Home Arts Pompidou restores three paintings damaged in the Beirut explosion

Pompidou restores three paintings damaged in the Beirut explosion

by godlove4241
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When the deadly Beirut port explosions occurred on August 4, 2020, the international arts community joined forces to help revive the Lebanese capital’s cultural scene.

Among them, the Center Pompidou in Paris, which has just unveiled three damaged paintings that it restored from the collection of the Sursock museum in Beirut.

THE Portrait of Nicholas Sursock (1926-30) by Kees Van Dongen with a big tear © Photo by Rowina Bou Harb

“My first reaction was shock,” said museum director Karina El Helou of the damage to the works. “We had a conservation plan and all those years of hard work disappeared in a second.”

After a two-and-a-half-year restoration period, the pieces are currently on display at the Pompidou until their return to Lebanon for the museum’s reopening in May. The exhibition also signifies “the historical ties and friendship between Lebanon and France”, explains the director.

The paintings are by notable 20th-century artists: French-Dutch artist Kees van Dongen, Croatian-Lebanese artist Cici Tommaseo Sursock, and Paul Guiragossian, who was Lebanese-Armenian. “Each work had its own challenge,” explains El Helou.

Van Dongen’s portrait depicts Lebanese art collector and museum founder Nicolas Ibrahim Sursock, who met the artist during a visit to Lebanon. The painting, which required sewing on the back, had a large tear on the model’s forehead.

A restorer working on Portrait of Nicholas Sursock (circa 1926-30) by Kees Van Dongen © Photo by Rowina Bou Harb

The red-toned image of Cici Tommaseo Sursock from 1967, which suffered several tears all over the canvas, is a portrait of Lebanese artist and patron, Odile Mazloum. The painting was loaned to the museum and will be returned to the model. According to El Helou, one of the trickiest aspects of her restoration was choosing the right shade of red.

Guiragossian’s work entitled Consolation was the most difficult image to repair as the explosion caused some of its pieces to fall off. Executed with thick brushstrokes, it hasn’t been completely reconstructed, in part to remind viewers of the horror that happened.

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