'Life cannot stop': Waleed Abdul-Khalek on Cairo's Al-Masar Gallery re-opening to the public

Ati Metwaly , Tuesday 9 Jun 2020

Taking all precautionary measures, the gallery opened its doors to the public with an exhibition commemorating pioneering third generation Egyptian artist Omar El-Nagdi (1931-2019)

Omar El Nagdi
Work by Omar El Nagdi

Al-Masar Gallery has announced the re-opening of its doors to the public with the holding of an exhibition commemorating an Egyptian abstract expressionist and cubist painter Omar El-Nagdi, who passed away last year.

Having closed its doors to the general public in March, the gallery is among the first in Cairo to return to regular activities.

"Life cannot stop. We lived through many challenges, yet life goes on," Waleed Abdul-Khalek, Al-Masar Gallery's founder and manager, comments to Ahram Online.

"Over the past two months, we received a few guests who visited the gallery by appointment. Now it is time to return back to life," he said, adding that the gallery is taking all the necessary precautions to protect visitors.

"In regular times, there are not many visitors. Sometimes two or three people pass by to look at the artwork, or a couple drops in to check out a new exhibition. We do not have crowds per se. In all cases we will make sure that social distancing is respected; we have disinfectants and facemasks at the location," Abdul-Khalek explains.

He adds that the gallery is also ready to welcome groups of students from an art school or a cultural centre.

"The group can reach a few dozen people. Once we are contacted by a group, we will coordinate to make sure the crowd does not come at the same time. It will all be arranged to make sure we are all safe," Abdul-Khalek explains.

Omar El Nagdi
Artist Omar El Nagdi in his artistic studio

The gallery re-opens with a unique exhibition of works by one of Egypt's pioneering third generation artist Omar El-Nagdi.

Titled Aesthetics of Expression, the exhibition aims to trigger our thoughts on the concept of expressionism through Nagdi's works.

"Al-Masar Gallery and I are still mourning Omar El-Nagdi. I remember our many previous talks about what inspired his art and expression," Abdulkhalek writes in notes on the exhibition.

Months prior to his passing, Abdul-Khalek was in talks with the late artist to compile a retrospective.

"Unfortunately, El-Nagdi never lived to see the exhibition, as he passed away on 22 March 2019 at the age of 88. I thought of commemorating his memory with an exhibition that was to open in March this year. We did launch the exhibition, but visits were by appointment," he comments.

In the exhibition, El-Nagdi displays profound imagery by combining poetry with elements inherited from 20th century artistic trends, namely expressionism, cubism and fauvism.

Omar El Nagdi
Work by Omar El Nagdi

"The paintings in today’s exhibition have different sources of inspiration. El-Nagdi depicts the jovial and opulent festivities of Egyptian traditions in many of his paintings, from dark to bright, highlighted colours emanating from his paintings. The dynamism rendered through the complex composition of figures and decorative patterns echoes the lavish festivities and social traditions. El-Nagdi paints the liveliness of Egyptian social traditional scenes," the exhibition notes reveal.

Revisiting El-Nagdi in the re-opened Al-Masar Gallery is an opportunity to slowly return to regular life while contemplating the legacy of one of Egypt's most important creative players.

Now focusing on the retrospective, while opening its doors to public, Al-Masar, joined by many other galleries, will bring many new works to the viewers in the upcoming exhibitions.

"There is a clear light at the end of this pandemic tunnel," Abdul-Khalek comments, pointing to work created by artists during their prolonged stay at home and art studios.

"I can see an increased productivity by many visual artists. This thought is reiterated during many online panels which I attended during the past weeks. The lockdown at home gave artists time and triggered many thoughts which they expressed through paintings," he tells Ahram Online.

Despite the burdens of the pandemic, Abdul-Khalek sees a lot of positivity in the works produced.

"There is a striking serenity in composition and optimism in colours emanating from the most recent works."

And as we are waiting for new creative productions to reach galleries, for the time being we can enjoy Omar El-Nagdi's legacy as presented in the halls of Al-Masar Gallery.
The gallery is located in Zamalek, 157 b, 26th of July street, ground floor.

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