Art is a tricky field in Cairo. While Egypt enjoys a long history with the arts, one might argue that contemporary art scene isn’t all that accessible. But the January 25th Revolution sparked a renaissance of sorts for the local scene, with more and more up-and-coming artists emerging and finding platforms to showcase their talent.
I myself like to dabble in art – just saying’ – but amongst the many galleries in the capital I’ve come to find comfort in only a handful of them – places that I call my second homes.
One of our favourites, simply because it consists of two separate halls; double the space, double the fun. Unless it’s a group show, Zamalek Art Gallery holds two exhibitions on a monthly basis. The vast halls of the gallery make it easy for you to have a clear view of every piece, especially large murals that need to be seen from a distance.
Also, it’s one of the few galleries that appreciate sculptural works and though it has held many shows for the likes of Farouk Hosny and Zeinab El Sagney, the gallery also has a habit of picking up emerging artists.
Forget about the stiff, cold and pretentious art galleries where you can hear a pin drop, because Medrar is a free-spirited art gallery where you can enjoy modern and contemporary art. It’s also an art space that holds many interesting workshops, like Hany Rahsed’s Collage and photography workshop, of which the final projects were exhibited in the gallery for three days. More of a cultural centre than a straight-up gallery, Medrar can claim to have contributed to the recent invigoration of the art scene.
Another space with a unique approach, Gallery Misr was founded by by a group of artists who have an eye for good art, be it by a young or a well-established artist. They gallery’s relationship with the art scene is inclusive and non-discriminatory. For example, earlier this year, Gallery Misr held an exhibition for Fathy Afifi; a self-taught artist who was formerly a factory worker. It’s this unpretentious mode of operating that makes it one of the most unique galleries in Cairo.
Mirroring how far the modern art movement in Egypt has reached, self-funded collective, Nile Sunset Annex, embraces more experimental art with artists such as Andeel, Kareem Lotfy and Dina Dansh having been supported by the group. Art lovers who casually pass by for a quick peek might be disappointed to know that most of the exhibitions are only available either on Saturdays from 12 till 6 pm, or by appointment, but Nile Sunset Annex also collaborates with other galleries and hosts an assorment of cultural events, too.
Another free-spirited space, Downtown Cairo’s Mashrabia Gallery is very much in tune with the the population and often hosts other events such as book launches and signings, film screenings and other art-related fun. Celebrating its impressive 25th anniversary this year, Mashrabia has a whole host of special events planned to mark what is a remarkable achievement – longevity and consistency are very hard to come by in Cairo.
The cowboy of galleries in Egypt, Art Lounge Cairo dances to its own tune and has given opportunities to some unique voices and perspectives. One of the best things about this place is that it finds value in artists as individuals and often holds open discussions with exhibiting artists – which saves us all time spent on solving the philosophical riddles usually found in accompanying booklets and brochures.
Founded in 2009 by a group of artists, Arts-Mart started as Egypt’s first website where artists of any direction or age could sell the fruits of their labour. In 2013, they opened up their first premises on the Cairo-Alex Desert Road – you can’t miss it – that accommodates an endless number of artworks of any shape or size. It may be quite a trip from Downtown, but it’s definitely worth it, because Arts-Mart also holds many workshops that are given by the likes of Taher Abdel Azim – one of the biggest names in Egypt and are even currently holding probably the biggest collection of art as part of the Cairo Art Fair.
By Dina Mokhtar