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

on history.

 

Abdallah Hatoum’s work is currently exhibited

at Orient 499 in Clemenceau, Beirut.

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