Cairo’s Townhouse Gallery shut down by Egypt's authorities

Ahram Online , Tuesday 29 Dec 2015

Authorities inspected and closed the Townhouse Gallery/Rawabet theatre for administrative irregularities on Monday; staff hopes to straighten paperwork soon

Townhouse Library
Townhouse Library closed with Townhouse Gallery and Rawabet Theatre by administrative authorities on Monday 28 December until further notice (Photo: Soha Elsirgany)

Officials from the local municipality, the Censorship Authority and the Tax Authority closed the Townhouse Gallery on Monday evening after inspection reportedly showed administrative irregularities.

Yasser Gerab, Townhouse’s outreach director explained to Ahram Online that on Monday evening around 7pm, Townhouse was surprised by an inspection by several authority agencies and their decision to close the popular art venue until further notice.

“All the entities that came in yesterday were administrative not security authorities,” Gerab said, refuting reports which circulated on social media suggesting the National Security Agency was part of the team involved in "the raid."

"Even if we disagree on the way it was done, as they did not notify us beforehand, the act itself was not illegal or unfair,” Gerab said.

He further explained that “the representatives looked at the documents and pointed to a few things that were incomplete, and after we sort them out, we will soon start running the place again.”

“We are currently trying to reach the head of the municipality to allow us to run the venues while we finish the required steps and paperwork,” he says.

While William Wells, founder and executive director of Townhouse, was not reachable for comment, Gerab assured that Townhouse’s spaces – including the Gallery, Rawabet Theatre and the Library – will reopen, yet he was unable to provide the exact date. 

Townhouse West, the Sheikh Zayed branch of Townhouse, remains open.

Townhouse Gallery is a highly respected Cairo-based art space and frontrunner in Egypt’s independent cultural movement, operating since 1998.

During these 17 years, it has challenged and changed Cairo’s art scene, acting as a catalyst that inspired a movement of artists willing to redefine the meaning of contemporary art, and encouraged the rise of more art spaces in Cairo.

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