Aug 6, 2020
News

The massive explosions in Beirut devastated the city’s art community.

The Sursock Museum in Beirut, Lebanon after the explosion. Photo by Patrick P/AFP via Getty Images.

The Sursock Museum in Beirut, Lebanon after the explosion. Photo by Patrick P/AFP via Getty Images.

Beirut suffered massive explosions on Tuesday, leaving the Lebanese capital in disarray with at least 137 dead and over 5,000 injured, according to CNN. Included in the destruction were several galleries and museums in Beirut’s celebrated art scene, which experienced severe damage.
Marfa Gallery and Galerie Tanit, both located close to the Port of Beirut, where the explosions occurred, have been destroyed. The evening before the eruption, Galerie Tanit had hosted a private viewing for Lebanese artist Abed Al Kadiri’s solo show “Remains of the Last Red Rose,” which was slated to be up through September 25th. Opera Gallery’s Beirut outpost has also suffered from the blasts.
The Sursock Museum, which reopened to the public in 2015 after an expensive renovation, was critically damaged, along with several artworks at the museum. None of the museum staff were injured. In the 1960s, the institution served as the center of cultural life in Beirut.
Zeina Arida, the museum’s director, was at the museum when the explosion happened. She told The Art Newspaper:
This is the strongest explosion I have ever witnessed. The museum is devastated. A lot of damage has been done to the structure of the building at a time when the dollar in Lebanon is so high that I don’t know how we will afford to buy new glass for the skylights, the windows, and the exit doors. We don’t have the means to buy new materials. It’s horrible to see five years of work in utter destruction—even during the civil war it wasn’t this bad.
The Lebanese state-run National News Agency reported that the explosions were caused by a fire near the Port of Beirut. Lebanon’s Prime Minister, Hassan Diab, said an investigation would take place regarding an estimated 2,750 tons of an explosive ammonium nitrate that had been stored at the site for years. The explosions come after months of protests, which began in October 2019, over political corruption and stalled reforms.