BEIRUT: A dose of controversy was injected into the Beirut Art Fair’s proceedings when, after pressure from members of security, a painting by Lebanese artist Zeina El Khalil was taken down.
The artist later disclosed that the painting had been damaged in the process.
Entitled “Super Star,” the painting is a portrait of a smiling Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah, leader of Hezbollah. It renders the sheikh in hues of girlish pink and glitter, silhouetted against a cheerful, brightly colored background dotted with abstract patterns in yellow, purple and blue.
In her description of the piece Khalil states that she painted Nasrallah in an attempt to get past the leader’s media “pop star” image and rediscover him as a human being.
The painting is part of the permanent collection of Art Lounge, a Beirut’s bar-cum-gallery owned by Nino Azzi.
“Super Star” was displayed in the VIP Lounge area of the fair, run by Azzi, where works for sale were hung alongside others that were not.
It seems Azzi was forced to take down the painting after members of the BIEL security team objected to the portrait being hung in a venue that serves alcohol.
Azzi initially refused to remove the painting, but later complied after a party member came to BIEL and demanded the work be taken down.
Khalil later expressed her disapproval on Twitter, writing: “i’ve just been censored. my painting was taken down @BEIRUT ART FAIR – harsh reminder of why I try to avoid these things in the 1st place!!!”
“Super Star” was first publically displayed in 2006 in a group show dedicated to work inspired by the monthlong Israeli bombardment earlier that year, held at the now-defunct EspaceSD Gallery.
At that time the response to Khalil’s work was said to be overwhelmingly positive, with a writer from the pro-resistance Al-Akhbar newspaper being among those expressing its approval.
Khalil and Azzi have declined to comment formally on the Art Fair incident.