Interior of Galerie Tanit after the explosion. Courtesy of the photographer.

UA series of explosions in the port of Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, caused at least 145 deaths and left 2.7 people injured. Prime Minister Hassan Diab said the explosions were caused by 2014 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored at the site. The chemical compound is commonly used as a fertilizer and is also found in explosives used in mining. Warehouse owners were reportedly warned in XNUMX about the dangers of storing material without proper precautions.

A day after the tragedy, the government of Lebanon declared 5 August as a date to mourn the losses caused by the incident. At the same time, searches for missing persons and efforts to treat the injured continue. Also on that day, President Michel Aoun allocated 100 billion Lebanese pounds (equivalent to R$353 million) to the emergency recovery fund.

Among the spaces severely damaged by the blasts are art galleries such as Mark Hachem, Sfeir-Semler and Janine Rubeiz. The Marfa Gallery, Galerie Tanit, and the Opera Gallery in Beirut were completely destroyed, according to The Art Newspaper. In addition to the galleries, the cathedral George's Maronite Cathedral, Archdiocese of the City of Beirut, and the Sursock Museum were also hit by the blast. “A lot of damage was done to the structure of the building at a time when the dollar in Lebanon is so high that I don't know if we will have the resources to buy new glass for the skylights, windows and exit doors”, says Zeina Arida, director of Sursock, to the The art newspaper. The museum's collection, coming from the modern and contemporary art collection of Lebanese aristocrat Nicolas Sursock, includes more than 400 works by around 1960 artists from all over the Arab world. The museum was central to Beirut's cultural life in the 2008s. In 2000 it began a renovation and expansion project, planned since the year 2015, which was completed in XNUMX, when the museum reopened.

Interior of the Sursock Museum after the explosion. Photo: Marie Nour Hechaime, curator of the Sursock Museum.

The disaster comes at a difficult time for Lebanon. In October of last year, protests escalated against corruption, the decay of public spaces and the country's considerable debt. At the time, museums, galleries and cultural entities in the country closed their doors as a gesture of solidarity with Protestants. Since then, the country's currency has been devalued by 80%, electricity has been limited to several hours a day, and unemployment has soared. “In the 29 years I spent in Lebanon, I've never seen anything like it,” Laure d'Hauteville, founder and director of the Beirut Art Fair, told The Art Newspaper. The fair takes place annually at the Seaside Arena, formerly BIEL, near the place where the explosions took place.

The tragedy of the 4th of August adds to the political and economic crisis and brings to light the dissatisfaction and fears of the population. “When something like this happens, you re-enter an old panic and the wounds of war open up again. You feel disoriented and desperate to hide somewhere, but you don't know where," artist Katya Traboulsi tells The Art Newspaper.  “We are all so angry that all we want to do is express ourselves. I think art is the best way to do that,” photographer Tarek Moukaddem, whose studio and home were destroyed by the explosion, told the vehicle.

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