Featured Artist: Ayman Baalbaki
Ayman Baalbaki is a Lebanese artist, living and working in Beirut. Born in 1975 in the year the civil war started in Lebanon. He draws most of his inspiration from these events. Ayman studied Fine Arts in Beirut and at the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Decoratifs in Paris. He is known for his large-scale expressionist portraits of fighters and ruins of buildings sometimes occupied by refugees who were forced to leave their homes during the combats. His style of painting and his subject matter made him one of the popular young Arab artists. After the 2006 Lebanon War he drew series of scattered structures related to the demolitions consecutive to the bombings of Beirut’s southern suburbs.
Although best known for his paintings, Ayman also works with installation art. He presented ‘Les Frigos’ an installation depicting a container enclosing a luggage while at École nationale supérieure des arts décoratifs. Nomadism is a recurrent theme in his work and appeaed in his more recent works such as Destination X, that was featured in Arabicity (2010) an exhibition curated by Rose Issa in Liverpool’s Bluecoat and Beirut’s Beirut Exhibition Center. Destination X is an old Mercedes Benz red car, reminding Lebanon’s antique taxis service, loaded with a mountain of luggage as a symbol of the upheaval caused by the war.
Aymans most popular series depict warriors bearing veils or casks. These portraits of anonymous figures became a symbol of the endless conflicts in the Middle East. These paintings have been widely exhibited worldwide, including the 2011 Venice Biennale. In 2012, Ayman participated in Hoods for Heritage, a project consisting of 16 Porsche 911 hoods transformed into art works by artists and designer and auctioned on benefit of the Beirut National Museum.
Ayman was part of the “The Future of a Promise” at the 54th Venice Biennale: the first pan-Arab exhibition of contemporary art to feature in the festival. This exhibition brought together more than 25 recent works by some foremost artists of the Arab world. His work depicting warriors wearing veils or casks describe the seemingly endless conflicts that haunt the Middle East.
Ayman,represented by Saleh Barakat’s Agial Art Gallery in Beirut, witnessed growing success in auction sales. In March 2009, his work ‘Abel’ was presented at an Auction Doha with an estimate of US$20,000–30,000 and was sold for $60,000. In October 2009, an untitled painting was proposed Dubai for US$15,000–20,000 and was sold for $74,500. In April 2011, Let A Thousand Flowers Bloom was proposed, also in Dubai, for US$50,000–70,000 and was hammered for $206,500. In April 2013, a new record was set as “Ya’Ilahi” (Dear Lord) went to US$377,000 at Sotheby’s. In March 2014, a large painting entitled “Babel” was presented at Christies with an estimation of $150,000–200,000; It realized $485,000.
Some Exhibitions and awards
- Beirut again and again, Rose Issa Projects, London, UK.
- Ciel chargé de fleurs, Luce Gallery, Turin, Italy.
- Ceci n’est pas la Suisse, Rose Issa Projects, London, UK.
- Apocalyptic Transfiguration, Agial Art Gallery, Lebanon.
- T-Marbouta, Beirut, Lebanon.
- «Ici est ailleurs», Agial Art Gallery, Beirut, Lebanon.
- Presence Absence, Maison du Liban, CIUP, France.
Empreintes (first prize), organized by Maraya Gallery and Lebanese Ministry of Culture and Higher Education, Beirut, Lebanon, 1996
Cm ³(first prices), CIUP, France, 2003
Jeux de la francophonie 2005 Silver Medal (painting), Niamey, Niger