Bibí Zogbé

1890 - 1975

poetry bibi zogbé
biography bibi zogbé

Labibé Zogbé—known as Bibí—was born in the Lebanese coastal town of Sahel Alma, on July 14th, 1890. She emigrated to Argentina at the age of sixteen, and made her way to San Juan in 1907 to marry Domingo Samaja: She became not only a citizen of Argentina, but also of San Juan. Her line of lebanese descent continues in San Juan to this day.

Bibí Zogbé was a woman of the vanguard, dedicated to a life of the arts: Her dedication held fast and grew—even as she was mostly unknown in Argentina, unlike her popularity in other parts of the world. Today her work is collected and shown by the National Museum of Fine Arts, the Museum of Boca, Franklin Rawson of San Juan, Colonial de Corrientes, the Colonial of Corrientes, and internationally in the museums of Lebannon, Brazil and Uruguay, entre otros.

Prior to her career as a professional artist, she received a solid secondary education at “The Holy Family” D’Jounie in Beruit. There her fondness for the fine arts, espeically drawing, was born and stimulated. She was later a student of the celebrated Bulgarian master, Vladimir Dimitrov, finishing her artistic instruction with an emphasis on painting.

first solo exhibition

Her first solo exhibition premiered in Argentina, 1934, in The Witcomb Gallery, and was inaugurated by the President of 39 the Republic, General Agustín P. Justo. It was met with massive critical and public acclaim, a true triumph. The following year she had a showing at the Charpentier Gallery in Paris, repeating the prodigious success of the Buenos Aires exhibition—and again receiving worthy comments highlighting her original personality. Afterwards, her restless spirit propelled her towards Africa, where she studied the ambiance and regional customs of the area for one year. The end of these studies culminated in an interesting show in the salons of “The Friends of Art” in Dakar.

National Museum of Natural Sciences, 3,5 x 6 mt.
National Museum of Natural Sciences, 3,5 x 6 mt.

After her exhibitions, she gained the title “The Flower Painter”: She had invited us to relish in the enchanting perfumes of the flowers from her native land, the lush and beautiful countryside, her footprints since grown into the soil. Her flowers are a microcosm of Lebannon, “the Paradaise of Eden”: The symbol representing the birth of Life. Her profusion of flowers evokes an eternal spring in the thousands of colors burning viscerally in her art.

She returned to Buenos Aires in 1938, opening another exhibition at the Witcomb Gallery. This time she put forth a decree that her art also be displayed in the National Museum of Natural Sciences, a destination that proved significant for her panel installations.

After World War II ended, she focused once again on regions of Africa. This time she put forth an exhibition —as charismatic as the first— in the Governmental Palace of Dakar. Shortly thereafter, her fame was reafirrmed in the “Maison Amerique Latine” of Paris. Then finally came the invitation from the government to occupy the salons of the National Museum of Fine Arts in Lebannon, where she was decorated with the Lebanese Cedar-Medallion of Excellence, in 1947.

Bibí at her street, Seaver street, Bs As.
Bibí at her street, Seaver street, Bs As.

In her atelier nestled within the Seaver alley, an extension of less than a block that branches off the 1300 region of Posadas avenue, she played host to bohemian figures of art and the culture of Buenos Aires: politicians such as Alvear, Melo, Mariano de Vedia y Mitre; poets and writers such as Fernandez Moreno, Capdevila, Alfonsina Storni, Mendez Calzada, Gerchunoff, Horacio Quiroga, Manuel Mugic Lainez, González Carbalho, Alvaro Melián Lafinur; and painters and sculptors such as Quinquela Martín, Berni, Soldi, Larrañaga, Raquel Forner, and Victorica.

Bibí Zogbé and Quinquela Martín.
Bibí Zogbé and Quinquela Martín.

Her great and intimate friends were Alfonsina Storni and Silvina Bullrich, with whom she shared many important moments of her personal and artistic life. Bibí passed away on the 21st of March, 1975, in Mar del Plata, the city that she knew intimately and in which she had passed nearly all of her summers. Without a doubt, the art of Bibí Zogbé teaches us to listen to the flowers and reflect upon their power of mysterious seduction.