Two names. One passion: art!
The collection called KA after its founders last names began as Abraham Karabajakian’s hobby two decades ago until it became a dual collaboration in 2011. Roger Akoury, based in Bucharest, got infected with the “art virus” of his friend. It is a strong collection comprised predominantly of Modern and Contemporary Middle Eastern art.
I was lucky to get an invitation during the Beirut Art Fair to see a part of the collection in a 900 m2 apartment exhibition space on the fifth floor of the impressive building called Résidence Bay on the Dbayeh waterfront. Not knowing what to expect I stepped out of the elevator on the fifth floor. The reception was, as usual in the Middle East, very warm and welcoming. Refreshments and a table full of typical mouthwatering Lebanese mezze was waiting for the guests. I was not hungry (yet). My appetite was more focused on the art works. Although the view of the apartment was breathtaking, my breath was taken away by the artworks.
Abraham Karabajakian is a charming man with passion. He tells you about his collection and the history behind it. During his studies he started to acquire small affordable pieces. As he would like to say: ” I love beauty and art is beautiful.” He comes from an Armenian home in Lebanon where art was very much appreciated. His parents loved poetry and music. To decorate his new flat he started to buy Caucasian carpets, his first love. That love lasted: he owns now 50 carpets from 100 to 200 years. He tells me that there was no purpose to his collection. He just started to buy more art and as he says: “you buy art to enjoy it and then, when you really have more than your walls can take they label you as a collector.” (Canvas july/august 2014).
The year 2010 was an important year for Abraham and his friend Roger. That year was marked by the selling of works of ex-Jeddah mayor Dr. Mohamed Farsi. His collection was a tremendous success at Christie’s Dubai. The same year also marked the opening of Doha’s Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art whose holdings include the world’s largest collection of Modern Arab art. From that moment on their appetite to collect more Lebanese masterpieces was encouraged. As a duo they had a greater spending power and they were even more motivated to promote the country’s cultural output. His dream about a museum became stronger and stronger.
In 2011 he lend a former factory in Dora, one of the busiest suburbs of Beirut, a 1200-square-metre rectangle with a 65-metre-high ceiling, to stage an exhibition called “Pieces for a Museum” . This showcasing of works by Lebanon’s Modern Masters Paul Guiragossian and Chafic Abboud owned by private collectors was a big hit. The message was clear: those pieces belong to a museum. He is in constant search for the unusual, that specific piece of art. He prefers to buy pieces instead of names. Artworks shown today (he likes to change the artworks regurlarly) are works from the 1950 until the present day. Very established names like Elie Kanaan, Paul Guiragossian are shown next to upcoming young artists like Ayman and Oussama Baalbaki.
The KA collection is viewable by appointment only so I felt very lucky to be one of the happy few. But as Abraham likes to stress out it is a temporary space until KA secures a permanent home in Lebanon. This collection is for the country. Talks have already started with APEAL, the Association for the Promotion and Exhibition for the Arts of Lebanon. The Association found a spot for the museum: a plot in front of the National Museum of Beirut “a strategic location that is neither East nor West Beirut”, because according to Karabajakian ” in Lebanon you need a unifying place.” Let’s hope that the situation in the country will be stable enough to launch the opening of the muesum in about four years. Or as Karabajakian likes to put it: ” If you don’t show art, you bury it. If we don’t do this now, when would be the right time? Lebanon is always politically volatile .” (Canvas july/august 2014)
Time is up, time to leave this beautiful place. I totally forgot to taste the snacks but when I look at the pieces around me I tell myself that I just had an amazing dinner.
For more information please visit: www.ka-collection.com