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Rendering of the Beirut Museum of Art. Photo: BeMA.
Rendering of the Beirut Museum of Art. Photo: BeMA.

Beirut Museum of Art Forges Ahead with Construction

Excavation for the new Beirut Museum of Art (BeMA) is slated to begin in February, a year after groundbreaking for the project took place. Barring the discovery, during the dig, of any ancient artifacts, construction of the 129,000-square-foot institution will start later this year. The museum has been in the works for more than a decade, and will rise amid very different conditions than those in which it was conceived. Arriving as the Lebanese economic crisis deepens to the point that many in the country are without heat and food, and in the wake of the 2020 Beirut port explosion that killed hundreds and caused billions in damage, the institution is perceived by the Lebanese arts community as a cultural necessity.

“We need to preserve our national identity right now, precisely in this time of crisis, before it evaporates,” BeMA codirector Taline Boladian told a panel at New York’s Museum of Modern Art last November. The group had assembled to reveal plans for the institution, which include spacious galleries of roughly 5,600 square feet each, a vertical wraparound promenade allowing for the outdoor display of works; and, responding to the country’s ongoing power issues, three generators and an array of rooftop solar panels.

The project, which stemmed from a series of pop-up exhibitions in Lebanon and the United States, is expected to be completed in 2026. BeMa will hold in its permanent collection of about 1,275 works dating from the late nineteenth century through 2001, with a focus on paintings, sculptures, and works on paper made between 1950 and 1975. The works are drawn from a larger trove of over 2,400 little- or never-seen works amassed by the Lebanese government over the past century, many of which are being rehabilitated, having been stored in less-than-ideal conditions.