Have you ever seen a mobile art exhibition? We mean art, quite literally on the back of a truck, roaming Cairo's streets. We speak to Mariam Elias, founder of Art on The Go, to find out more...
Art is typically restricted to the space between the four walls of a gallery. And that gallery draws out a certain crowd of a certain class of a certain culture - the esoteric artsy few - thereby limiting the exposure said art receives. But what if you took the art out of a designated space and directly to the streets? That’s exactly what Mariam Elias decided to do two years ago when she conceived Art On The Go, a mobile art exhibition that was designed to break down the barrier between art and the people by bringing it out of an art space and into a public space. “I started wondering why art was usually always limited to institutions – that restricts it to certain groups who go to art galleries or art space,” Elias explains, “So I thought about moving art.”
Elias decided to hire a truck, load it with art and roam the streets of the city displaying and selling the pieces. After several failed attempts to obtain an official permit, first from the Syndicate of Art, next from a Police Chief, Elias decided she’d do it on her own. “I realised eventually that, okay, this isn’t going anywhere, so I did it anyway, without official permission.” This was no easy feat; artists and truck drivers alike were either too worried to even get on board with the idea, or bailed last minute out of fear – an entirely normal reaction, considering the state of the country and the authorities' actions and perceptions towards art. But they managed to procure a truck, and a handful of artists agreed to contribute their work, such as Ahmed Sabry, Islam Shabana, Menna Genady, and they ventured out onto the streets.
“At the time, in terms of street art, it was quite politicised – there was a lot of art about the revolution. But I wanted art in the streets about different topics; just art for the sake of art.” The pieces Art On The Go was selling ranged in price from 2 LE to 1200 LE, essentially making it accessible to every socioeconomic class.
The truck took to Heliopolis' streets, and Elias was surprised at the reaction. “It was really unexpected for me because people of a higher socioeconomic class didn’t engage quite as much as those who were less well off, less educated. The latter were really interested in what was going on, they were curious...” Instead of art being limited to the cultured few, it was opened up to a whole new audience, who reacted overwhelmingly positively. “The sayiss at once place we stopped at got really involved and was helping distribute the pieces to people, and telling them how important art was and how they had to teach their kids art,” Elias tells us. “And the McDonald’s delivery men got involved, they were interested in the pieces…it was really cool.”
The next art exhibition Elias arranged was at downtown's Kafein in 2014. “The idea is not just to have art literally on the go and moving around but to also display it in places that aren’t necessarily art spaces,” she explains.
In keeping with the theme, another art project is in the works now. “We’re thinking of an art book fair – selling books about art, publications, posters, all on the go. We might get a truck again and take it around Downtown. It’s all about showcasing art in unconventional places; maybe we’ll take over a kiosk Downtown and fill it with art and distribute from there…”
Whatever they have planned, it’s set for end of April and we can’t wait to see how Art On The Go turns the typical on its head. Check out the video below of the first project.
You can check out their Facebook page here.