterpreted them in a more fun and simplified way using Sufi poems of Al Hallaj instead of the verses”
He believes that every dilapidated building has a story to tell, a tale of bygone Beirut, an ancient city where
cobbled streets were lined with beautiful ornate buildings. “Beirut, with its new urban jumble, has a lot of its collective
memory erased. These murals try as much as they can to fictionally preserve landmarks that hold too much memory,
for a lot of people.” His material of choice is metal because “it ages beautifully. It is also a very flexible material which offers
so many options to work with.” Apart from these stunning installations Abdallah has also created a unique range
of mirrors, as well as painted dresses and shirts inspired by the ancient talismanic robes custom made for high ranking
figures in the Ottoman Empire. “They used to be worn as protection against the evil eye and were inscribed with
sophisticated calligraphy, Koran verses and astronomical calculations. I reinterpreted them in a more fun and simplified
way using Sufi poems of Al Hallaj instead of the verses…” Apart from being utterly gorgeous, they are a truly modern take
Abdallah Hatoum’s work is currently exhibited
at Orient 499 in Clemenceau, Beirut.