Collection 1970s–Present

Marwan Rechmaoui. Beirut by the Sea. 2017-2019 298

Concrete, beeswax, and brass on wood, 13 panels, 105 1/2 × 234 7/8 × 1 15/16" (267.9 × 596.6 × 5 cm). Fund for the Twenty-First Century. Courtesy of the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Beirut/Hamburg

Marwan Rechmaoui: I am Marwan Rechmaoui. I'm a visual artist who lives in Beirut, Lebanon. Beirut by the Sea is like a tango between Beirut and the sea. It reflects the ancient relation between the city and the Mediterranean.

The work depicts the shape of the shoreline of Beirut city in 2017. Beirut is surrounded by sea from three sides, and then you have the mountain from the fourth side, so the land is very limited.

For me, mapping is like drawing. You draw to understand how something is structured. I chose to represent the land with solid cement because the land is completely full of building. And then in opposition, we have the liquid sea. When you work with beeswax, it's almost like water when it's hot. So you pour it and then it cools down. And the brass in the middle because the brass have quality when it oxidizes, it turns into greenish blue. So in a couple of years, it's gonna look like the shoreline of Beirut with all the algae on the rocks.

For me this brass line is a line of history and stories and memory. If you compare it to older maps, you're going to see a lot of differences. It was very important for me to have it accurately, because all the details you see in the line, they are places that something happened in them.

For example, in the center of the work, the most forward part of the concrete, this is a landfill. They bulldozed the old town and dumped it into the sea and they gained extra land. The port on the right hand from this landfill, in the August 2020 blast, this almost trapezoid shape, it changed. The explosion made a big hole in in the docks. And things go on like this: each curve, each corner have a story in it.

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