Mar Mikhael, Beirut, Lebanon
This is Joanna Seikaly, and this is her gallery in the hip Mar Mikhael area of Beirut. The gallery bears her name, and when I was there it also contained images from a fantastic modern painter from Syria. I was sent to see Joanne by a good friend of mine upon my arrival in Beirut. She promptly took me all over Mar Mikhael, literally marching me along the streets and introducing me to all the shop owners.
Joanna grew up between Beirut and the Washington D.C. area of the states, her family popping back and forth as war rekindkled in Lebanon. She returned years ago to Beirut out of her love for the culture, the place, the homeland. She has always been involved in art, and her sister is a famous clothing designer. She has been running this gallery for a number of years, and it is in a beautiful old building.
It was great to spend time with Joanna and meet some of her friends, all socialites who had their own entrepreneurial artistic thing going on: a restaurateur, a jewelry maker, a clothing designer. All immaculately styled beautiful women, all switching between French, English, and Arabic. It was kind of surreal. Joanna definitely knew what the scene was in Beirut, and her life seemed vivid and exciting. We talked about the troubles that Beirut has seen and she, like many others I spoke to, really just wanted to move on from that. Though bombings and killings were happening not far away while I was there, the drive to push on and live anyways is very strong with the people of Lebanon.
She was so helpful and it was great to spend time with her at the gallery and around town. We were meant to go to a famed rooftop club while I was there, but there was only so much time. I guess that's just another reason for me to return to Beirut.