Ramses Younan, Nature Loves a Vacuum, 1944, Oil on canvas, 66 x 66 cm. Courtesy of Museum of Modern Egyptian Art, Sector of Fine Arts, Ministry of Culture, Egypt.


In collaboration with the Fine Arts sector of the Ministry of Culture in Egypt and the American University in Cairo (AUC), Sharjah Art Foundation is organizing a major traveling exhibition entitled When Art Becomes Liberty: The Egyptian Surrealists (1938-1965). Coming on the heels of the international conference The Egyptian Surrealists in Global Perspective held at the American University in Cairo November 26-28, 2015, this exhibition will inaugurate at the Palace of Arts in Cairo, Egypt on September 28, 2016 through October 28, 2016, and travel to other venues soon to be announced, before it concludes in Sharjah Art Foundation spaces in 2018.

The exhibition is intended to show the works of the Egyptian Surrealists and their lasting legacy in Egypt, and in the international circles of Surrealists, highlighting the multifaceted aspects of modernity and its global interconnectedness in the 20th century. Its lasting legacy provides a glimpse of the complex and nuanced story of artistic and literary modernisms as they are staged and performed outside the West.

The exhibition will focus on the history and evolution of the Egyptian Surrealists group, and their complex relationship with their western counterpart; especially the French Surrealists. It is also hoped to shed light on their lasting impact on the Egyptian art scene in the 1940s up to the early 1960s and beyond.

This exhibition project is timely, as it coincides with the rising interest in the literature of the Egyptian Surrealists. With the rise of a new scholarship, which has highlighted the global nature of Surrealism as a movement, this project becomes comparatively more urgent, as it will highlight the important contribution and lasting legacy of the Egyptian Surrealists.

“This important exhibition enables us to emphasise modernity and its various expressions as irreducibly plural and fully global, rather than relegates modernist artistic and literary expressions outside the west as belated and secondary to the western modern,” says Goldwin Smith Professor and Director, Dr. Salah M. Hassan. “What the Sharjah Art Foundation is doing is simply cutting edge art history in the making,” he added.

The Egyptian Surrealist movement, especially the Art and Liberty Group was relatively a short-lived experiment in its origin, yet it continues to have a lasting impact on modernist Egyptian artists who have continued to deploy the aesthetics and ideologies of the original group. Hence, the exhibition will also highlight the rise of other groups influenced by the Art and Liberty Group in the 1950s and 1960s - such as the Contemporary Art Group, led by well-known artists such as Abdel Hadi el-Gazzar, Kamal Youssef, Hamed Nada, Maher Ra’if, Mounir Canaan, Salim El-Habashi, Samir Rafi’, Ibrahim Massouda and others, under the guidance of their charismatic mentor Hussein Yousef Amin.



In conjunction with the exhibition, Sharjah Art Foundation will publish a bilingual (Arabic-English) two-volume publication, with the first one to include essays by participants at the international conference, The Egyptian Surrealists in a Global Perspective, in addition to a comprehensive introduction by Salah M. Hassan and Hoor Al Qasimi, that will provide a critical background to the Egyptian Surrealists movement and its legacy in Egypt. The second volume will contain reprints of major documents related to the Egyptian Surrealist movement, including essays, manifestos, photographs, and poems among other relevant archival material. In addition, Sharjah Art Foundation will also publish a special book as a companion to the exhibition in Cairo, with another major book scheduled to appear in Spring 2017.

Sharjah Art Foundation will also republish several historical publications associated with the history of the Egyptian Surrealism, which will include a collaboration with the Cairo-based journal Al Kitabah Al Ukhrah, to reissue all seven issues of Al Tatawur [the original organ of The Art and Liberty Group], originally published in the 1940s and republished as a special edition in 1997 by Al Kitabah Al Ukhrah. This new edition of Al Tatawur will be introduced by Hoor Al Qasimi, and a special introduction by the Egyptian scholar Samir Gharib, and the editor of Al Kitabah Al Ukharah, Hesham Geshta. Sharjah Art Foundation will also republish Samir Gharib’s seminal work Al Siryliyyah fi Misr [Surrealism in Egypt] in Arabic and English.


About Sharjah Art Foundation:

Sharjah Art Foundation brings a broad range of contemporary art and cultural programmes to the communities of Sharjah, the UAE and the region. Since 2009 SAF has built on the history of cultural collaboration and exchange that began with the first Sharjah Biennial in 1993. Working with local and international partners, we create opportunities for artists and artistic production through our core initiatives that include the Sharjah Biennial, the annual March Meeting, residencies, production grants, commissions, exhibitions, research, publications and a growing collection. Our education and public programmes focus on building recognition of the central role art can play in the life of a community by promoting public learning and a participatory approach to art. All our events are free and open to the public.

Sharjah Art Foundation
Alyazeyah Al Reyaysa
Public & Media Relations Officer
Tel: +971-6-544-4113, ext. 25
E: alyazeyah@sharjahart.org

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