Retrospective: Paul Guiragossian , The Human Condition2013-10-11

Paul Guiragossian, Self Portrait, 1951. Gouache on paper. 30 x 24 cm. Collection of Mr. & Mrs. Ramzi Saidi.

Paul Guiragossian, The Human Condition

Curated by

Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath


Organized by the Paul Guiragossian Foundation represented by Manuella Guiragossian as exhibition advisor, with the support of Solidere.


The exhibition will take place at the Beirut Exhibition Center in the Beirut Waterfront District in Solidere, Lebanon from November 20, 2013 to January 06, 2014.

Paul Guiragossian, The Human Condition is the hitherto most comprehensive retrospective for the artist spanning five decades of his oeuvre. Curated by Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath of Art Reoriented, and marking the 20th anniversary of his passing in 1993, it is a long overdue re-assessment of the life and work of a pioneering artistic and intellectual figure from Lebanon and in the Arab world.

Paul Guiragossian’s oeuvres represent a lifetime of formal inquiry spent seeking to narrow the gap between realistic form and abstract gesture. The exhibition consists of more than 100 paintings and works on paper, many of which never exhibited before, alongside an extensive range of original archival documents. Through their selection, the curators contextualize the multiple strands of Guiragossian’s career within a contemporary curatorial reading that seeks to highlight his pivotal position amongst a specific generation of artists and his negotiation of modernity’s construct of form vs. content.

Born to Armenian parents survivors of the Armenian Genocide, Paul Guiragossian experienced exile since a very tender age. His talent was first noticed during his early school years in Jerusalem. He would soon start making portraits in order to support his mother. In the 1940s he enrolled at the Yarkon Studio of art in Jaffa. Around 1948, the Guiragossians were evacuated from Jerusalem by the British and were sent on ships to Lebanon; the country where Paul would eventually rise to become one of the most prominent artists of his generation. His first-hand knowledge of the work of several modernists through close friendships with Mustapha Farroukh and Cesar Gemayyel allowed him to take tradition by the hand. However, he would soon discard the academicism still adopted by many of his peers to develop the abstract compositions for which he would become known. Through years of self-education, trial and error, and scholarships to the Accademia di Belle Arti di Firenze in 1957 and Les Ateliers des Maîtres de l'École de Paris in 1962, Guiragossian would receive acclaim both in Lebanon and beyond. Over the following two decades Guiragossian would gradually liberate himself from the confines of the discernable human figure. Yet, no matter how far his interrogation of the possibilities of painting reached, Guiragossian could never entirely sever himself from an obsession with the infinite manifestations of the human condition. Perhaps this had to do with the fact that he was from and for the people: the exile, the immigrant, the laborer and outsider. On Paul Guiragossian’s canvases, woman, child and man would become faceless imprints delineated by a vibrant brushstroke; their psychological loneliness and corporeal isolation portrayed though patches of color that are adjacent but never overlapping.

The Paul Guiragossian Foundation, represented by Manuella Guiragossian as exhibition advisor, is the organizer of Paul Guiragossian, The Human Condition with the support of Solidere. Alongside an exhibition catalog, a comprehensive monograph on the artist, authored by the curators, will be published in 2014.

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