Gallery Misr: A new player on the art arena

Sara Elkamel, Thursday 19 May 2011

Amid a very volatile time for the country, Gallery Misr opens in art-infused Zamalek, with a mission to enhance contemporary Egyptian art and support rising artists


Gallery Misr’s first exhibition, entitled “Selections”  features diverse artwork by modern artists Adel El Siwi, Amal Kenawy, Atef Ahmed, Essam Maarouf, Huda Lotfy, Ibrahim El Dessouki, Mohammed El Fayomi, Reda Abd El Rahman and Salah Hamad.

Director Mohamed Talaat says that he established the gallery to make artistic dreams come true. “My aim is to support rising artists and their artistic initiatives,” Talaat told Ahram Online.

After decades of experience in the intricate world of art, Talaat has decided to adopt contemporary artists and boost the potential of the role of art in Egyptian society.

Located in Zamalek, right in the hub of artistic currents, on opening night 15 May Gallery Misr was packed with eager crowds. Talaat and his partner stumbled across this apartment in Zamalek by accident, and happily launched their artistic endeavour from the heart of the action.

Talaat’s career has been filled with a series of curatorial and managerial posts, both locally and internationally. Ultimately he directed the Palace of Arts, located in the Cairo Opera House grounds.

Choosing to peruse the dream of a more independent and flexible occupation, Talaat sought to dedicate his time and wide-ranging knowledge to Gallery Misr.

Even though the top end of the Egyptian art industry has been struggling to survive in light of the revolution, which has rendered the extravagant unnecessary, Talaat pressed on with his plans to bring art to the public. “I am very dedicated to my artistic affair,” he says.

Talaat aims to apply his experience and use his local and global contacts to help modern artists fulfill their utmost potential. Through fully supporting innovative initiatives in the field of art and assisting rising artists, he has created a valuable arena in which modern artwork can thrive.

In recent decades Egyptian arts and culture have been flourishing, yet they do not belong to the masses. Despite the appearance of numerous galleries and exhibition halls that diligently seek out contemporary artists and showcase diverse artwork, only a small segment of the public are exposed to such art. Also, freedom of expression was constantly stifled by the previous regime’s devious censorship.

Therefore the platform for creative expression has been limited by economic, political, and cultural forces. Yet the revolution, brought about by the youthful generation, has radically changed the dynamics of Egyptian society. And in the commotion, Egyptian art has been given the chance to breathe.

Artists took to the streets and instilled colourful contributions in Tahrir Square. Art has flooded the streets, proving that the status of culture and the arts in Egyptian society is still valid. The city’s pavements and walls were an open canvas, and now they reflect the colours of a nation longing for a better life.

Galleries across Cairo now display artistic documentations of the sudden surge of colour in the aura of the revolution. Now art is by the people, for the people, and about the people.

Talaat believes that the value of Egyptian art has soared significantly after the revolution. “All eyes are on us now, and they are realising the force of contemporary Egyptian art,” he says.

“Today, artists are enthusiastically keeping up with the surrounding developments,” he states. “They help to visually record events and spread much needed awareness throughout society.”

Yet Talaat believes that art has a much more substantial role to play. “Art can be used to create identities, and to extend concepts and act as historical marks,” he asserts.

But this will take time. He is very positive about the future of local art; the burgeoning of hope and enthusiasm, coupled with the onset of freedom mean a very bright future for Egypt’s palette.

The exhibition "Selections" will continue until 15 June.

Gallery Misr is located at 4A Ibn Zaki from Hassan Sabri Street, Zamalek, Cairo and is open every day from 10 am to 10 pm (except Friday)

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