Gilbert Halaby’s solo show set to go live at Artbooth UAE, Abu Dhabi - GulfToday

Gilbert Halaby’s solo show set to go live at Artbooth UAE, Abu Dhabi


Gilbert Halaby’s artwork Solitude III.

Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer

Under the auspices of the Italian Cultural Institute in Abu Dhabi, Artbooth UAE is presenting Will You Wait For Me Under That Pine Tree?, a solo art exhibition by Lebanese-Italian artist Gilbert Halaby (Jan. 18 – Feb. 29). Curated by Muriel Asmar, it showcases 13 oil on linen paintings and pays homage to Halaby’s Lebanese roots (the artist is based in Rome), as he lovingly recreates the serene landscapes of his home village. The houses, with unique character and charm, stand as a testament to Halaby’s deep connection to the place he still calls home, reclining under toweringly majestic pine trees. “Everything became possible because of my moving to Rome; I went back to Lebanon with my houses and pine trees, because I was able to find my new home in the Eternal City, where I could pursue my passion and love for painting,” he says.

The show takes inspiration from his childhood memories in what he likes to call “moments of light”. After his first solo exhibition at the Beit Beirut Museum, where he exhibited a procession of memories emanating from Lebanon, specifically from his village Dhour el Choueir, the journey continues and has reached Abu Dhabi. Halaby masterfully employs primary and vibrant colours as he likes to keep his childhood memories bright, and not remember the war or its darkness. “Despite our trees having seen many dark scenes, they keep on gifting us light, and always guiding us to the shores of happiness,” he says. His brushwork brings to life the intricate textures where light and shadow interact in each composition. Delicate strokes and careful layering of oil paint create depth and a sense of movement, specifically the little bright houses, evoking a sense of nostalgia and longing for home. Those are Halaby’s recollections: but it could be anyone’s house, anywhere.

All through his painterly years, Halaby kept Home at the centre of his work, developing philosophical thoughts around it. He simplifies them and also transforms them into a symbolic pine tree; trees were indeed the first shelter for humans, and shall perhaps be their last. Will You Wait For Me Under That Pine Tree? is not only a visual feast for art enthusiasts but also a poignant exploration of the artist’s personal and emotional journey. Through his artwork, Halaby invites viewers to reflect on their own memories and experiences.

He was born in 1979 in a village in Mount Lebanon and has loved to paint for as long as he can remember. Halaby was captivated by the beauty of the natural landscape in Mount Lebanon as a young boy and to this day, it continues to influence his art. Growing up, Halaby was also attracted by the beauty of the fabrics his mother sewed; his artistic eye fell in love with fashion, and he began designing clothes and accessories from an early age. After studying Archaeology at the Lebanese University in Beirut, he went to Rome in 2003, where he was captivated by the Eternal City. He soon opened a jewellery and handbag store near the Pantheon. In 2010, the Maison Halaby brand launched its first women’s collection, and in 2016, Halaby opened his much-loved accessories boutique of specially made leather handbags on Via di Monserrato 21, Rome. It is like a cultural salon, where the artist also houses many books by contemporary and historical authors and philosophers - the latter being one of his favourite subjects.

Gilbert Halaby is a Lebanese — Italian artist.

Maison Halaby has become a top destination in Rome, attracting a loyal following of collectors spanning the elite world, including Queen Rania of Jordan. In 2011, Halaby was chosen as ‘Designer of the Year’ at Paris Capitale de la Creation. In 2012, after his exhibition of sculpted jewels at the Fondazione Volume! in Rome, he was nominated as one of the Vogue Talents for Vogue Italia, which resulted in his collections of accessories being exhibited at the Palazzo Morando in Milan, Italy.

He debuted in 2023 with his solo exhibition titled Domus Berytus at Beit Beirut Museum in the Lebanese capital. His second show was in his adoptive city, Rome, under the title Une Comedie Romaine. Halaby showed priests, beggars and artists making their way across Rome’s hoary cobblestone streets. Pictorially, the images were striking for the way in which they captured the ancient ruins and monuments of the city. “Rome has become the painter’s adoptive city, where he has been living and working for many years,” noted Nora Iosia in the catalogue. “The Eternal City is also the cradle of his pictorial research, the place from which he draws inspiration. Its people merge with its architecture’s blazing light forming a vision … it stems from the … quality of Rome, its blissful indifference to the passing of time or the changing seasons, a lasting trait, which makes its spaces unique in the world.” But Halaby is not indifferent to Lebanon’s uniqueness either. His Levantine heritage is shown in the bright and primary colours of his pieces and also by the lack of shadows. His work was recently acquired by the UAE Royal family. Artbooth UAE is a space dedicated to showcasing works of contemporary art. Located in the heart of Abu Dhabi, the gallery aims to foster the appreciation and understanding of diverse artistic expressions, while providing a platform for emerging and established international artists.

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