Etel Adnan


1925, Beirut, Lebanon
2021, Paris, France

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Hear the artist recall how her childhood in Lebanon inspired her art practice

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ETEL ADNAN: I grew up in Lebanon and I had not seen painting. The house didn’t have — maybe a few, very few. Even rich people didn’t have paintings. They had sometimes a family portrait and they had rugs on the wall. The aesthetic sense of the Islamic world expressed itself either in architecture, or in the rugs. My father and I, we used to go to the souk, to the market, to look at rugs. Sometimes to buy one. But we went like you go to the museum today. I took paintings when I was twenty and I found it very beautiful. So when I came to Paris I studied philosophy of art. And then I went to the Louvre. It’s funny because as I was innocent to all the art, this thing impressed me beyond what you could dream of. 

Maybe I consider myself lucky not to have had contact with art before. It hit me full strength. And somehow, I can’t think exactly why, I started doing tapestries. It’s not a small painting, you know. And it’s wool. You know, if it’s messed up, you can’t restore it. And if it’s eaten up by a moth — you know, it’s not something you put in the house if you don’t have a wall. 

But tapestries are coming back. 

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