31.08.2016 - UNESCO Office in Beirut

"Silent echo" first exhibition of contemporary art in Baalbek Museum

Baalbek and Lebanon will feature on the world’s map of contemporary art, between 17 September and 17 October 2016, as Studiocur/art, a French association and platform, is organizing a universal exhibition entitled "the Silent Echo”.

The exhibition will take place in Baalbek Archeological Museum (Bekaa region), under the patronage of UNESCO Regional Office, and with the sponsorship of the Lebanese Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Tourism, and the municipality of Baalbek.

Nine Lebanese and international artists are participating in this exhibition, which is held for the first time in Lebanon, providing sound installation and sculptures and documentary photographs and videos, reflecting a dialogue between contemporary art and heritage.

With the aim to announce the major exhibition, UNESCO Office in Beirut hosted a press conference attended by representatives from sponsor associations and organizations, including Minister of Tourism Michel Pharaon, Minister of Culture Raymond Araygi, Director of UNESCO Office in Beirut Hamed El-Hammami, Culture Programme Officer Joe Kreidi, in addition to the representative of the municipality of Baalbek Dr. Suhail Raed, and the founder and exhibition organizer Karina El-Helou.

In his opening speech, Dr. Al-Hammami emphasized "UNESCO's support for this project, based on its essential mandate of promoting a culture of peace and protecting the world cultural heritage". “The exhibition combines contemporary art and classical art embodied in the remnants of the Roman temples of Baalbek, famous for its accurately decorated ornaments and architecture, which were eventually behind of its inclusion on the World Heritage list due to the exceptional engineering and technical value”, added UNESCO Director. Dr. El-Hammami also considered that "hosting an art exhibition in this specific location, with the participation of international and local artists, and during these critical times in the region, is a testament to the faith and determination of the organizers and backers together the importance of artistic culture, and the need to promote awareness and intercultural dialogue, and to simulate and interact with the past through art”.

Speaking at this event, Minister Pharaon stated that "this international exhibition confirms the determination of Lebanon in confronting the challenges in the region through the arising positive energy brought by youth and invested by civil society organizations”. Tourism Minister stressed that holding successful festivals held in Lebanon during this year was far stronger than political differences, and efforts were combined to achieve this. The Minister also stressed the importance of holding exhibitions and touristic activities outside Beirut, noting that attracting tourists to rural areas contributes to restating the significance of existing archaeological sites in these regions, and would motivate local residents to take safeguarding initiatives.

Minister of Culture Raymond Araigi welcomed this unique initiative. "This art demonstration combines the promotion of contemporary art and the its embracement in archaeological places with the constant need to preserve the heritage and the memory of civilizations which are at the core of the work and goals of the Ministry of Culture. This is also a harmonic conversation between contemporary art and heritage”. The Minister invited to attend this show, announcing that access to Baalbek will be free during the show period one month.


“The exhibition highlights the importance of museums in archaeological sites, and with the specific case of Baalbek, explores how can landmarks and antiquities become symbols to a distant past, after experiencing wars and destruction and changing traditional beliefs”, explained El-Helou. The exhibition organizer added that the exhibition will address several topics related to erosion, ethics, and conservation.

With its colossal structures, Baalbek is one of the finest examples of Imperial Roman architecture at its apogee. It was inscribed on the world heritage list since 1984 for the outstanding artistic value of its religious complex with its exquisitely detailed stonework. Blessed by its location, Baalbek was one of the most popular destinations since antiquity. Today, with the tensions in the region Baalbek’s famous remains are almost deserted.

The initiative of the “Silent Echo” challenges this awkward situation and brings back life to Baalbek through contemporary art and artistic expressions that are mostly reflecting on the archaeological remains of Baalbek and its role in our daily life.

This exhibition will also represent the ideal platform during which UNESCO will launch the #unite4heritage campaign in the city of Baalbek. Launched in response to the unprecedented recent attacks on heritage, this global campaign calls on everyone to stand up against extremism and radicalization by celebrating the places, objects and cultural traditions that make the world such a rich and vibrant place.

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