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BIOGRAPHY

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Christian Albert Cherqui (born 1942), generally known as Albert Cherqui, is a French-
born artist, interior designer, and art dealer.

   

His
Story

Albert Cherqui

     Albert Cherqui was born in Marseille, France on June 10, 1942. As a young man,Cherqui attended the École des Beaux-Arts in Marseille before embarking on a series of travels throughout Europe and the Near East. During the 1960s, he resided principally in Beirut. While living in Lebanon, Cherqui’s research into historical techniques informed his work in colored stone mosaics and stained glass. Many of the projects that he carried out for the government of Lebanon and for Christian churches in Beirut were abandoned or lost during the Lebanese Civil War.   

     Before the outbreak of the civil war in Lebanon, Cherqui returned to Europe. He exhibited his work in painting and sculpture in Munich, Stuttgart, and Paris.

     In 1981, Cherqui immigrated to the United States. He moved to Houston, Texas, where
he lived for the next three decades. During his time in Houston, Cherqui worked as a painter,
sculptor, interior designer, and art dealer. Drawing from his studies of traditional medieval
construction, he designed a three-story timber structure as his studio/home in the Montrose
neighborhood of Houston. In 1990, Cherqui earned a degree in Interior Design from the Art
Institute of Houston.

     As of 2009, Cherqui is retired from art dealing, although he remains active as an artist.
He currently lives in Arkansas.

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ARTISTIC CAREER

    Cherqui has exhibited his work under different names, including Christian Cherqui and
the pseudonym Albert Tristan.


     As a teenager, Cherqui studied at the École des Beaux-Arts in Marseille. After leaving
the school, he travelled widely, showing his work at a variety of venues, including the Tiroche
Gallery in Tel Aviv. His artwork at this time consisted mainly of oil paintings as well as
ephemeral sidewalk chalk-drawings. During his travels, Cherqui met the German-born artist
Gudula Hermann, who collaborated on exhibitions with Cherqui and would become his first
wife. Cherqui’s style of painting (and Hermann’s) at this time was described by a newspaper
reporter in Angers, France as filled with “shimmering” and “luminous” colors rendered in very
warm tones and high contrasts. 1 Similar tonal qualities would appear in Cherqui’s later work in
mosaic and stained glass, and would continue to appear in his paintings as well as in Hermann’s
fabric work.

 


     In the late 1950s, Albert and Gudula (Hermann) Cherqui travelled throughout Europe and
the Near East, including France, Belgium, the former Yugoslavia, Greece, Turkey, and Israel. By
1961, they had settled in Lebanon. While Cherqui would become active in Beirut’s art scene as
an artist and an art dealer, his initial area of interest was in the Near Eastern tradition of stone
mosaics, a medium that had been produced in Lebanon by the ancient Phoenicians and by both
medieval and modern Christians of the Orthodox and Eastern rites. In the mountainous region
outside Beirut, Cherqui founded a studio where he and assistants, recruited from the nearby
village of Ashqout, produced modern works of colored stone-mosaic (and subsequently other
media) based on his discoveries about historical techniques and on the local Maronite Christian
community’s tradition of mosaic-making.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

    

 

 

 

In addition to modern artworks, Cherqui and his studio received commissions for replicas
of historical mosaics, including one for the Lebanese pavilion at the New York World’s Fair in
1964-65. This exhibition piece was a full-scale replica of a late Roman mosaic from Byblos that
depicts the Abduction of Europa (the original, dated to c. 200-300 C.E., is housed in the National
Museum of Beirut). 3 Cherqui’s replica was composed out of out of “the same Lebanese stones”
as the Byblos mosaic. 4 The replica was exhibited in the Lebanon Pavilion’s “Room of
Antiquity,” where the classicist academic Herbert Musurillo noted that the mosaic was “neither
well-marked nor described.”

 

 

 

 


     Through his collaborations with the Maronite community at Ashqout and elsewhere in
Lebanon, Cherqui established contacts with Christian clergymen such as Monseigneur Ignatius
Ziade, the archbishop of the Maronite Catholic Archeparchy of Beirut. Cherqui thereby became
aware that many Lebanese churches needed stained glass as much as, or even more than,
mosaics. After conducting research into historical forms of stained glass, Cherqui taught himself
the techniques and began producing modern stained glass. In and around Beirut, he undertook
several commissions to design stained-glass windows for approximately fifteen churches.
Cherqui’s exploration of stained-glass techniques from the Middle Ages until the modern age
culminated in a 1965 exhibition at Beirut’s Musée Nicolas Sursock: “Vitraux Islamiques et
Modernes.” 6 In this show, Cherqui also exhibited his designs for a new project of stained-glass
windows commissioned by the Greek Catholic church of St. Antoine, recently constructed
(1964) on Rue Gouraud in the Gemmayzeh neighborhood of Beirut’s Rmeil district.  These
windows, featuring a modernist design of abstract shapes and bright colors separated by sinuous
black lines (echoing the interlaced design of the church’s façade), were installed in St. Antoine’s
crypt and along the vault of the church’s nave. Cherqui’s windows are no longer in place and are
presumably destroyed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


     Few of the projects that Cherqui designed for Beirut’s churches or for the Lebanese
government survived the Lebanese Civil War. Prior to the war, Cherqui was forced to abandon a
major commission from the Lebanese Ministry of Culture to commemorate the history of
Mesopotamia. The project was conceived as an outdoor installation in Beirut, that would have
consisted of mosaics, sculptures, and frescoes representing Near Eastern history from the time of
the ancient Sumerians to the period of Imperial Rome’s occupation. However, the project
remained unfinished when Cherqui departed Lebanon in the late 1960s.


     Much of Cherqui’s activities in Beirut were dominated by these church and government
commissions. Nevertheless, he continued to produce his own paintings and sculptures. He also
launched his first venture in art dealing when in 1965, he opened an art gallery in Beirut called
the Galerie Trois Feuilles d’Or. Cherqui designed the interior space of the gallery to express a
modernist, avant-garde aesthetic, and he hosted several shows of interior design (e.g., Knoll) and
solo exhibitions of artworks by such artists as Helen Khal, Karl Fred Dahmen, and Sheila
Macdonald Roberts. 8 In their project mapping art spaces that were active during Beirut’s Golden
Age of the 1960s, Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath mention the Trois Feuilles d’Or as one of
several modern art galleries (along with similar spaces like the Galerie Reflections, Galerie
Michel Harmouche, and the Galerie d’Icone) which “remain hardly documented” yet which
formed a critical part of the modernist ambience of Beirut’s art scene.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



   

 

 

    After leaving Beirut, Cherqui returned to Europe, residing in southern Germany for a few
years before moving to Paris in the early 1970s. During this period, Cherqui exhibited his work
(principally paintings) at shows in Stuttgart, Munich, and Paris, including the Salon de la Société
des Artistes Français in 1972. Cherqui was awarded a studio by the French Ministry of Culture,
and he would continue living and working in Paris until the end of the 1970s, occasionally
showing his work under the pseudonym “Albert Tristan.” In France, Cherqui would also
continue working on architectural projects, the most significant of which was the restoration of
the Manoir d’Argences near Coutances in Normandy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

      In 1982, Cherqui moved to the United States, followed afterward by his second wife,
Jeannine, and their young children. Arriving in Houston, Cherqui soon opened an art gallery
which would become known as the Albert Cherqui Gallery. Over the next several decades, this
gallery exhibited pieces by such artists as Edward Gafford and James Carter, as well as
Cherqui’s own work. In a 2009 solo show at the gallery, Cherqui exhibited nearly one hundred
pieces that he had produced in sculpture and painting. Such artworks, similar in style and theme
to works that Cherqui continues to make to this day, are primarily figurative pieces, often
depicting nudes, angels, and cosmic themes. The artist and art critic Garland Fielder has
compared the style of Cherqui’s paintings to Surrealist painters like Miró, and compared his
sculptures to Brancusi’s.


     While residing in Texas, Cherqui earned his Associate in Applied Arts degree in Interior
Design at the Art Institute of Houston in 1990. At the turn of the millennium, Cherqui
constructed a three-story multi-purpose building in the Montrose neighborhood of Houston. This
structure, comprising nearly 6000 square feet, housed a new gallery and studio space as well as
living quarters. Drawing from his expertise in traditional craftsmanship, Cherqui designed the
structure as a timber-framed house using pegged mortise and tenon joints, without any nails or
screws. The centerpiece of the Montrose building is a grand staircase, constructed from a variety
of woods and presenting the visitor with a double-flight of stairs at the ground floor which join at
the mezzanine-level landing. The curving, wave-like shape of the stairs has been compared to
Gaudi’s Art Nouveau designs. 11 Today, the building operates as Chef Soren Pedersen’s Kitchen,
where the current owner, the Danish chef Soren Pedersen, hosts cooking classes. 12
Another architectural project, the Blank Canvas café in downtown Houston, was
designed and constructed by Cherqui in 2003-2005. This gallery/café showed works from his
private collection alongside works by local Houston artists. 13 The gallery and café were managed
and operated by other members of Cherqui’s family, including his son Charles and his second
wife, Jeannine.
    Cherqui also executed a number of commissions for private patrons in Houston. For the
Colombe d’Or boutique hotel and restaurant, he designed a bronze sculpture, The Golden Dove
(the literal translation of “Colombe d’Or”), which stood outside the hotel’s entrance until the
complex was renovated in 2021. He also installed at the hotel a replica of an ancient Persian
relief ceramic, which the Houston businessman John W. Mecom, Jr, had acquired from his father
(John W. Mecom, Sr.) as a pile of dismembered bricks. Mecom had thought the fragments might
be from an Egyptian mosaic, but from his research and knowledge of ancient Near Eastern art,
Cherqui recognized the technique (glazed bricks molded into relief) as Mesopotamian, and the
appearance of the figures as Persian. He then determined that the fragments were from an exhibit
at the Persian pavilion in the World’s Fair in Paris in 1900, which featured a full-scale replica of
a frieze from the ancient Persian city of Susa depicting a row of archers. Cherqui restored the
existing ceramic pieces, replaced the missing bricks, and installed the frieze of Persian archers at
the Colombe d’Or’s sculpture garden and bridal pavilion next to the Grand Salon. 14
After his retirement from art dealing, in 2009 Cherqui moved from Texas to Arkansas,
where he continues to produce paintings and sculptures.


REFERENCES

Bardaouil, Sam and Till Fellrath, “Witness to a Golden Age: Mapping Beirut’s Art Scene, 1955-
1975” in Perspective #1. http://saradarperspective.com/perspective1/essays
CALwords. “Inside a Storied Montrose Timber Frame.” March 2013:
http://swamplot.com/inside-a-storied-montrose-timber-frame/2013-03-18/
“Exhibit Descriptions: the Lebanon Pavilion” in “New York World’s Fair 1964/1965,”
http://www.nywf64.com/lebano04.html
Fielder, Garland. “Albert Cherqui.” Cherqui Gallery: May, 2009.
Finan, Kristin. “Dining out becomes dining art.” Houston Chronicle. July 8, 2004:
https://www.chron.com/entertainment/article/Dining-out-becomes-dining-art-
1633692.php
Musée Nicolas Sursock: Le Livre (Beirut: Chemaly & Chemaly, 2000).
Musurillo, Herbert. “Items of Classical Interest at the New York World’s Fair, 1965.” The
Classical World, vol. 58, no. 7, 1965, pp. 195–195. JSTOR,
https://doi.org/10.2307/4345623. Accessed 10 Aug. 2022.
Nicola, G. “Batik-Tapisserie: die grosse, farbite Welt der Gudula Cherqui.” Kunst + Handwerk.
Vol. 23, 1979.
Vitraux islamiques et modernes. Beyrouth: Musée Nicolas Ibrahim Sursock, nd. [1965]

EXTERNAL LINKS
The Rape of Europa ["Princess Europa"] replica mosaic at the 1964 World's Fair

8

St. Antoine (Greek Catholic Melkite Church) Facebook page (stained glass windows
originally designed by Cherqui)
The Montrose timber frame building in Houston
The Blank Canvas Gallery and Cafe in Houston
French artifacts from the Mecom collection at Houston's Colombe d'Or hotel (including
the Susa replica frieze)

NOTES
1 “La route d’Israel a Londres passe aujourd’hui par Angers.” Ouest-France (Edition d'Angers),
1960 [?].
2 G. Nicola, “Batik-Tapisserie: die grosse, farbite Welt der Gudula Cherqui.” Kunst + Handwerk.
Vol. 23, 1979.
3 “Byblos, Mosaic with the abduction of Europa.”
https://www.livius.org/pictures/lebanon/jubayl-byblos/byblos-museum-pieces/byblos-mosaic-
with-the-abduction-of-europa/
4 “Exhibit Descriptions: the Lebanon Pavilion” in “New York World’s Fair 1964/1965,”
http://www.nywf64.com/lebano04.html
5 Musurillo, Herbert. “Items of Classical Interest at the New York World’s Fair, 1965.” The
Classical World, vol. 58, no. 7, 1965, pp. 195–195. JSTOR,
https://doi.org/10.2307/4345623. Accessed 10 Aug. 2022.
6 Vitraux islamiques et modernes. Beyrouth : Musée Nicolas Ibrahim Sursock, nd. [1965] and
Musée Nicolas Sursock: Le Livre (Beirut: Chemaly & Chemaly, 2000).
7 The Arab Center for Architecture, “Saint Antoine Roman [sic] Catholic Church” https://arab-
architecture.org/db/building/saint-antoine-roman-catholic-church. The ACA’s entry mistakenly
identifies this is a “Roman” Catholic church; it is actually a Greek (or Melkite) Catholic Church.
See the church’s Facebook page, “St. Antoine Greek Catholic Melkite Church”
https://www.facebook.com/stantoineaccaoui/
8 Ashkal Alwan, The Lebanese Association for Plastic Arts, “At the Still Point of The Turning
World, There is the Dance” (review of a Sursock Museum exhibition, 2019),
https://ashkalalwan.org/program.php?category=4&id=416; “Helen Khal,” on Artiana,
https://artiana.com/Artist/Helen-Khal; “Sheila Macdonald Roberts”
http://macdonaldroberts.com/Exhibitions.htm; Karl Fred Dahmen, Die Arbeiten der 70er Jahre
(1999-2000). Cologne: Galerie Boisseree.
9 Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath, “Witness to a Golden Age: Mapping Beirut’s Art Scene, 1955-
1975” in Perspective #1. http://saradarperspective.com/perspective1/essays
10 “Manoir d'Argences,” https://www.pop.culture.gouv.fr/notice/merimee/PA50000021
11 [by “CALwords” at the real estate website, SwampLot: http://swamplot.com/inside-a-storied-
montrose-timber-frame/2013-03-18/]
12 https://www.chefsorenpedersen.com/

13 Finan, Kristin. “Dining out becomes dining art.” Houston Chronicle. July 8, 2004:
https://www.chron.com/entertainment/article/Dining-out-becomes-dining-art-
1633692.php
14 Laura Elder, “The French Connection.” In Houston Business Journal. June 29, 1997.
https://www.bizjournals.com/houston/stories/1997/06/30/story4.html

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Cherqui, second from left, with US Ambassador in Beirut

Cherqui, left, with French consul

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