May 20, 2007


In the Cairo Private Modern art scene, apart from the inevitable Town House gallery which was until recently the only one with a website and although I gladly acknowledge the elegance and the simplicity of their web page, I did not penetrate it because they ask for personal information before letting you in, they also offer you the chance of becoming one of their friends with special treatment promised and discounts on buys for just under a hundred dollars . I'd rather spend those though on something else. Nowadays though Karim Francis Art Gallery has a flashy (in the sense it includes lot of flash animation) but slightly empty and boring website courtesy of his new project funded by the European Community and alternatively the Prince Claus Foundation, whom took the wise decision to underline that the contents of the exhibition "are the sole responsibilities of the curator, participating artists and contributors, and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the European Union. "

The exhibition pamphlet states that :
Twenty artists from Egypt have been commissioned by Karim Francis to create works of art surrounding the theme of Occidentalism, driven by the question How do you see the West?
Stemming from regular meetings and discussions on the subject that began in April 2006, Occidentalism is a body of contemporary Egyptian art first exhibited in Cairo in May 2007, accompanied by open forums with participating artists, evenings of music and a panel discussion.
As of 2008, the exhibition will travel to various museums of international cities."

Incidentally the name in Arabic translates as "An eye on the West" , that's dangerous they could be accused of spying. Even more so since there are a few openings in Guantanamo, for the inmate positions that is.

The twenty artists include stars such as Adel El Siwi, and Mohamed Abla, a plethora of established artists featuring between others Hazem El Mestekawi, Huda Lutfi, Shadi El Noshakaty, Hisham El Zeiny, Khaled Hafez, Amal Kenawy, Lara Baladi, Ahmad Nosseir and an array of personal choices of the curator.

According to Wikipedia , Orientalism mainly refers to the study by western scholars of the languages, cultures and people of the near and far east during the 18th and 19th centuries. Wikipedia in its entry does not refer to the 20th century. In a sense by then the concept of Orientalism had lost its raison d'etre.

Wikipedia does go on to say that Orientalism can sometimes refer to the imitation or depiction of aspects of Eastern cultures in the West by writers, designers and artists.

It is therefore possible to believe that Occidentalism would be either the study by eastern scholars of languages, cultures and people of the near and far west (I love John Wayne) or that it could also refer to the imitation or depiction of aspects of Western cultures in the East by writers, artists and designers.

Finally, some logic is invading the Cairo Art Scene. There is after all such a thing as intellectual djihad.

Unfortunately a piece of the puzzle is lost on them, if Orientalism ceased to exist by the early XXth century , then by now Occidentalism should also have ceased to exist. We are now into a different ball game called "Globalization". Maybe it is time for some to sink it in.

The exhibition though is a must see as it is on for a few more days. The "Pension Suisse" is an amazing space. The views from its different balconies are quite a thing. The building is amazing. It also feels good and new to have an artistic squat in Cairo, even if it is a very temporary one. the exhibition ends on May 23rd after an electro- jam session (whatever that means). It is open from 10 to 10.

There is also a few interesting efforts in the lot.

The image above has nothing to do with the exhibition, it is just a thing I did while having fun.


Anonymous said...

Very good
not to mention the good choice of legs

sherif el azma said...

my name is Sherif el-azma, ive been doing video for 10 years here in cairo....
I see myself as an established local artist and pioneer of new media at large (i was oone of the first to take video to the gallery sphere)
I have to clarify, that i was not "a personal choice" of the curator, but Mr. francis's choice was based on quality, the ability and flexibility of the artist to follow a theme and my name as an artist both locally and internationally....
i think that your mention of the "stars" is a personal choice....
good luck on your artwork and art criticisms

p2 said...

Cherif, we've met often as you well know. It is absolutely true that you have been in the art market doing your videos for about ten years I never disputed it. Nonetheless I did underline that I did not name all of the established artists, I did though linked to the website and for those very few that read me, if interested in this topic they would go and check all the details on your official website, my goal not being to do an absolutely accurate guided tour, but more of giving an idea of what "I" (for those who are interested) think. As of the stars, it is not really my pick but the market's pick.
Finally about the remark that seems to have upset you where I claim that these are personal choices of the curator, I do stand by it, if you for example were the curator I suppose you would have not have chosen the same 20 artists , nor for that matter would any list of 20 please all on lookers.

john said...

I really enjoyed the items shown at the site for the Karim Francis Art Gallery. This is the kind of art that feeds my aesthetic sensibility and opens up new windows of light in my dark little world.
With all due respect, I don't see the value in the progressions you established: Eye on the West -> Spying - Guantanamo; and Occidentalism - > Orientalism -> Globalization, both springing from the simple "Eye on the
West" theme. I don't think that particular starting point really leads in those directions. The connections don't work or seem appropriate for me, and I don't think your train of thought adds anything of critical benefit that would add to the understanding of an uninformed visitor such as myself. This is art, not politics or academia. I prefer to leave art in the aesthetic realm; I know there are lots of people who connect everything to politics. I'm just saying I could do with a lot less of it.

On the other hand, when the art itself is deliberately political and especially if it is also humorous, as in the case of Banksy's graffiti, I often enjoy it very much.

Anyway, thanks for taking the time to share!