The painting now sits comfortably in the Egyptian Museum of Modern Art.
A painting by Egyptian artist Abdel Hadi el-Gazzar - whose work helped define a generation of creatives after the 1952 revolution - vanished without a trace in 1971, when it was mistakenly sold off after the Ministry of Culture’s old headquarters had been decommissioned. Now just over 50 years later, the painting - titled ‘Inspired by the Red Sea’s Lighthouses’ - has finally been found, set up unassumingly in a local coffee shop.
Coffee shop owner Hisham al-Hawary had the painting hanging on his walls for eight months before a customer offered to buy it from him for EGP 2 million. Al-Hawary first found the painting in his father’s warehouse; his father’s company specialised in demolition work, and recovered the painting from a wreckage about 20 years ago.
When word of the sale got out, the Ministry of Culture released a warning against its sale. In the statement, they claimed the painting as a holding of the state, one that represents a crucial part of Egypt’s artistic culture. After seeing the statement, al-Hawary contacted the artist’s daughter, Fayrouz el-Gazzar, and expressed his desire to return the painting to its rightful owners. The Ministry of Culture immediately formed a committee to examine the painting, and confirmed its authenticity. The painting now sits comfortably in the Egyptian Museum of Modern Art.
Abdel Hadi el-Gazzar was part of the Contemporary Art Group movement, which rejected Western influences in favour of artwork and traditional folk techniques that emphasised the Egyptian identity. El-Gazzar has had his work showcased around Egypt, Belgium and Italy, where he officially represented Egypt at the 1952, 1956 and 1960 Venice Biennale.