Before Zico House was founded:
Built in 1935, located in the heart of Beirut in Spears Street, in
the Sanayeh district, this charming traditional house was the family
home of Moustapha Yamouth (alias Zico). Lover of the arts and
culture, he started using available spaces in the building for
performance rehearsals. Soon, he realized the necessity for artists
to have a space where they can create and express themselves and
decided to promote and help emerging artists with interesting ideas
and projects, especially those who didn’t have the means to produce
their own work.
After the civil war, during the early 1990’s, Zico decided to
transform this spacious building from a family house into an
alternative space that housed contemporary art.During this period
was a time when a number of individual initiatives emerged and where
Lebanon became a prime cultural location for the Arab region.
Encouraged by Zico, a number of artists decided to organize a large
collective exhibition in the building, making visible the work of
many artists for the first time. Among others, these artists
included Marwan Richmawi, Flavia Codsi, Gilbert Hage and Elie
Khalife, who later became established in the field of contemporary
art and film.
Following this event, Zico set up a production house with friends
and colleagues, “Beirut Media Production,” with their offices based
in Zico House. BMP produced the first theatre performance written by
Boutros Rouhana, dedicated to Zico house. This poetic and feverish
work, « Al Haris », which was closer to a form of human installation
than theatre, provided Zico House with its main mission: to defend
experimental Lebanese art.
How was Zico House given its name?
During one of his first exhibitions « Chorba », Rafic Majzoub wrote
on the outside wall of the building: “Zico House” as a marker or
address so that people would understand where the exhibition was
taking place. This was the first time that the name was evoked.
Since the establishment of Zico House:
In 1999, Beirut was selected to be the Cultural Capital of the Arab
World; this was when Zico House, the civil society organization for
culture and development,was officially born. Zico’s home was
increasingly associated with the arts and soon, by word of mouth, it
became the place where cultural events took place. The whole
building became a house for ecological, social, youth and cultural
Since 1999, around 250 activities have been hosted in Zico House
such as: exhibitions, poetry readings, installations, story telling,
debates, video screenings, dance performances, theatre plays,
concerts, ciné-club, workshops, etc...
The impact of Zico House as a center for artistic creativity and
experimentation is not only due to the quality of the works and
innovative ventures, but to its unique cultural atmosphere and a
constant inflow of people and ideas. The cultural endeavour
initiated by Zico was to support both artistic creations and
development work by civil society organizations, all conjoined in
the same place: experimental artwork, students’ projects, small
theater rehearsals, painting exhibitions, site-specific
installations, as well as providing a space for social development
projects, social associations and civic institutions. Zico House’s
aim has always been to become a notable cultural center and to date,
no other such multi-faceted center exists in Lebanon. In 2009, Zico
House will celebrate its 10th anniversary.