Call for Papers: Spaces and Places – Art Exhibitions in Lebanon (1940s-1990s): (Re)assessing the role of cultural clubs and foreign cultural centres (OI Beirut)

Bewerbungsschluss: 31.03.2023

Organiser: LAWHA/Orient-Institut Beirut (OI Beirut), Beirut and Tripoli/Lebanon, 13-14 September 2023

This workshop aims at examining the hitherto largely neglected role of cultural clubs and centres in promoting visual arts in Lebanon. Driven by non-commercial interests (in contrast to most art galleries), the motivation and mission of these organisations is generally civilizational, cultural, humanistic, patriotic and/or political. While the cultural clubs’ objectives are primarily connected to a shared view on Lebanon among their membership, foreign cultural centres are an integral part of cultural diplomacy and as such representatives of the respective country’s foreign policy. Most cultural clubs and centres are situated in Beirut, but many have representations and an outreach across Lebanon, which makes these spaces and places particularly worthwhile to study.

We seek contributions that address any of the following objectives:
a. To flesh out and reconstruct some of the exhibition history and to reevaluate the role of these organisations – or of individuals working there – in the promotion of visual arts. Were art exhibitions a priority of certain clubs or centres rather than others? Did they focus on certain art forms, styles or media such as abstract or conceptual art, landscape painting, or new media? Who were the artists exhibiting there? Were they mainly local, and to what extent were other Arab and international artists included?

b. To address the conceptual frameworks associated with these cultural centres and clubs. Can they be categorised as alternative spaces and why? How can we describe and evaluate the role of these organisations (e.g. as platforms, hubs, initiators, facilitators) and in how far does their organisational form (club, centre, association, movement, council, etc.) impact the way they organise their outreach?

c. To explore the localities or places of these spaces, many of which were outside Beirut (including the different branches of many cultural centres). Who were their audiences? What role did/do these spaces play within the local art and cultural scene and what was/is their relation to the centre Beirut? Do these places figure as centres in their own local contexts (e.g. Tripoli with regard to North Lebanon)?

The workshop focuses on the period between the 1940s to 1990s, with a particular interest in the activities and the role of these organisations during the war years (1975-1990).

The workshop addresses students, PhD candidates, and scholars from various disciplines including art history, history, anthropology, and cultural studies as well as practitioners working in the field. Please send an abstract of not more than 300 words (in English or Arabic) and a short biographical statement (max. 150 words) before 31 March 2023 to: lawha[at]

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