On January 12th 2017, the exhibition opened with film screenings and speeches by Reverend Paul Haidostian and Tom Young. In the audience were Minister of Tourism Avedis Guidanian, Minister of Women’s Affairs Jean Oghasabian, the Armenian Ambassador Samvel Mkrtchian and the British Ambassador Hugo Shorter. Also present were the film makers Tony El Khoury and Jackson Allers. The audience enjoyed the screenings, which told the story of how the paintings were made. They also received copies of a book designed by Noor Haydar about the exhibition.
On New Year’s Day 2013, British artist Tom Young came across a disused mansion in Gemmayzeh, Beirut. Inside, he found the personal belongings of the Baloumian family- Armenians who had fled their home in haste at the beginning of the Lebanese Civil War in 1976. As Young began to use the objects as inspiration for his paintings, he discovered a moving story of survival from the Armenian Genocide, and eventual success in Beirut. He contacted the family, who had since settled in Baltimore and New York, to get their blessing for the project.
In May 2013, Young staged the exhibition ‘Carousel’ in the mansion which became known as ‘Villa Paradiso’. During the event, Raffi Wartanian, the great grandson of Genocide survivor Mardiros Baloumian performed a concert on oud and guitar. The process encouraged the new owner of the house, Remi Feghali to renovate it at a faster pace into a cultural venue and subsequently, the European Union Ambassador’s residence.
The journey continued beyond Lebanon, culminating in a ‘reunion’ and exhibition in New York in September 2016. The trilogy of short films- ‘Carousel’, ‘The Beat Goes On’ and ‘Full Circle’ follows the story as it unfolded uniting families and their memories across continents. Despite the family’s traumatic departure from Beirut, and the subsequent dereliction of their home for 35 years after they left, this is a heartwarming tale of transformation, where memories are brought to life and a beautiful old house has been saved.
The exhibition continues until 17th January from 10am till 7pm.