Lebanon: the artists View II In the presence of HRH. The Prince of Wales under the patronage of Mrs Nazek Rafiq Hariri Event Review Lebanon: The Artists View II, 1975 to 2004 was the main event in the calendar of the British Lebanese Association this year. This major exhibition was the successor to Lebanon: The Artists View I, the acclaimed selection of Lebanese art from the last two centuries which was brought to London 15 years ago. The exhibition, Lebanon: The Artists View II was held from March 1-6, 2004 at the Cork Street Galleries, Mayfair, London. This exhibition opened new prospects for contemporary Lebanese artists to interact with the international community. A much-needed cultural bridge for promoting the image of Lebanon, and initiating a new dialogue leading to better understanding through the arts. The paintings were chosen by experts and art critics, reflecting the diverse and vibrant creativity of Lebanon's contemporary artists who lived and expressed themselves during and after the troubled years of war. All of the pictures which were exhibited were painted since 1975. Some of the artists whose work featured in the exhibition had participated in the Millennium Art Competition in aid of UNICEF. The continuing strength of Lebanon's artistic tradition is shown by the astonishing fact that no fewer than three Lebanese painters came in the top 12 out of 22,500 entrants in the Millennium Art Competition. One of these works by Rita Adaimi, was chosen for a special millennium postage stamp , issued by the United Nations. During the week of the exhibition Lebanon the Artists View II a series of cultural and social events were organised. All held at the Cork Street Galleries except the third of March. March the first at 10 am. was the exhibition preview in the presence of the Lebanese Ambassador HE. Mr Jihad Mortada and Mrs Mortada, Sir David Miers, Chairman of the British Lebanese Association, Lisa Zakhem, Chairman of the BLA Exhibition Committee, BLA members and their friends, members of the diplomatic Corps, members of the National press, and Lebanese artists, who came all the way from Lebanon. That same evening, 7:30 p.m., a classical concert was presented by the Lebanese flautist Wissam Boustany, accompanied by pianist Nigel Clayton. Tuesday evening second of March was a wine tasting evening, and a lecture on Chateau Musar, given by the owner Mr Surge Hoshar. Thursday fourth of March, another wine tasting evening with Michell de Boustros owner of Chateau Kefraya. Friday the fifth of March, a recital by the Lebanese soprano Soumaya Deeb accompanied by pianist Andrew Robinson. Saturday sixth of March, Hood Hood books fair for the children of the community. All these events drew large audiences and were enjoyed and acclaimed by all. Wednesday the third of March was the charity gala evening and official inauguration of the exhibition at the Sheraton Park Lane hotel, in the presence of HRH the Prince of Wales, under the patronage of Mrs Nazek Rafiq Hariri. For this evening only, all pictures from the exhibition were moved from the Cork Street Galleries to the Sheraton Park Lane hotel. At 6:30 p.m. exactly HRH the Prince of Wales arrived after all guests were assembled in the exhibition area. HRH was met at the entrance by the manager of the Sheraton Park Lane hotel, who presented his Excellency the Lebanese Ambassador Mr Jihad Mortada, Sir David Miers chairman of the British Lebanese association and Lisa Zakhem Chairman of the event and chairman of the exhibition committee. All three accompanied the Prince into the hotel. Lisa Zakham presented to HRH members of the exhibition committee, sponsors, other guests and the artists from Lebanon. HRH chatted to all and particularly to the artists. He looked around the exhibition, and took keen interest in the pictures exhibited. The Prince a keen artist himself had kindly lent two of his paintings to be displayed alongside those of the Lebanese artist. HRH had most generously donated a lithograph of one of his paintings, a limited edition of 20 artist proofs signed by him. The lithograph was auctioned later in the evening and fetched a very high price as was expected. After touring the exhibition HRH gave a short speech in which he expressed his admiration of the pictures he saw and the artists who painted them under the direst and most difficult circumstances. HRH also commended the resilient spirit of Lebanon and the perseverance of the Lebanese people in rebuilding their country to the highest standards of excellence. HRH said that he hoped that one-day he will be able to visit Lebanon. Guests were summoned to dinner at eight o’clock and the Charity Gala Evening continued on as enchantingly as it had begun. It was a full house, excellent food and superb entertainment by Opera Interlude's and the Rat Pack, nostalgic music. The Raffle draw was exciting and revealed beautiful and valuable donated items. The auction conducted by Tania Bryers the renowned television presenter was most rewarding. There were three items auctioned: The Prince’s signed Artist’s proof of his watercolour painting, a beautiful broach of great sentimental value donated by Mrs Nazek Hariri in memory of Rima Takieddine and two watercolour paintings by Omar Onsi the grandmaster of Lebanese art donated by Mrs Mona Safadi. Unfortunately Mrs Hariri was unable to attend the gala evening due to an emergency appendix operation. She was greatly missed. She sent a message conveyed to the guests by the chairman of the event. Mrs Lisa Zakham. Lisa said Mrs Hariri called me this morning, and asked me to convey the following message, she was very sad not to be with us in person but was very much with us in spirit and she wanted to encourage us and congratulate us on our charitable activities. For her, she told me, nothing equals the importance of humanitarian work, since it is only through this work that we can create the right environment in which the precious, warm and loving family unit can prosper and thrive. Lisa conveyed this message in her speech of welcome at the beginning of the evening’s proceedings. Sir David Miers chairman of the British Lebanese association spoke first to introduce Lisa. He paid her a glowing tribute for having conceived the original idea for mounting this event and for bringing it to fruition with such skill and imagination herself and members of her committee. Well deserved tribute indeed, Lebanon: the Artists View was Lisa's brainchild. Lisa herself says: “it has been a long cherished dream of mine and I am happy and proud that this dream was realised and the exhibition was such a tremendous success”. She goes on to say “ever since we mounted the first exhibition, Lebanon the Artists View I, some 15 years ago, I began to wonder how the artistic scene in Lebanon would develop and how young talent would cope if at all with the turmoil of the civil war. Whenever I went back to Lebanon I looked for any sign of an artistic reawakening, with each trip I became increasingly surprised and delighted at what I found. Art in Lebanon was flourishing. Many talented artists were hard at work. And there was a profusion of art exhibitions, which people were keen to attend and enjoy. It was this artistic flourishing in the face of adversity that gave me the inspiration to mount the exhibition, Lebanon: the Artists View II”. Lisa always maintained that the tremendous success of this event is due to a well coordinated and organised teamwork. Whilst everyone agrees with her it must be said that Lisa was the steering power behind it all. She worked tirelessly and dedicatedly for almost two years to mount this exhibition. She most ably deligated responsibilities but was always in control ofevery smallest detail. The proceeds from this highly successful and extra ordinary exhibition and the events associated events will go to two important charities: the BLA Scholarship Fund and to SOS children's villages’ charity. The British Lebanese association scholarship fund was established in 1995 as part of the BLA's initiative to contribute towards developing local expertise after the prolonged war. The fund awards scholarships to Lebanese students and civil servants who wish to pursue postgraduate studies, research and training in the UK that are unavailable in Lebanon and which are also deemed to be of primary importance to the human resources development of Lebanon. Thus giving the young generation of Lebanon the opportunity to benefit from the British educational system and equip them with the necessary qualifications to contribute to the rebuilding of their country. So far, 32 postgraduate scholars have benefited from our scholarship fund and 62 civil servants. SOS children's villages’ charity is one of the largest organisations in the world caring for orphaned and abandoned children without discrimination. In 131 countries over 47,000 children are being given the best possible substitute for the family they have lost, based on the simple idea that every child needs a loving family and a home. The Lebanese association of SOS children's villages was founded in 1967 and has over the years provided permanent caring homes for thousands of children all over Lebanon. There are four SOS children's villages in Lebanon, geographically balanced, reaching out to Lebanese children all over the country. The BLA's contribution generated from this event is allocated to help building the training centre in the latest village of the Lebanese association of SOS children's villages in Bekaa. We are able to help these two worthy causes the BLA scholarship fund and the Lebanese association of SOS children's villages, because of the generosity of our sponsors and friends and because of the hard work and dedication of all those who helped organise this exhibition. Our heartfelt thanks go to them all. But above all to the artists themselves without whom there would have not been such an event. They also generously donated part of their hard earned money from the sale of their pictures to our charities. But this generosity is not surprising because our artists are very special human beings blessed by God. No wonder that Lisa Zakhem ended her speech of welcome on that auspicious evening, March 3rd 2004 with the following words "although not a visual artist myself. I appreciate and admire the talent bestowed by God on some chosen people. Talent is a blessing and a privilege and it is one of the few things money cannot buy. It is a gift from God given without discrimination”. “To all our artists, present and absent, a big bravo and congratulations. You have given us joy and hope. You are a great source of pride to us and to Lebanon”. Written by Leila Tannous-Dawton - 3/30/2004