6 art galleries to visit in Beirut

Beirut is a charming, restless city on the Mediterranean coastline with temperate climate, universally-loved cuisine and a growing art culture on a par with London, Berlin and New York.

Whatever your style, Beirut has a gallery for it. Hidden in different pockets of the city are art hubs that tackle subjects like war, sexuality and slavery head-on. Spend the afternoon gallery hopping in the bohemian quarter of Gemmayze or marvel at the collection at Sursock musuem – you really are spoilt for choice here.

Not all of its artistic gems are confined to four walls though. Venture out and you’ll see shrapnel-holed buildings (traces from decades of civil war) covered in street art displaying socio-political messages and traditional calligraphy. Among the numerous museums and contemporary art spaces, below are six must-see galleries in this creative city.


The gallery with a devil-may-care attitude

ARTLAB is a small space located in Gemmayze (one of Beirut’s primary cultural and artistic hubs) that seeks to “engage the heart and soul”. While some galleries may be wary not to ‘ruffle any feathers’, ARTLAB often unsettles and disrupts by allowing artists to address controversial issues in their practice. ARTLAB invites up-and-coming artists from the Middle East and beyond to showcase their works. While you’re in the neighbourhood, it’s worth popping by neighbouring Art on 56th– a contemporary gallery situated in a gorgeous old building only minutes away by foot.

Saleh Barakat Gallery 

A must-visit for contemporary art lovers

(Saleh Barakat Gallery)

Situated in the Hamra district, Saleh Barakat is one of the most important galleries in the country, which played a pivotal role in putting Beirut back on the map of the Arab art scene. What once was the historic theater Masrah al-Madina was repurposed into this mostly underground gallery space that exhibits the works of up-and-coming and established Lebanese and Arab artists. The space opened on the 25th anniversary of Agial Art Gallery – another heavyweight in the regional art scene. This sister gallery is at a reasonable 10-minute walk away from Barakat.

National Museum of Beirut 

A national treasure that survived the civil war and rose from its ashes 

To transition from contemporary art toward something more antiquated, visit the National Museum of Beirut (known to locals as mat-haf). Its permanent collection highlights the richness of Lebanese history through relics dating as far back as the Paleolithic era. During Lebanon’s bloody Civil War, snipers and militiamen occupied the place, making it unsafe for visitors. Some have even called it “one of the most dangerous places on Earth”. Forty years later, the museum re-opened its complete exhibition to the public. Amazingly, the majority of the artefacts survived the carnage. Look out for the world’s largest collection of anthropoid sarcophagi and the oldest known inscriptions in Phoenician letters. 

Beit Beirut

Former battle zone turned museum and cultural center

Like the National Museum, the Barakat Building (alternatively known as the Yellow House) was seized during the 15-year civil war and transformed into a sniper post. The house gave a surround view of the infamous ‘Green Line’ which made it a strategic vantage point for warring factions. Traces of this violent past have been preserved in the building’s pockmarked structure. Inside this iconic building is Beit Beirut (House of Beirut) – a cultural center showcasing the history of Beirut, as well as a well-curated rotation of artistic and cultural exhibitions. Be sure to contact before visiting as Beit Beirut currently does not have regular opening hours.

Sursock Museum

A sizable art collection in a picturesque mansion

(Sursock Museum / Joe Kesrouani)

In 1952, Lebanese aristocrat Nicolas Ibrahim Sursock had one dying wish: to transform his private mansion into a public museum. At 8500 square meters, Sursock Museum is a behemoth of modern and contemporary art in Lebanon. Built in 19th Century Levantine style, the villa is a sight to beheld. An expansive exhibition hall and twin gallery spaces host local contemporary artists. The permanent collection, which includes Islamic and late Ottoman artwork and Japanese woodcut prints, resides on the second story. A specialized research library, auditorium and restoration workshop can be found in the basement. Venture out onto the esplanade to dine at The Resto, admire the sculptures or browse through the gift shop.

CUB Gallery

An unpretentious gallery which supports fresh talent and welcomes young collectors 

Due to lack of resources, many up-and-coming local talents fall short from getting the recognition they deserve. A haven for young artists, CUB Gallery gives fine art students and recent graduates a platform to expose their work to the public while at the early stages of their career. If you are a thrifty collector looking for affordable contemporary art, this gallery’s pocket-friendly prices will appeal to you. Although students have produced the art, CUB Gallery attracts art aficionados and collectors of all ages. Grab a bite to eat at one of the nearby eateries on hip Badaro street before making your way over.

Where to stay as an art lover

La Gray

Sitting pretty in the heart of downtown is Beirut’s first design hotel, La Gray. Designed by Australian architect Kevin Dash, this 103-room property offers breath-taking, 360-degree views of the city. Visitors are welcomed with an impressive floor-to-celling glass topped atrium and charmed by 500 privately owned pieces of contemporary art collected from the Middle East, Addis Ababa, Cuba, Paris and London by its owner and hotelier Gordon Campbell Gray. Most prominent is the white spray painted metal wall with flowers and a colourful baby elephant by Lebanese artist Nadim Karam. There are also paintings by Cuban artist Diago, David Reimondo and French artist Fred Bred.


Phoenicia is a landmark in Beirut, not only because it survived the war, but also because this is where the rich and famous descended back in the day.

(Richard Long / Phoenicia)

Today, its 446 rooms and suites attract travellers from all over the world looking to combine culture and luxury. Art lovers can make themselves at home around works by British artists Therese Oulton, Jason Martin and Ian McKeever. In keeping with its ancient and modern theme is a specially commissioned mud installation by artist Richard Long and ‘Marina’ a life size bronze sculpture by Ronald Cameron. If you’re lucky, you could be starting at Paul Morrison, Sandro Santioli or Sam Francis from the comfort of your bed.

Le Vendôme 

Experience French colonial charm by the Mediterranean at one of Beirut’s finest heritage hotels, Le Vendôme. Opened in 1964, it quickly became a firm favourite with celebrities looking for elegance and opulence, but more importantly, privacy. Lovers of classical art will be fascinated by the vast collection of roman statues, ornate chandeliers and antiques that fill the rooms and lobbies of this 73-room luxury property. Renaissance art pieces and regal furnishings complete the neo-classical look which is distinct to each room.


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