New museum openings lead Beirut’s renaissance

New museums and galleries in Lebanon’s capital are being matched by new design boutiques, bars and restaurants in its bohemian districts

Despite being in a conflict zone, Beirut is somehow rising like a phoenix from the ashes. The past 12 months have seen the reopening of the Sursock Museum, a contemporary art gallery supervised by renowned French architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte, and the inauguration of Aishti, a cutting-edge art foundation that rivals the Punta della Dogana in Venice. In September, the doors will open to Beit Beirut (beitbeirut.org), a museum and arts centre dedicated to the memory of decades of conflict.

It’s housed in an imposing neo-Ottoman villa on the former “green line” between Muslim and Christian Beirut and served as a sniper bunker during the civil war. Its crumbling, half-destroyed state has been deliberately preserved, complete with bullet holes and shell pockmarks. Youssef Haidar, the architect of the project, says: “The new museum will hopefully be a step towards replacing the mass amnesia here for what has happened in the past, so that we can come to terms with our uncertain, but promising and wishful future.”

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