What is Letitia Gallery?
Founded by Mohamad Al Hamoud and Annie Vartivarian, Letitia Gallery is a new contemporary art gallery located in Beirut. The gallery opened in February 2018 in a 100m2 space, with an inaugural exhibition by British artist Eileen Cooper OBE RA, followed by exhibitions with Ahmed Badry, Alejandro Ospina and Nathaniel Rackowe.
Where is Letitia Gallery?
The gallery is located in central Beirut in the vibrant Hamra neighbourhood, one of the city’s major commercial districts. In the area, are several other prominent galleries including Agial Art Gallery, Artspace Hamra and Saleh Barakat Gallery which sit alongside the cultural and learning centres of the Masrah Al Madina Theatre, American University of Beirut and the Lebanese American University.
There are also a number of other well respected galleries in the wider city of Beirut, including Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Galerie Tanit and Marfa’.
Why did you decide to open the gallery in Beirut and why now?
Lebanon is considered a hub of discovery for MENA’s regional artistic talent. Beirut-based institutions, such as Beirut Art Centre, Ashkal Alwan and The Arab Fund for Arts & Culture (AFAC), provide residencies and support other grass root projects which nurture local talent.
In recent years Beirut has shown itself to have a voracious appetite for the growth of its cultural landscape. The launch of Beirut Art Fair in 2010, with its current inclusion of over 50 international galleries, illustrates the important cultural role that galleries provide in supporting artists and their work in opening them up to new audiences.
Beyond the growth of the gallery scene in Beirut, the reopening of the historic Sursock Museum as well as the inauguration of Aïshti Foundation, a cutting-edge modern art foundation, and the restoration of Beit Beirut, work to highlight the rich cultural heritage of the region and the importance of culture as an instigator of discourse and learning.
What’s the aim of the gallery?
The gallery aims to present international and local artists at different stages of their careers in new and interesting ways. It aims to facilitate discourse around culture in the MENA region, contextualise artists work in the global art environment and encourage broader engagement with contemporary art in Lebanon.
What are your points of focus for this new space?
The gallery will work on a project-focused model initially showcasing international artists in Lebanon by programming four to five exhibitions a year. The gallery’s mission for the future is to nurture the growth of regional artists from Lebanon, Syria and the Arab world.
What’s interesting about the cultural scene in Lebanon?
Contemporary Lebanon is thriving with energy and enthusiasm amidst a rich heritage. There are many different nationalities, religious groups and cultures living side by side in the trilingual environment of Lebanon, which makes for a fascinating cultural discourse
How did you go about selecting, curating and putting together the artists for your programme?
The gallery has a strong ethos of collaboration and has worked in conversation with leading international curators from around the world to discover artists for its programme. In some cases the gallery has been fortunate enough to have developed personal friendships with the artists shown. As a patron of the Royal Academy, Tate and Delfina Foundation as well as a student of Sotheby’s New York and London, co-Founder Annie Vartivarian has come into contact and built relationships with a diverse range of contemporary artists. Annie has made it a point to visit the artist’s studios and have a dialogue with each of them about their work, however artists have always primarily been selected for the calibre of their artistic practice and their ability to translate their work to audiences internationally.
What will differentiate Letitia Gallery from all the other commercial galleries in the region?
The gallery’s main aim is to provide a platform for discourse around contemporary art within the MENA region. This is achieved through the thoughtful curation of a roster of exhibitions by international artists, many of whom are predominately new to audiences in the Middle East and showing for the first time in the region.
What are the aims and goals of Letitia Gallery looking to the future?
We will look to expand the gallery’s presence beyond the gallery walls, reaching new audiences through our participation in regional and international art fairs as well as commissioning installations and site-specific work in public spaces across Lebanon.
As the gallery grows, we will look to nurture our existing relationships with the artists with whom we collaborate in order to represent them and advance their careers both within the Middle East and internationally offering them access to an important network of local and international museums and collectors.