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Lebanese authorities backtrack over high-profile curator's passport renewal

Christine Tohmé says her application was suspended because of ties to culture sector

The Directorate of General Security, a Lebanese intelligence agency, has renewed the passport of the Beirut-based curator Christine Tohmé after stalling her application for four days. Tohmé had said that she was targeted due to her influential role in the Lebanese culture sector; she is the founding director of Ashkal Alwan, the non-profit Lebanese Association for Plastic Arts, which was established in 1993.

Tohmé said on Facebook last week that when she applied to the Directorate earlier this month, she was informed that the passport renewal was suspended due to a warrant issued in her name.

“I have no doubt that this warrant is directly linked to the domain of my work, as a director of Ashkal Alwan. As such, the significance of this action against me cannot be understated, as it affects the domain of other civic workers, as well as mine personally,” Tohmé wrote. The Lebanese Embassy in London declined to comment.

Last September, Tohmé was named the curator of the 13th Sharjah Biennial, which is due to take place next year. She tells The Art Newspaper: “I haven’t received any official explanation for the delay. I have a busy travelling and research schedule in preparation for the forthcoming Sharjah Biennial, starting next February—then France, Berlin and the Marrakech Biennale.”

According to Artinfo, this crackdown could be linked to the so-called You Stink anti-government protests staged last year by a number of artists.