Following on from its inaugural presentation at the Palace of Arts, Cairo in September 2016, When Art Becomes Liberty: The Egyptian Surrealists (1938–1965) opened at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA), Deoksugung, Seoul on Friday, 28 April 2017. Present at the opening were HE Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi, President and Director of Sharjah Art Foundation, and Bartomeu Mari, Director of MMCA. Also in attendance were members of the Emirati diplomatic corps, including HE Abdulla Saif Al Nuaimi, UAE Ambassador to the Republic of South Korea; Rashid Saeed Al Shamsi, Deputy Head of Mission, UAE Embassy; and HE Saeed Al Naqbi, Defence Attaché; as well as a delegation from the Egyptian Embassy and representatives from museums and cultural organisations.
Organised by the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea in collaboration with Sharjah Art Foundation (SAF), the Seoul presentation of this historic travelling exhibition is curated by Joowon Park. When Art Becomes Liberty will open at SAF in Sharjah as part of the Fall 2018 programme.
Consisting of five parts, this exhibition explores the evolution and history of the Egyptian surrealists and their remarkable legacy, in both Egypt and international surrealist circles. Part 1: Egyptian Surrealism in a Global Perspective examines the beginning of surrealism in Europe as well as its impact and spread to Egypt. Part 2: Art and Liberty Group (1938–1945) focuses on the group that led Egyptian surrealism, which was organised to resist the authoritarian forces that restricted freedom of expression and emotions. Part 3: Egyptian Surrealism and Photography, Focus on Van Leo is devoted to photography, a technology that also played an important role in the artistic experiments of surrealism in Egypt. Techniques such as double exposure, distortion, assemblage and photomontage allowed artists to explore the unconscious mind, leading them beyond the confines of reason to the uncontrolled world of fantasy, dreams and ecstasy. Part 4: The Contemporary Art Group (1946–1965) focuses on the group that was pivotal in the development of Egypt's contemporary art movement. Believing that art could contribute to forming Egypt's identity as a modern country and criticising the academic art education of the West, the members of the Contemporary Art Group depicted the daily lives, poverty and oppression of the Egyptian people. Part 5: After Egyptian Surrealism (1965–present) sheds light on Egyptian art after surrealism, spanning the period from the 1970s to the 1990s. During these decades, Egyptian art was influenced not only by Egyptian surrealism but also by modern social changes.
When Art Becomes Liberty: The Egyptian Surrealists (1938–1965) is co-organised by Sharjah Art Foundation in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture in Egypt, Sector of Fine Arts and the American University in Cairo. The exhibition is co-curated by Hoor Al Qasimi, Director, Sharjah Art Foundation; Dr Salah M. Hassan, Goldwin Smith Professor and Director, Institute for Comparative Modernities, Cornell University, Ithaca, US; Ehab Ellaban, Director, Art Centre and Dr Nagla Samir, Associate Professor of Arts, American University in Cairo.
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