LAU Celebrates Art at Sheikh Zayed Hall

Rana Raouda engages with the viewers of her works.
(L-R) Wissam Melhem, Dr. Jenainati, Zeina Nader and Dr. Karam at the first exhibition held in Sheikh Zayed Hall.

The Sheikh Zayed Hall at LAU has a long tradition of hosting art exhibitions and showcasing the creative output of students and faculty in fine arts and architecture. 

For four years, as strict lockdown measures were implemented, the hall lay dormant; however, with the recent relocation of the School of Architecture and Design to the Gezairi Building, the space in the historic Safadi Fine Arts Building was given a new lease of life through an initiative devised by Dr. Cathia Jenainati, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, and Dr. Antoine Karam, art lover and curator. 

The launch of the first exhibition coincided with L’Institut Français du Liban’s book fair, Beyrouth Livres, which brought to LAU the Parlement des Ecrivaines Francophones for a literary festival on feminist literature and activism. The event was attended by LAU President Michel E. Mawad and introduced by Dr. Jenainati.

The coupling of the art exhibition with the literary festival sits at the heart of the vision planned for these monthly art exhibits. The aim is to demonstrate how the visual arts, music, film and others are all interrelated, as well as how they meet students’ broader concerns: “I want to show students that art speaks to their everyday lives, to their communities and society at large,” said Dr. Jenainati. The goal of this new venture is purely cultural and educational, helping to convey the French philosopher Victor Cousin’s message of “art for art’s sake.” It also fits in well with LAU’s longstanding legacy of excellence in the arts.

The first exhibition, Palpitations, centered on the notion of “Writing the Female Body.” Visual artist, painter and author Zeina Nader, known for her bold use of color in lyrical abstract landscapes, was exhibited alongside Wissam Melhem, a well-known architect, painter and sculptor. 

For the second exhibition, Rooting, LAU alumna Rana Raouda (BFA ’83), who makes cheerful use of color in abstract creations reminiscent of Matisse, displayed some of her most engaging work to date. 

In December, a show of renowned painter Elie Kanaan’s vibrant landscapes and cityscapes drew visitors from all over Beirut to the LAU campus.

“I would like to see Sheikh Zayed Hall become an ongoing focal point for the arts and a hub for our own faculty and students,” said Dr. Jenainati. “In the future, every new art installation will be coupled with an educational event, film and/or a performance in the Gulbenkian Theater,” she added. 

To this end, Dr. Jenainati worked closely with the faculty in performing arts to revive the LAU Choir, which held its first concert in several years in December and was adroitly conducted by Dr. Michele Chemaly. This was followed by an international concert of Christmas carols arranged and performed by LAU’s artist-in-residence, Dr. Reem Deeb. 

The events organized in the Sheikh Zayed Hall complement the efforts of various constituents at LAU while offering intentional mapping of local art with academic practice. Dr. Jenainati added that the sky is the limit in terms of the creativity that can be brought to bear on future exhibitions and collaborations.

The art exhibitions will resume on Friday, 20 January with the work of Aida Halloum.