Monday 8 November 2021

Picture Post #69: The Wallpaper

by Martin Cohen

Robert Polidori, Hotel Petra, Beirut, Lebanon, 2010

If there was something ‘a little spooky’ about last month’s Picture Post, on the face of it there should be too with this abandoned hotel room in a, to some extent, abandoned city, Beirut. 

And yet, that’s not my own reaction to it. On the contrary, the emptiness of the room creates the palette, and the symmetry of the disappearing doorways provides all the action the scene needs.

The colours too, seem to have been chosen by a master artist, as well, in this case they evidently were by the photographer, Robert Polidori. Unlike many of our other photographers, Polidori is well-known for his images of urban environments and interiors with his work exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal, Martin-Gropius-Bau museum (Berlin), and Instituto Moreira Salles (São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro) to mention just a few. 

Polidori has photographed the restoration of the Château de Versailles since the early 1980s and recorded the architecture and interiors of Havana, and this portrait of the Hotel Petra, once one of the most popular hotels in Beirut,  located in the city centre adjacent to the Grand Theatre seems to me to show that, for an artist, all buildings are equally valid as canvases.


Keith said...

The decrepit scene is emblematic of what has befallen Beirut since its much-earlier days of being romantically hyped as ‘the Paris of the Middle East’. That is, before the cycle of destruction that began with the Lebanese civil war, which sent the bustling tourist industry, the prosperous business network, and the flourishing social/cultural/art centres scurrying terrified in the opposite direction. The thin veneer of wallpaper was easily marred, as was the thin veneer of Beirut’s civilisation because of cycles of violence. Reaped what was sown.

docmartincohen said...

Yes, that's true. But the room could also be anywhere. I saw that Polidori wrote a book just about this one hotel though. It's been demolished now - which adds a certain pathos. But the image (at least) is in a way timeless and indestructible.

Thomas O. Scarborough said...

It is interesting how different cultures prefer different colour palettes, which often seem alien to each other. What does culture have to do with colour?

In Africa, for example, one room might have blue walls, a green door, and orange curtains. In Europe, that would surely seem gaudy. Yet one grows accustomed to it.

Tessa den Uyl said...

I think we are all bound to a certain feeling of decay, in which the layers of our experiences are not eternal though do interfere at more profound levels and mix together to alter parts we might not even be conscious about.

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