Aref Rayess (1928-2005)
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Born in Aley, Mount Lebanon, in 1928, Aref Rayess was an award
winning, self-taught artist who worked with a variety of
different media. His art has gained international recognition
and he received many awards over the course of his career,
including the Lebanese Ministry of National Education Award, the
Unesco Prize, the Ministry of Public Works Prize for Sculpture
and the Sursock Museum Grand Prix de Sculpture.
First exhibiting in Lebanon in 1948, Rayess spent many years
traveling throughout Africa before moving to Paris to study at
the Académie de la Grande Chaumière. He briefly returned to
Lebanon in 1957, but moved to Florence two years later after
being awarded a scholarship by the Italian government. Rayess
returned to Lebanon in 1963, and over the years exhibited more
than 15 one-man shows.
As his reputation as an important Lebanese artist grew, he was
commissioned by the Lebanese government to design and execute a
number of works, including a tapestry presented at the Unesco
Center in Paris, and two sculptures to represent Lebanon at the
World Fair in New York. Rayess spent time working in Saudi
Arabia and was appointed the city of Jeddah’s Art Consultant.
The Saudi Arabian government commissioned him to produce several
sculptures, the most outstanding being a stylized name of Allah.
Built in Italy from aluminum, the piece stands 27 meters high in
Palestine Square in Jeddah.
Rayess was a respected teacher of fine art, working for many
years at the Lebanese University and the American Lebanese
University, and was eventually appointed President of the
Lebanese Association of Painters and Sculptors.
Internationally, his individual exhibitions include the Poliani
Gallery, Rome; Numero Gallery, Florence; D’Arcy Gallery, New
York; Excelsior Gallery, Mexico; the Rodin Museum, Paris; a
retrospective of his works from 1957-1968 at the National Museum
of Damascus; Ornina Gallery, Damascus; and the Gallery Rasim,
Rayess continued to pursue his passion for art until his death
in January 2005.