The show is the culmination of efforts by Lebanon’s Directorate-General of Antiquities, the National Museum of Beirut, the Culture Ministry and Switzerland’s largest group of museums the Musees d’Art et d’Histoire de Geneve.
The showpiece, dubbed ‘’Fascination,” saw some 350 archeological and art objects arrive from Beirut.
“This exhibition tells about the history and civilizations,” of Lebanon, project curator Anne-Marie Maila-Afeiche said in an interview with The Daily Star. “We wanted to give another dimension, more than it being a simple display of objects.”
The initiative, which aims to promote foreign cultures and ideas, began in 2007 when Geneva hosted a show on Gaza’s archaeology.
Lebanon’s then-Culture Minister Tarek Mitri asked, why not do one on Lebanon?
The purpose of the exhibition, according to Maila-Afeiche, is “to show the cultural and religious pluralism” that characterizes the history-rich region now known as Lebanon.
The show explores the lives of the people who once resided in the area. “The objects that were chosen,” Maila-Afeiche said, “are either cult and ritual objects, or discovered in temples, churches and funerary contexts.”
Perhaps the most startling objects on display include three mosaics from a Byzantine basilica in Chhim, about 45 kilometers away from the Lebanese capital Beirut. One depicts a vase, flanked by two birds in a confrontational posture. The second represents two antelopes on either side of a chalice while the third pictures a running lioness- images recorded during an era also known as late antiquity, or the late middle ages.
Additionally there are three rare editions of the Bible, one from the Middle Eastern Library of Université St. Joseph, on display.
By featuring such relics the show aims to “show the blending of religions,” states Maila-Afeiche.
Modern works have not been pushed to the backburner; the show displays work by 19th century photographer Max Van Berchem and a 20th century artist Manoug Alemian for instance.
Current Lebanese Culture Minister Gaby Layoun was among the notables presiding over the inauguration ceremony, his presence indicates the political importance of this project, both to Lebanon and Switzerland.