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Lebanon is in the midst of a museum-building frenzy, it seems. Several organizations and private collectors have announced programs to build or consolidate collections – many focusing on the work of Lebanese artists – erect, or renovate, permanent structures to house and exhibit the work and create public programs to ensure that the museum spaces are more than mere art warehouses. One well-endowed collector of Lebanese art that has remained on the fringes of this discussion until recently has been the Lebanese state – specifically the Culture Ministry, which over the years has amassed some 1,800 paintings and sculptures. The state has announced no plans to erect a National Gallery-style museum for this collection. On June 16, however, Culture Minister Raymond Areiji did launch The National Virtual Museum of Modern Art, a website that describes itself as the country's first national museum dedicated to fine arts. Aside from exhibiting the permanent collection, the website reveals that the museum will eventually offer two temporary exhibitions. The first is set to host private collections of work that don't already belong to the government. Which collections those will be, Barakat said, will be decided upon by a committee of experts.
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