Located less than 800 meters from the port, the Sursock Museum sustained colossal damage following the explosion of 4 August 2020. The façade’s signature stained glass was completely blown away. The building’s structural elements and historic spaces were gravely damaged; moreover, 57 artworks that were on display were damaged. The Museum’s reconstruction works will last for a year. Throughout its long history, and especially over the past five years, the Museum has been a pivotal space for cultural exchange, both locally and internationally. The Museum hopes to reopen in November 2021.
In order to help the Sursock Museum achieve this goal, and as a way to stress France’s commitment to the safeguarding of cultural heritage in Beirut, the French Ministry of Culture will support and fund the restoration of the Museum’s stained glass, as well as its historic first floor, including the Salon arabe, which is a testament to the outstanding skills and know-how of artisans in the Ottoman era.
This support is one of several significant contributions on behalf of French institutions, including the Institut national du patrimoine, which has lent the Museum its expertise, and the Centre Pompidou, which will support the restoration of artworks, including Dutch artist Kees van Dongen’s portrait of Nicolas Sursock.
The French Ministry of Culture’s initiative is also possible thanks to the French company Saint-Gobain’s provision of the glass needed to restore and replace the broken stained glass. Saint-Gobain is also supporting the Museum’s reconstruction efforts by providing crucial construction material.
Finally, the International Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict Areas (ALIPH), of which France is a founding member and primary contributor, has granted the Museum the needed funds to weatherproof the building.
This global support, which amounts to 1 million euros, is a testament to France’s will to provide concrete help and relief to the Lebanese cultural sector, through the mobilization of a group of supporters. This aid is inscribed in the framework of a larger initiative taken over the past six months by the French authorities, the French State’s cultural operators, the collectivités territoriales, enterprises, and the citizens of France, who, by contributing to these numerous cultural funds, are living proof of generosity.
France reaffirms its commitment to the Lebanese and Beiruti culture and heritage, and hopes that its support will help to preserve the cultural integrity of the civil society and its commitment to the freedoms that are characteristic of Lebanese society.
Annex: France supports heritage and culture
The primary French institutions that focus on heritage and archeology, such as the Louvre, the Institut national du patrimoine, and the Institut français du Proche Orient, have been mobilized in Beirut. Under the supervision of the Lebanese Directorate General of Antiquities, and with the financial support of ALIPH, these French institutions are working alongside their partners in Lebanon in order to protect and preserve compromised buildings. A total of 12 buildings have already been weatherproofed and have had their foundations consolidated, including the train station in Mar Mkhael. Presently, the restoration of the Saint Georges Greek Orthodox cathedral is underway. The rehabilitation of Beit Beirut has also been planned, in partnership with the Municipality of Paris and the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS).
Moreover, France is contributing to the reanimation of the arts and culture sector in Beirut, through the French Ministry of Culture and several other French cultural institutions. As such, France Télévisions, the Centre national du cinema, the Office national de diffusion artistique, the Réunion des musées nationaux, the École de Chaillot, the Cité internationale des arts, the Centres culturels de rencontre, the Centrale de l’édition, the Institut du monde arabe, and the Institut français have all mobilized urgent support for the arts and culture community, in order to help it overcome this crisis.