A new exhibition just opened by Lebanese artist Randa Ali Ahmed would, at first glance, seem to be a fitting testament to the end of the global economic boom: the bare cement walls of a bombed-out looking Beirut gallery adorned by acrylic-on-canvas depictions of suited businessmen in varying states of dejection and despair.
Euphoria, the exhibition by Ali Ahmed that opened on Dec. 11 at the Phoenix Gallery in Beirut, offers a journey into the extremes of emotion that many of the world’s executives — and, by extension, ordinary people too — have felt since the economic crisis began spreading around the globe this year.
Some of the panels offer a close-up of the male-dominated business world in meltdown — in Ali Ahmed’s distinctive stylized idiom: they could be traders on the trading floor after a heavy loss; or property moguls watching their asset values fall through the floor.
Others, however, point out of the maelstrom and toward what comes next: recovery, growth, and renewal.
“I wanted in my exhibition to show that positive things can come after such a crisis,” Ali Ahmed said.
“I ended the theme with a painting of a man smiling, reflecting on the positive mood that will come after this dark cloud melts away,” she said.
Beirut has long been one of the Middle East’s trading entrepots, and in recent years has been a favorite target for investment of the petrodollars flowing from the Gulf Arab states, particularly in real estate and commerce.
With oil prices a fraction of their level at the beginning of the year, the tide of Gulf oil money that has so buoyed economies across the region has begun to recede. Lebanon will undoubtedly feel the pinch.
Ali Ahmed stresses that her artistic mission is not to find solutions to these problems, but to imagine how people can be positive in order to retain the belief that solving them is even possible.
“I just hope that people who will visit my exhibition will see the positive atmosphere I am trying to show through my paintings,” she says, adding that this theme is borne out by the development of the panels from despair to hope.
“That is why I displayed them in order, as a story, and ended with the last picture of a man with hope for the future,” she said.
Crestfallen executive guests at the nearby Intercontinental Phonecia hotel will be glad to know that the exhibition runs until next Tuesday.