The first edition of the Menart Fair will take place within the walls of the auction house Cornette de Saint Cyr, in Paris from Thursday, May 27 to Sunday, May 31. A unique opportunity for European collectors and amators alike to discover the diversity of the Middle East and North Africa contemporary art scene.
Four days during which twenty galleries will present artists from Morocco to Tunisia, through Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Israel, or even Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the Gulf countries. A “human scale” event, as desired by its founder, Laure d’Hauteville, committed for 25 years to building cultural bridges between East and West and founder of several contemporary art fairs in Beirut, Abu Dhabi, and Singapore.
You moved to Lebanon in the 90’s, right after the end of the civil war. What led you to embark on this crazy adventure?
It’s a very long story, but at the beginning I was following my ex-husband who was leaving for a four-month mission, and in the end we stayed there for fifteen years. I was a cultural journalist, I also managed the art collection of an important bank, which allowed me to meet a lot of actors of the local art scene, artists as well as collectors, until I gradually set up the first contemporary art fair in Lebanon in 1998. It lasted until 2005, when the prime minister Rafic Hariri was assassinated, which was a rather complicated and destabilizing period for the country. At that time, I joined the Art Paris team to set up a contemporary art fair in the Gulf countries, in Abu Dhabi. I finally came back to Lebanon in 2009, when the country became more stable, to launch the Beirut Art Fair.
Over the past ten years, you founded several contemporary art fairs between Beirut, Abu Dhabi and Singapore. Why did you want to create these cultural events in these regions?
A fair is a bit like a fashion show, it brings a lot of people the one who do it, often have a certain purchasing power, which is a real boost for cultural tourism in these regions. But above all, it is a great way to learn about the others, and I think that we don’t know enough about the Arab world in Western countries, or what we know is a reduced vision, often associated only with Islam. So I wanted to show that there was a real creativity and diversity in these countries, and not only wars and destruction. To create is to live, it is a form of resistance for existence.
What motivated you to bring the MENART-Fair to Paris today?
I wanted to retranscribe the well-being that one feels in the East. I wanted to show these joyful, cultured people who love France. There is a real respect and influence of French culture there, you just have to look at the Sorbonne or the Louvre Abu Dhabi, or the contracts won by the french architect Jean Nouvel to create the eight largest museums in the world, in Saudi Arabia to see this. But I also wanted to interest the public by putting this exhibition in the context of migratory flows in France and Europe, to reflect on how these people who arrive with their own artistic background will be able to merge their heritage with ours.
Where do come from the artists represented at the art fair?
We will be able to find Jordanian artists because there is not only Petra in Jordan, but there is also a pool of great artists, especially in the design scene, where they revisit the traditional patterns of the region. We have also selected Israeli artists because they are also part of the MENA region and we think it is interesting to see how they feel about the region’s evolution. We will also present artists from the Gulf, who are much more innovative than the Europeans and do not hesitate to use new technologies in their works through photography, video or installations. Like the Saudi gallery Athr, which will present a work of artificial intelligence, which has never been seen before in France.
What are your projects for the future?
First of all, I want to keep the format of a “boutique art fair”, which means an exhibition on a human scale, where the visitor can take his time, which is not possible in international fairs where there are more than 200 galleries exhibited. I would also like to organize an edition in Brussels and London, the ultimate goal would be to set up the fair each year in the same countries through three different European editions. So when we can reopen in Beirut, we will have a public prepared for the art of these regions.