The Mina Image Centre opened this month in Beirut’s Port district.
The center has a large exhibition gallery equipped for audiovisual projections and a smaller project space. Both are currently exhibiting “Untroubled,” featuring work by photography master Irving Penn. The Daily Star sat down with the MIC Director Manal Khader to talk about the plans for the new space.
Q: You have set the bar very high with your opening show. What can we expect to see in the future at MIC?
A: We want to be multidisciplinary. People think that we are only for photography, but we are a center for the image, and the image is a much broader term than photography itself.
Not all our exhibitions will be photography ... but will be related to the image somehow. Our next artist is a regional artist. We’ll have three to four [major] shows a year. We are programming the big showroom and the small one ... separately, unless we need both for one show [such as Penn’s]. The idea is to have a more dynamic program for the smaller room - for emerging artists, for book signings, for smaller activities, eventually once per month.
Q: Why the location and name?
A: The owners of the building decided to donate the space. Mina is [Arabic for] port, but it also plays a little bit on the MENA [Middle East and North Africa] region.
Q: There was a show here at the end of 2017 by Lebanese photographer Fouad Elkoury, who is a Mina board member. Was that a “false opening?”
A: No, it was not really an opening ... We were thinking of the concept, what kind of a place [it would be], what kind of a vision. In the meantime, we wanted to test it technically, conceptually. So it was a preopening test, if you want.
We did the show. We discovered the potential as well as the problems of the space, so we closed down for about a year and upgraded the space. We took all the international standards for museums and tried to apply everything. In the meantime, we worked on the content, on the vision, on the website, on the team. Now we’re officially done.
Q: What were some of the issues you encountered?
A: We had a serious problem with the humidity. We’re right next to the sea and photographs are very sensitive to humidity. It was a big issue because now we have original [Irving Penn] prints, and we worked really hard with engineers from here and from London to get that under control. We also opted to keep the concrete walls, which is very complicated because we cannot drill into them and so the hanging system is quite complicated.
Q: The website says there will be other facilities at the center. When will these open?
A: The idea is to make it not just an exhibition space but a production space, a place where you can come and hang around, see an exhibition, work on your project, use our facilities. Paladium studio will take over our basement. We’re going to have a small bookshop ... working with Papercup. I think within three months we should be fully functional.
Q: Can you talk about some of the organizational challenges you faced in bringing a show like Irving Penn’s to Lebanon?
A: I didn’t know what I was going to get into when I planned the show. I understand now why we never have these kinds of [big-name] exhibitions, because you go against all odds.
There is nothing that helps you here. There is nothing ready - in terms of law that supports you or a state - for you to hold a big show. You have to fight through it.
We’re thinking, with [board member and lawyer] Tarek Nahas ... of trying to propose a new law that supports us in this mission. We’re going to become activists, there is no other way.
Ideally [MIC] has to be in dialogue with other centers. I think we really need to start complementing each other and exchanging. I want this to be a complementary platform because there’s Ashkal Alwan, there’s Beirut Art Center, there’s the Sursock [Museum]. There are many now, and maybe BeMA [Beirut Museum of Art] soon. Ideally really we should find a way to work together.
For more information on Mina Image Centre, see www.minaimagecentre.org.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
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