My colleague Ahmad was being a good host and took me for a night out in Beirut. We went out to dinner before heading to Secret Walls X – a local bar in Beirut’s Gemmayze neighbourhood. He’d come across a graffiti competition at the bar and we thought we’d check it out.
We paid our entry fees, got our wrists stamped with a rather creative stamp and found ourselves in the middle of a cool velvety room. It was decked out in red velvet from top to bottom and sported comfy armchairs and vintage lights and mirrors. We settled into a couple of decadent looking chairs and I headed to the bar. A rum and coke for me and a juice for Ahmad.
Right in front of us were two big white boards with a much of containers, paints and brushes spread around them. It was the blank canvas the artists were going to use to create their semi-final grafitti master pieces.
There were still an hour or so before the competition started so we made ourselves comfortable, enjoyed the cool beats and chatted away. I remember coming out with a great book recommendation from that conversation (Ghada Samman’s ‘The night of the first billion’). When travelling I like listening to local music and reading local books which helps me experience the culture better.
The competition started with a few black smudges on the canvas and slowly developed into a great piece. Ahmad and I commented all along and couldn’t decided which one we liked better r which one was going to win. It was a school night and Ahmad thought it best to leave at a reasonable hour but even he got so into it that forgot about leaving until it was all done and the results were out.
It was exciting to watch art happen right before our eyes; to watch the creative process and the expressions on the artists faces, or the way they moved their body while drawing. We were tensed and excited to see the final results, trying to guess the idea behind the piece all along, or who was going to win. Art is such a subjective thing, and what suits one doesn’t necessarily appeal to another.
This is what happened that night as well. The graffiti we thought was better did not win the judges vote but the loud clapping and cheering from the audience definitely made up for it. It makes you wonder…what’s more important? The critics opinion or the peoples choice…?