Beirut’s Sursock Museum Reopens After Deadly Port Explosion

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The reopening of the depository connected May 26 (photo by Vicken Avakian; courtesy Sursock Museum)

Last week, Lebanon’s Sursock Museum opened its doors to the nationalist for the archetypal clip since the Beirut larboard explosion connected August 4, 2020. Located successful the Achrafieh neighborhood, somewhat implicit fractional a mile distant from the tract of the blasts, the depository sustained terrible structural and cosmetic harm from the devastating detonation that displaced much than 300,000 people, injured implicit 7,000, and killed astatine slightest 217, according to statistic from Amnesty International

Per a 127-page study from a Human Rights Watch investigation, the detonation — considered to beryllium 1 of the largest non-nuclear blasts connected grounds — was caused by negligent retention of ammonium nitrate, an explosive chemical, arsenic a effect of years of mismanagement and corruption astatine the port.

In an interview with Hyperallergic a time aft the blast, erstwhile Sursock Museum Director Zeina Arida described the detonation arsenic “incomparable to thing we person ever witnessed.”

“At first, we feared it was bombing, and that determination would beryllium much to follow, truthful we stayed successful the building,” Arida said. “We rapidly realized however large the harm was.”

In the aftermath of the larboard explosion, the depository was forced to adjacent for astir 3 years. It underwent repairs done LiBeirut, a UNESCO-led initiative to reconstruct the Lebanese capital’s acquisition and taste institutions damaged from the blasts. The astir $2.5 cardinal restoration task was supported with €1 cardinal ($1,072,535) successful backing from the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AICS), arsenic good arsenic assistance from different donors including the International Alliance for the Protection of Heritage successful Conflict Areas (ALIPH) and France’s Ministry of Culture. 

On the time of the blast, the Sursock Museum had 2 main exhibitions connected show that featured astatine slightest 126 works from the institution’s imperishable postulation and different pieces connected indebtedness from extracurricular backstage sources. The depository reported that 32 paintings, 28 paper-based works, and six sculptures connected show connected the archetypal and 2nd floors of the gathering suffered the astir damage, including tears from breached glass, stains, and important overgarment loss. Other works connected presumption had little extended damage, mostly caked successful a furniture of particulate from the blast.

The museum’s archetypal level Salon Arabe the time aft the Beirut larboard detonation (photo by Rowina Bou Harb, courtesy Sursock Museum)

Additionally, the institution’s humanities Ottoman and Venetian Gothic architecture required extended restoration, arsenic the blasts from the larboard shattered each of the museum’s stained-glass windows, wholly blew retired the building’s metallic doors and dropped ceilings, and wreaked havoc connected its achromatic exterior walls and intricately carved wood-paneled doorways.

Formerly the 1912 villa of Lebanese aristocratic creation collector Nicolas Sursock, the Sursock Museum is considered a beacon of Lebanese civilization and history, holding implicit 1,500 paintings, sculptures, tapestries, and installations successful its imperishable collection. The depository is besides location to the Fouad Debbas Collection, a photographic archive featuring implicit 30,000 photographs, postcards, and manuscripts from Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Egypt, and Turkey arsenic acold backmost arsenic 1830 until the mid-twentieth century.

The taste instauration reopened connected May 26 with 5 galleries of classical and modern artworks connected view. This is the 4th clip the depository has reopened since 1961. 

Kees Van Dongen’s “Portrait of Nicolas Ibrahim Sursock,” (1926-1930) earlier and aft restoration from the 2020 Beirut larboard detonation
(photos by Rowina Bou Harb, courtesy Sursock Museum)

The Sursock Museum reports that it was capable to retrieve 55 damaged works from its collection, the bulk of which were repaired in-house done a meticulous restoration process opening successful May 2021. Three works — “Untitled (Consolation)” (1970) by Armenian-Palestinian creator Paul Guiragossian, “Portrait d’Odile Mazloum” (1967) by Croatian-born creator Cici Tamazeo-Sursock, and Dutch-French creator Kees van Dongen’s “Portrait of Nicolas Sursock” (circa 1926-1930) — were restored successful Paris’s Centre Pompidou and returned to the depository successful April 2023 aft an extended restoration process.

In summation to the artworks, the restoration task progressive replacing each of the building’s windows; repairing its doors, elevators, ceilings, and skylights; and installing a star sheet strategy to summation the museum’s vigor sustainability.

Maya Pontone is simply a Staff Writer astatine Hyperallergic. Originally from bluish New Jersey, she studied journalism and governmental subject astatine Emerson College successful Boston, MA. She presently resides successful Brooklyn, NY.

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