The Sursock mansion, completed in 1912, is an ornate, white wedding cake of a building. It combines Venetian and Ottoman architectural styles. The building is a melange of influences, much like Beirut. Originally the residence of aristocratic art-lover Nicolas Sursock, it was bequeathed to the city on his death in 1952. When it opened as a museum in 1961. The mansion housed exhibitions from artists in the Middle East and around the world, as well as the prestigious Salon d’Automne for local figures. It’s finally open again after 8 years of renovation and a 12 million$ lift.
Here we have in the heart of Achrafieh a gem for all to share. Entrance to the museum is free which means for once in Lebanon, people of all classes can share the joy of art, culture, and beauty. Museums can be so much more then buildings that interpret collections. They can help people develop their identity, understand cultural differences, have non-partisan public spaces to enjoy, build community cohesion, help people understand other cultures and their place in it, provoke debate, have shared experiences. What I love about museums is that it creates a sense of communal social ownership of them. So if we all cared for them, they will remain there for us to enjoy. The same idea could apply to one’s street, neighbourhood, and even on a bigger scale one’s country.
Museums and galleries are potentially the most free and creative work environment on the planet. I am so proud of having this pearl back in all its splendour buzzing with activity, because it was there 23 years ago that I discovered my love of art and I hope my boys will too.
Because the Heneine palace could be another gem for the city of Beirut I #livelovelebanon and I will #fighton (if you don’t know about the Heneine palace, please look for it online. It’s a dilapidated gem)