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Huge sculpture of Marilyn Monroe in Cairo Opera grounds sparks controversy on social media

Ahram Online , Tuesday 20 Jun 2017
Marilyn Monroe
The statue of Marilyn Monroe from a rear and front view shown in front of El-Bab gallery, at the Cairo Opera House grounds (Photo: Facebook)

A large statue of iconic American actress Marilyn Monroe, sculpted by Ehab Al-Assiouty and erected in front of El-Bab Gallery on the Cairo Opera House grounds, has provoked strong reactions on social media.

The four-metre statue is part of a solo exhibition of works by El-Assiouty at El-Bab gallery, a space that operates under the Ministry of Culture’s Visual Arts Sector.

Even though El-Bab gallery, along with other galleries in the area, often displays art in front of exhibition halls, it is the statue’s size, subject choice and execution, as well as its close vicinity to the Cairo Opera House, that have caused controversy.

Tweep and photographer Rehab Ragaee was among the first to criticise the statue of the Hollywood legend at the Cairo Opera House on Social Media.

“That Marlene Monroe statue, which we have been cursed with at the Opera House, is scary,” Ragaee tweeted.

Sarcasm Society Facebook page, which is considered Egypt’s biggest sarcastic Facebook page with more than 14 million fans, did not’ miss the opportunity to poke fun at the statue.

The page posted: “Is this a statue of Marlene Monroe? I thought it was a statue for a false idol from Pre-Islamic Arabia !!??”

According to Mohamed El-Taweel, director of the press office at the Visual Arts Sector, El-Assiouty placed the statue in front of the gallery as an extension of the exhibition inside the hall.

"The artist hoped to attract visitors’ positive attention to the gallery with one of his works, and what he has gained is exactly the opposite kind of attention," El-Taweel told Ahram Online, adding that it is not the responsibility of the Visual Arts Sector to judge the quality of artworks.

El-Taweel said the blowback over the statue “comes rather late,” given that it has been on display for a several days and will be removed by tomorrow with the closing of the exhibition.

“I assume that the controversy over the statue is being fuelled by rivalry between visual artists,” El-Taweel said.

Due to its location on the Cairo Opera House grounds, which are surrounded by a gated fence, El-Bab gallery is not visible from the public road, so most of its visitors are those directly seeking visual arts or are patrons of the Cairo Opera House's other events. 

Often referred to as Al-Bab Selim Gallery, the space was founded in 2006 by one of Egypt’s foremost artists Ahmed Fouad Selim (1937-2009).

For more arts and culture news and updates, follow Ahram Online Arts and Culture on Twitter at @AhramOnlineArts and on Facebook at Ahram Online: Arts & Culture

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