Dalloul Art Foundation

Dalloul Art Foundation

MOHAMAD SAID BAALBAKI MOHAMAD SAID BAALBAKI

MOHAMAD SAID BAALBAKI, Lebanon (1974)

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Bio

Written by Liam Sibai

Born in Beirut in 1974, Said Baalbaki is a painter and conceptual artist. He completed his studies at the Institut des Beaux-Arts, Beirut in 1998, then frequented the Darat al Funun program in Amman in 2000[1] and then again in 2001. This was a program initiated in 1999 by Marwan Kassab-Bachi, sometimes referred to as ‘Marwan’, an artist who Baalbaki studied under, and whose work he later curated[2]. Baalbaki then left for Berlin to study painting at the University of the Arts,[3] where he received the President’s Prize. In 2008, he earned his MA from the Institute for Art in Context - Institute Kunst in Kontext at the University of the Arts[4]

His formative years having taken place in the seventies and eighties, Baalbaki witnessed first-hand the horror and destruction of the Lebanese civil war. Baalbaki and his family would find themselves in a constant state of ejection and relocation within Beirut, as many did during this period[5]. As such, displacement became a central theme in Baalbaki's body of work.

There is an expressionist mode in Baalbaki’s work that echoes that of Marwan’s. For both artists, objects and individuals are bloated, or deformed, or made limpid because they are vessels through which frustration, or disorientation, or displacement, or any such invisible presence is expressed. There perhaps is no particular artistic lineage being passed down from Marwan to Baalbaki. With the exception of the Amman years, the artists’ relationship is a leveled exchange between two individuals who respect each other’s work and person.

Baalbaki often painted piles of things, often suitcases, sometimes accompanied by other items associated with domestic life such as belts or radio sets. He painted these scenes in varying levels of sobriety and overtness of paint. In some units of this series, the items are neatly articulated, segmented, and stacked, while in other works like Kohle, 2009, part of the Dalloul Art Foundation’s collection, the pile of coal arrives as one large disorderly body.

One Hand Cannot Clap Alone, 2010, is a sculpted recreation of the arm missing from Mazzucarati's monument in Beirut's Martyr's square. The monument was built to commemorate the martyrs of 1916 but was not erected until 1960[6]. The 1960’s turned out to be the turbulent time that crystallized into the Lebanese civil war. A critical battlefront of that war was Marty's square, where the arm was lost and the monument partially destroyed.

Baalbaki tackled another kind of displacement that was more artefactual. The artist shifted his focus towards knowledge-producing institutions, their colonial pasts, as well as the cultural and political ramifications of such dynamics. The plundering of historical artefacts from colonized people in Baalbaki's work is not merely a matter of theft but a matter of displacement, assortment, and fragmentation. This process is characterized by the removal of somethings, or some people, the bringing in of others, and the production of what the artist refers to as 'chimeric kingdoms,' which is also the subtitle for the second installation of the Al Buraq exhibitions. The word chimeric is essential for understanding displacement in this project. It is a series of art exhibition in archeological garments. Al Buraq I: The Prophet's Human-Headed Mount, the first of three installments, presents the findings of fictional paleontologist Hans Wellenhofer and fictional ornithologist Heinrich Ralph Glücksvogel[7]. One of these findings, as mentioned in the title, is the skeletal remains of the Pegasus describe in Soorat Al Najm[8] in the Quran, which the scholars found in early twentieth-century Jerusalem, near the Temple Mount[9]. This skeleton is the centerpiece of the exhibition. Other works, such as photos of the dig-site, surrounded the creature, as did postcards, documents of anatomical studies, and some silver, terra cotta, porcelain, bronze, and ceramic figurines of other mythical chimeric animals[10]. Going to an Al Buraq Exhibition has been compared to entering a cabinet of curiosity[11]. A cabinet of curiosity is a space for curating and exhibiting exotic and esoteric items in a room. Such exercises were quite popular in the Renaissance era[12]. The lineage between the modern museum and the cabinets of curiosity is present in discourse and scholarship. Baalbaki's work occupies something in the middle of the process. The exhibitions speak the language of a modern, post-scientific-method, techno-centric form of knowledge production like a present-day museum. In contrast, the objects of 'study' are mythic beasts collaged together with parts of different actual animals. These were commonplace in closets of curiosity, as were collections of trinkets and toys[13] that in Al Buraq, explicitly signaled their arrival from various sources. Again, we see this return to a logic of collage and displacement.

Baalbaki currently lives and produces work between Berlin and Beirut.

[1] “ BAAL (SAID BAALBAKI),” ROSE ISSA, accessed September 16, 2020, 

[2] Kaelen Wilson-Goldie, “Beirut Exhibition Center,” Beirut Exhibition Center - Artforum International, October 17, 2013, https://www.artforum.com/picks/marwan-kassab-bachi-43446.

[3] “ BAAL (SAID BAALBAKI),” ROSE ISSA, accessed September 16, 2020, http://www.roseissa.com/artists/BAAL/BAAL-bio.html.

[4] “ BAAL (SAID BAALBAKI),” ROSE ISSA, accessed September 16, 2020, http://www.roseissa.com/artists/BAAL/BAAL-bio.html.

[5] “Mohamad Said Baalbaki,” Barjeel Art Foundation, accessed September 16, 2020, https://www.barjeelartfoundation.org/artist/lebanon/mohamad-said-baalbaki/.

[6] Sharif, Amani. “A Brief History of Beirut's Martyrs' Square.” Culture Trip. The Culture Trip, January 2, 2018. https://theculturetrip.com/middle-east/lebanon/articles/a-brief-history-of-beiruts-martyrs-square/.

[7] Wilson-Goldie, Kaelen. “Mohamad-Said Baalbaki: Flights of Fantasy.” The National. The National, January 7, 2011. https://www.thenational.ae/arts-culture/art/mohamad-said-baalbaki-flights-of-fantasy-1.358463.

[8] “الاسراء والمعراج في القرآن,” مركز الإشعاع الإسلامي, accessed September 16, 2020, 

[9] Erin Mcleod, “By a Wing and a Tale: Authenticating the Archive in Mohamad-Said Baalbaki’s Al Buraq I The Prophet’s Human-Headed Mount,” RACAR : Revue D'art Canadienne 38, no. 1 (January 2013): p. 97, https://doi.org/10.7202/1066667ar.

[10] Kaelen Wilson-Goldie, “Kaelen Wilson-Goldie on Mohamad-Said Baalbaki,” Kaelen Wilson-Goldie on Mohamad-Said Baalbaki - Artforum International, March 1, 2011, https://www.artforum.com/print/reviews/201103/mohamad-said-baalbaki-29490.

[11] Wilson-Goldie, Kaelen. “Mohamad-Said Baalbaki: Flights of Fantasy.” The National. The National, January 7, 2011.

[12] Google Arts and Culture, “The Cabinet of Curiosities - Google Arts & Culture,” Google (Google, 2017), https://artsandculture.google.com/theme/the-cabinet-of-curiosities/4QKSkqTAGnJ2LQ?hl=en.

Sources

“ BAAL (SAID BAALBAKI).” ROSE ISSA. Accessed September 16, 2020. http://www.roseissa.com/artists/BAAL/BAAL-bio.html.

Arts and Culture, Google. “The Cabinet of Curiosities - Google Arts & Culture.” Google. Google, 2017. https://artsandculture.google.com/theme/the-cabinet-of-curiosities/4QKSkqTAGnJ2LQ?hl=en.

Mcleod, Erin. “By a Wing and a Tale: Authenticating the Archive in Mohamad-Said Baalbaki’s Al Buraq I The Prophet’s Human-Headed Mount.” RACAR : Revue d'art canadienne 38, no. 1 (January 2013): 97. https://doi.org/10.7202/1066667ar.

Sharif, Amani. “A Brief History of Beirut's Martyrs' Square.” Culture Trip. The Culture Trip, January 2, 2018. https://theculturetrip.com/middle-east/lebanon/articles/a-brief-history-of-beiruts-martyrs-square/.

Wilson-Goldie, Kaelen. “Beirut Exhibition Center.” Beirut Exhibition Center - Artforum International, October 17, 2013. https://www.artforum.com/picks/marwan-kassab-bachi-43446.

Wilson-Goldie, Kaelen. “Kaelen Wilson-Goldie on Mohamad-Said Baalbaki.” Kaelen Wilson-Goldie on Mohamad-Said Baalbaki - Artforum International, March 1, 2011. https://www.artforum.com/print/reviews/201103/mohamad-said-baalbaki-29490.

“الاسراء والمعراج في القرآن.” مركز الإشعاع الإسلامي. Accessed September 16, 2020. https://www.islam4u.com/ar/maghalat/%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A7%D8%B3%D8%B1%D8%A7%D8%A1-%D9%88%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%B9%D8%B1%D8%A7%D8%AC-%D9%81%D9%8A-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%82%D8%B1%D8%A2%D9%86.

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Documents

Al Burak
Mohammed Said Baalbaki
University der Künste berlin, English
"Mandy Merzaban interviews Mohamad-­‐Said Baalbaki"
Mandy Merzaban
Barjeel Art Foundation, English
Wadi Abu Jmil
Gregory Bushakjian
Agial Gallery, English, 2015
Jussuf Abbo: The Sculptor in the Bedouin Tent
Agial Gallery, English, 2018
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Press

Mohamed Said Baalbaki: Fictional Museum
Jadaliya By : Medrar TV مدرار تي في, Arabic, 2014
Dem Himmel sehr nah
Christiane Meixner
Der Tagesspiegel, German, 2017
Mohammad Said Baalbaki Flights of Fantasy
Kaelen Wilson Goldie
The National, English, 2011
"Artist-in-Residence"-Programm Dem Himmel sehr nah
CHRISTIANE MEIXNER
Der Tagesspiegel, German, 2017
Beim Pferd des Propheten
Rolf Brockschmi
Der Tagesspiegel, German, 2017
Mohammad Sad Baalbaki Maqam Art Gallery
Kaelen Wilson Goldie
Art Forum, English, 2011
محمد سعيد بعل عابر ممالك الوهم
Art Forum, Arabic, 2012
Exhibition // POSITIONS Berlin: Highlights 2015
Berlin Art Link, English, 2015
Said Baalbaki schafft Kunst über den Dächern von Berlin
Monopol Magazin, German, 2017
Memoires de Pierre
Said Baalbaki
Saradar Foundation website, French, 2017
SAID BAALBAKI Doing and acting in tandem
Paola Yacoub
Saradar Foundation website, English, 2017
SAID BAALBAKI faire et agir en même temps
Paola Yacoub
Saradar Foundation website, French, 2017
كيف أكون إبن هذا العصر و أعادي التجريدية
Yakzan Taqui
Al Mustaqbal- Saradar Foundation website, Arabic, 2012
Ponga una momia en el ‘tupper’
Jacinto Anton
EL PAÍS- Cultura, Spanish, 2013
‘Thin Skin’: ‘Six Artists from Beirut’
Holland Cotter
New York Times, English, 2014
Six Contemporary Artists from Lebanon at Taymour Grahne Gallery
Lisa Pollman
Culture Trip, English, 2017
THE HERE OF THE ELSEWHERE
Arie Amaya-Akkermans
The Mantle, English, 2014
Thin Skin. Six Artists from Beirut
Wall Street International Magazine, English, 2014
HIDDEN TREASURES
artconnect.com, English, 2015
HIDDEN TREASURES
Kultur Buro Elisabeth, German, 2015
Contemporary Salon
Maja-Marie von Heynitz
Art Lawyer Blog, German, 2016
Ce sculpteur dans une tente bédouine qui obsède tant Saïd Baalbaki
Zena Zalzal
L'Orient Le Jour, French, 2018
Retracing a forgotten sculptor
Maghie Ghali
The Daily Star, English, 2018
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Videos

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Exhibitions

MOHAMAD SAID BAALBAKI Artwork