Buccolt

 

The gallerist Rind Nassar stepped through the violet curtains, alongside Lev Trussaut, grandson of the designer Rim Trussaut and executor of the Trussaut Estate Fund, and Akram Shalhoub, Deputy Chief Adviser at Palm SPC, whose father cofounded Bank of Beirut. The room was empty, except for Jean-Pus Dadalle seated on the only bench in the room. He was seated before an inscription of writing by Zahreddine, an excerpt from his book, History of the Murtaddins, and their study of pyramids, where Zahreddine makes a claim on Buccolt’s painting, “The Pyramid of Nob,” the replica of which hung in the Office of the Arts at the National Monument. They found him taking notes, mumbling in an underspeech that could not be understood. They asked him what he thought of it. Dadalle knew right away that it was owned by Trussaut, the painting had been bought in the days of Buccolt, when Rim Trussaut would invite him to present his pieces to the adoring public, in garden functions at his beachside home. Rind and Dadalle had studied together at Crescent Secondary School. They got along well, even though he repeatedly asked her out on dates when he needed her notes and rarely called afterward, she found him sweet and amicable, and would make funny gestures and was awkward in front of her parents, which she really liked. She didn’t trust people who did well in front of her father, or people who could handle her mother’s jokes and her stamina.

He wrote a great piece on the guy, Rind said, introducing her friend, who was eager to introduce himself. Dadalle recognized Akram Shalhoub. He had been to his house once before, for a large social dinner, tagging along with his friend, Mustafa Amir, who had grown up with Shalhoub, taken under his wing. He lived in the iconic Bull’s Eye in the financial district, on the thirty fourth floor. He didn’t know Lev Trussaut, but he had met his father, once, when he visited a graduation at the university, a colleague he had grown up with having given a speech.

Had he seen it before, Dadalle wanted to know. Of course, Lev said, it was visible from almost anywhere in the house. It rose forty meters high and was at least sixty meters wide. It had taken the painters seventeen years to cover the canvas in white. Buccolt had wanted it perfect, perfectly white, before starting to imprint the brushes. At one time, there were at least six hundred assistants, on a bed of ladders, painting through the working day.

He said it came to him while reading of the Murtaddins, and their study of pyramids, and Zahreddine’s assertion that the Pyramid of Nob, as depicted in the oil painting by Buccolt, that hung in the Office of the Arts at the National Monument, and was respected on Labor Day, was built with a rootless column on the foot of the eye, so that the pyramid could be turned.

He respected their observation on the method of Buccolt, the method of purpose. His attention to the eye, his deliberate defacement of the pyramid. They observed the eyes of statues and their shoulder abscesses, squalling hawks breaking into flight, children paralyzed in fear. But he takes it instinct. Agreeing with Zahreddine, agreeing with the original intention of Buccolt. The painter was himself the object, the canvas the motif of his experience, symbolizing the gesture itself. It couldn’t be more simple than that, and yet they refused his analogy, his assertion. He was not surprised. It wouldn’t benefit their longstanding relationship with the Academy, to share official values and histories as a means of consolidating over a certain percentage of the electorate and general youth, anyone eligible to vote for board candidacies and other arrangements.

Lev told the story of his grandfather, who often visited Buccolt in his studio on Boulevard Semaine, when it was still west of Highway 3, in a little side street known for decades as the slaughterhouse ranch, lending itself to cheap renters, artists and immigrants forced out of other districts due to rising prices for a lesser standard of living.

The studio was long and oval shaped. At one of end of the interpretive sphere, an open wall curvature that expanded into a garden. On the ground floor of a three meter warehouse, the upper floors smaller and neatly designed, packaging rooms in thin diametric cloves.

On the other end, a curved mirror the length of the spherical wall.

The walls near the center were painted yellow, and because of an assemblage of pipes suctioned out of the walls, the center felt more like a corridor of two opposing ends. The ceiling, open and freeing at the furthermost reaches, drew down nearer the floor, where at the centermost point, the concrete structure hung just above the head, draped like the paralyzed tooth of a giant. When it rained, and water soaked from the upraised ceiling clunked into the concrete drape, a sound was made that was known to them, the sound of enamel being pulled from the jaw with force of an engine, like at the dentist when a tooth is ill.

One of the painters who was friends with Buccolt, Hazar Dikashi, the son of refugees, convinced Buccolt to install an aquarium to help alleviate the feeling of loneliness all of them had, watching Buccolt at work in the windowless hall. He spent winters holed up inside, like a bear refusing to fall asleep in the season’s cave, working tireless nocturnal nights.

At his home, he lived like a prince, but in his office he lived like a dog.

Rind wasn’t a favorite of Lev’s. He thought highly of her mother, but she spent too much of her time socializing to be taken seriously. She was always the first to rsvp for a wedding, and always the last to appear at a wake, rarely ever a funeral. People had to accept her, to be her friend, but they mainly did it to appease her mother, whose friendship they required to get anything done. She was President of Ministry of Arts and Letters, a subsidiary to the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, inaugurated under the ministries of the first Habibs. She occupied the post for thirty two years, relegating and ascending those artists she liked, choosing who to promote or demote based on her idea of them.