The works of talented Lebanese artist Aref El Rayess, who captured emotional depictions of political unrest in 1960s Lebanon, are being showcased in Valencia, marking the first exhibition Europe has ever seen. Art pieces created by Lebanese artist Aref El Rayess will be on display at the Institut Valencia d’Art Modern (IVAM) from 11 May 2023. The exhibition, curated by Catherine David, will reveal influential works created by El Rayess from 1958 to 1978.  

El Rayess is mostly recognised as a painter, though his skillset was impressively broad, being proficient in etching, sculpture and tapestry as well as traditional painting. The artist’s innate, self-taught skills made him an insightful and liberated creator who became interested as a teenager in West African art discovered in Senegal. This fascination would heavily influence his later work. 

While travelling between Senegal and Paris, El Rayess began to study art at the Academy of Fine Arts, where he trained in the studios of existing skilled artists. The period of his art displayed at IVAM captures the formative years after his return to Lebanon in 1967. The country was greatly impacted by the events in the Arab world at this time, which influenced the emotions portrayed within his work. El Rayess organised and attended conferences and exhibitions on politics and art, and was passionately involved in the political events of Lebanon at the time. He is applauded around the world for his liberating art, evoking feelings of frustration at political unrest and the struggle of living in a time of war. All of the art pieces encompass an authentic, independent view of the civil unrest during the time of the creation of the works.  

This exhibition is a seminal one, as it is the first European exhibition of El Rayess’s work. The art will be available for public viewing for four months from 11 May to 10 September 2023. 

 Report by Emily Bray  

 Article Copyright ‘24/7 Valencia’  



 From May 11th to September 10th, 2023

IVAM Centre Julio González 

Floor 2, G4 

 Guillem de Castro, 118 

46003 València 


Tel: 963 176 600 

 More information:

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