After the rousing success of its first exhibition at The Egyptian Museum, Manial Palace holds the second chapter of this grand story.
On October 28, the historic Manial Palace is set to welcome the public for one of the most unique art exhibitions witnessed in Egypt. Curated by Nadine Abdel Gahffar, founder of Art D’Egypte, Nothing Vanishes, Everything Transforms, is a sweeping exhibition that brings together a host of Egypt’s most talented and acclaimed contemporary artists.
With the likes of Adam Henein, Huda Lotfi, Farida El Gazzar and Mohamed Abla lending their talents to the ambitious project, the exhibition aims to explore the timeline of Egypt’s artistic past, using the setting of Manial Palace to contrast, track and link the Land of Civilisations’ eclectic artistic heritage. It’s all set to make for a stunning spectacle that juxtaposes the old and the new – Egypt’s artistic history, with its artistic present, as Abdel Ghaffar and co. toil to not only celebrate a timeless past, but to build on it and set in motion the history we’ll look back at in 100 years – an aim that has not only galvanised the art scene on all of its levels in Egypt, but ignited an interest from all corners of the world.
“This is just amazing to see all these people artists that believe in the initiative, and to see people that will actually come to Egypt because they believe in the story,” Abdel Ghaffar exclaims with pride.
It was all set in motion with Art D’Egypte’s maiden exhibition last year, which was stunningly set inside the Egyptian Museum, making for one of the most unique – and unthinkable – showcases of modern art in recent times that brought the art of old together with art of new to find similarities and diversities alike. What it also did is highlight an issue; the world marvels at Egypt’s antiquities, but what does it know about its contemporary art?
“Art for me is amazing because it's a dialogue,” exclaims Abdel Ghaffar. “It’s a dialogue where you don’t need to speak a certain language, so it’s a way of bridging the gap between Egypt and other countries.”
And ‘bridge’ it did; so striking was the debut exhibition that it even travelled to London, where it was displayed at the Egyptian Cultural Bureau, with art appreciators and collectors from around the continent finding new meaning to Egyptian art and culture – people who not only find beauty in Egypt’s past, but are slowly beginning to believe in its future.
“We have a history of 7000 years and it's so important to have people supporting the Egyptian art scene,” she says. “Without patrons and collectors there would be no art scene and no history to carry on.”
The aim touches on a sentiment shared and supported by so many others, including the likes of Rasheed Kamel, one of the most prolific art collectors in Egypt.
“We are fighting to keep our art alive and to cherish it because it's our heritage,” he says with the kind of fire that one might not necessarily attribute to an art collector. “There's room for art to grow, flourish, promote Egyptian art and to put Egypt back on the map.”
This year, Art D’Egypte’s second-coming promises to be just as spectacular in continuing to tell the story of Egypt’s rich artistic heritage, with the exhibition set to take place at Manial Palace. As a monument to art in itself, the Mohamed Ali-built palace has its own stories to tell, offering a window into the art of the late 19th and early 20th centuries – a fitting setting if ever there was one. But more than just acting as a venue, the palace plays a large part in the exhibition itself. The participating artists were challenged, based on their medium of choice, to create pieces for the specific setting on the palace grounds; to use this most grand of backdrops as inspiration and direction. Adding to last year's festivities, this year's edition comes with several special talks and seminars on the Manial Palace grounds across the month of November, with the likes of Tate Modern curator, Murad Montazami, AUC professor and artist, Duncan McDonald, and visual artist, Khaled Hafez.
It all plays into Abdel Ghaffar’s goal of reigniting the Egyptian public’s appreciation of art. A criticism often levelled at art is that it is inaccessible to the masses; what the latest chapter in Art D’Egypte’s journey does is break down those walls, offering a perspective on Egyptian culture that is rarely presented so inclusively by having the exhibition for a whole month.
The project has inspired all in its aim to both showcase contemporary art to the world, as well as preserve it locally; be it MO4 Network’s involvement in telling and spreading the story; Azza Fahmy providing display cases so that Mohamed Ali’s personal jewellery collection can be displayed publicly for the first time; or even Phillips lighting the palace and the exhibition – it’s galvanised a host of different individuals and institutions into being part of one of the grandest storytelling projects of all.
Having always been inspired by Egypt’s artistic heritage in her jewellery designs, the project speaks, in particular, to Fahmy, whose own achievements abroad has brought her a pride and catharsis.
“When foreigners look and see painters or someone who has created jewellery, this challenges what people suppose of the Egyptian people,” she says. “The initiatives coming from institutions like Art D'Egypte transform the lens through which Egyptian people are viewed as a whole.”
More than just playing on a celebratory sense of nostalgia, though, Abdel Ghaffar and Art D’Egypte are also looking forward. The project is just as much about providing space for Egypt’s deep pool of artistic talent to find their audience and their voice, as Rashed Kamel so eloquently concludes.
“We have young artists that are outstanding, but they need the platform and support to put them on the right track. Putting them on the right track is putting Egypt on the right track. We owe it to the country.”
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