Paris + par Art Basel 2023

For Paris + par Art Basel 2023, Marfa’ is showing a solo project by Mohamad Abdouni.


Since 2019, Mohamad Abdouni has been assembling and providing public access to never-before-seen archives of Transfeminine experiences and oral histories from Lebanon’s eighties, nineties, and post-war period, in an attempt to record the life stories of Trans* women and safeguard their images.

The ongoing project, titled “Treat Me Like Your Mother: Trans* Histories From Beirut’s Forgotten Past”, comprises over 300 photographs to date, currently housed at the Arab Image Foundation in what is arguably the first such photographic archive in the Arab region, offering valuable insight into the community’s social integration over the last four decades.

With AI-powered image generation platforms gaining popularity around the same time as this archive became public, questions arose around the consequences of these technologies on the archiving practice and the effect these accessible tools might have on its future. These musings were centered primarily around archives pertaining to marginalized groups and previously unrecorded histories.

In a time when cameras, film, and development were scarce commodities for a sisterhood with limited financial resources to chronicle its own history, and where photographic documentation wasn’t always an attainable privilege, how can modern imaging technologies be effectively utilized to expand on a particular Trans* experience nestled within post-war Beirut?

In his latest series, “Extended Archives,” the artist playfully tackles these questions by expanding upon his existing collection and crafting “pseudo-archives”, using these very same publicly accessible platforms. He resorts to source material comprised of personal photographs the women had generously donated, transcriptions of their oral histories, additional images from the Arab Image Foundation, and the artist’s past photographic work to create a manufactured extension to his existing archive.

The experiment raises evident ethical concerns, introducing new challenges to be put into practice within verification protocols. Whereas some stock photo databases have already implemented guidelines for creators and contributors encouraging them to flag AI-generated images as such within their metadata, it remains open grounds for an endless array of “pseudo-archives” to roam the web, masquerading as authentic photographs.

Trans* is used in recognition of transgender, transsexual, trans-feminine, trans-masculine and trans-non-binary identifying people.

Frieze London 2023

For Frieze London 2023, Marfa’ is proud to present the work of the artists Paola Yacoub and Talar Aghbashian.

While Paola explores the shape of water through a series of black and white photographs and others casted in wax, Talar’s paintings explore the formal human intervention within landscapes.
Yacoub’s photographs capture the shape taken by a jet when it hits a solid according to its configuration. Water is formless, it takes its shape from the solids of which it follows all the contours. There are deep affinities between photography and liquids, we cannot anticipate a photograph, just as we cannot anticipate the configuration of objects carried away by water. Unexpected things appear that we co-opt at the same time.

In her paintings, Aghbashian uses photos for reference, which are usually of misread visual information, a projection of her mind’s eye. They appear to be close up of figures, or characters on a stage, where things happen, or are presented. From a plethora of reiterated fragments, the painting pushes and pulls together. Ultimately her paintings live in historical atemporality, and is a place of open possibilities, where things shift and coexist.

The works proposed are an investigation on form as Paola’s solidification of form is captured in a photograph and Talar’s exploration on human and landscape symbiosis manifests through her paintings.

Art Basel 2023 – Raed Yassin

For Art Basel 2023, Marfa’ is happy to show a solo presentation by Raed Yassin, titled Death Investment.

Historically, the object of the human skull has often been used as a representation of death and a reminder of our fragile mortality in the world: from the Dutch Vanitas paintings to the Mexican day of the dead, to the skull collecting aficionados of Shakespearean times, and to the pop imagery in modern culture, these memento mori symbolize the transient quality of earthly pleasures, teaching us how death can descend suddenly and without warning, leaving behind only bare bones and a memory of what once was.

This memory is also often one of power and wealth. The skull comes to display the inheritance of its owner and their powerful position in society, as a kind of projection of affluence. And if not an affluent person, one could still invest in their own skull by embedding gold and silver teeth into it: for example the Roma gypsies would implant gold teeth as a hedge against a bad economy, or sailors would do it in case they would die at sea and needed someone to identify them and their tribe depending on the placement of the gold tooth; newlywed brides would be ‘gifted’ a gold tooth as a sign of respect to the groom’s family in central Asia; and more recently gold teeth became a fashionable trend amongst American rappers, who also embellished them even more with diamonds and gems. This mobile asset could also be seen as an investment of some sort, in case all else failed the precious tooth in the skull would still remain.

But what about animal skulls? Apart from their collection as trophies or scientific objects, they have been rarely approached as reminders of death or representations of wealth. When we look closely, many animals have bad or broken teeth, from the arduous nature of their life in the wild. Could we revisit their teeth also as an economic symbol of wealth and prosperity, or respect them by gifting them gold and silver teeth, even after their deaths?

In this project, the artist reimagines these animals – monkeys, cats, beavers and foxes – as the memento mori of worldly characters with gold and silver teeth: a wandering gypsy, a young bride, a rapper, a sailor. Here, animals are viewed as the real truth tellers of our societies, with minds full of wisdom and skulls worthy of veneration: the true Vox Humana.

Working with his childhood dentist, Yassin carefully repaired the teeth of these animal skulls, in the exact same way a living human would be treated. This idea of death being repaired has an air of dark humor to it, being constantly surrounded by death, one tries to find new and interesting ways to confront it.

FELIX Los Angeles 2023

For FELIX Los Angeles, Marfa’ is proud to show a group presentation of works by Maysam el Hindy, Mohamad Abdouni and Tamara Al Samerraei

Paris+ par Art Basel 2022

For Paris+ par Art Basel 2022, Marfa’ is proud to present Matters of Duration, Caline Aoun’s latest solo project

Frieze 2022

For Frieze London 2022, Marfa’ is proud to present In My Mind’s Eye, Rania Stephan’s latest solo project

LISTE Art Fair Basel 2022

FIAC 2021

For FIAC 2021, Marfa’ is proud to present a group presentation of works by Lamia Joreige, Omar Fakhoury, Paola Yacoub and Tamara Al Samerraei

Frieze 2021

For Frieze London 2021, Marfa’ is proud to present a duo presentation with works by Caline Aoun and Raed Yassin

Art Basel 2021

For Art Basel Statements 2021, Marfa’ is proud to present a solo project by Vartan Avakian

A Sign For Things To Come, 2021 Vartan Avakian

Sugar as a memory.
Salt as an image.
Skin as a witness.
Hair as a timeline.
Light as a reflection of all that is seen and unseen.

Vartan Avakian’s work stems from a reading of data as stains and scratches: a series of inscriptions that exist in sculptural form and are fossilized over time.

In A Sign for Things to Come, Avakian addresses the volatility and fragility of neon signs, against a backdrop of economic and political uncertainty in Lebanon and the world. A neon sign, loud and bold at first sight, is much more intricate on closer inspection and should be handled with caution. It is a combination of gas, glass and a conduit of electricity moulded in mysterious ways to form a symbol. In these drastically changing times, corporations, small and large businesses are on the edge of bankruptcy; Their neon signs stand as relics, waiting to be removed, and later destroyed or somehow preserved.

In this project, Avakian continues his practice of making artefacts for future archaeology, in a series of fossilized neon lights suspended in wax-like material. Here, a number of found indiscernible pieces of neon tubes that once formed letters, numbers or words, are collected and preserved. Made from linguistically unintelligible remnants of signs, these sculptures stand as cryptic symbols, ossified in fossils to be discovered and decoded in the future.