Earlier this week, the serenity of the Giza Plateau outside Cairo, the location of the Pyramids, was temporarily broken by artists who had gathered from around the world to display their work as part of the Art d’Egypte fourth annual contemporary art exhibition entitled “Forever is Now”.
The exhibition, taking place in front of the Pyramids, reflects the profound global influence of ancient Egyptian art on artists since and draws on contemporary cultural practices.
Running on the Giza Plateau until 7 November, the exhibition showcases the ways in which ancient Egypt has inspired artists throughout history and united art, history, and heritage. It represents a coming together of ancient heritage and contemporary art at the site of the oldest and last remaining of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, today a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The making of art, whether practised by the ancient Egyptians or by contemporary artists, permits one generation to bear witness to the present and speak to the next, said Nadine Abdel-Ghaffar, founder of Art d’Egypte, a privately owned Egyptian company supporting the Egyptian arts and culture scene. It is an unrelenting undertaking that reflects humankind’s enduring talent for creating works that inspire the imagination and reveal the wonder of humanity itself, its tenacity and, through the arts, its unity, she added.
The first edition of the event was held at the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square in Cairo in 2017, and the second was at the Manial Palace in Cairo in 2018. The third was in Historic Cairo in 2019.
“I have always been in awe of this extraordinary ancient civilisation that has influenced generations with its discoveries in the sciences, arts, mathematics, social justice, cultural development, and innovation,” said Abdel-Ghaffar.
“It is a civilisation that managed to design and build monuments that we as human beings to this day cannot fathom and have not been able to replicate.”
Abdel-Ghaffar said that Egyptian culture is a gift to humanity and that this was something promoted by the present exhibition. “The purpose of this exhibition is to showcase these treasures in a dialogue with the contemporary on an international scale and to the rest of the world,” she said.
“Ancient Egypt has influenced artists from around the world, and so we bring the world to Egypt and Egypt to the world through art. It’s a privilege to stand at the foot of these monuments that have survived turmoil, wars, and pandemics. This exhibition is a token of hope for humanity and a humble tribute to a civilisation that has stood the test of time,” Abdel-Ghaffar said.
“Exhibiting one of my sculptures in front of humanity’s most glorious, timeless creations is a dream come true,” said Italian sculptor Lorenzo Quinn, one of the exhibitors, adding that it has also been a daunting task because no artist on earth today can equal the beauty and perfection of the magnificent ancient Egyptian Pyramids.
Quinn said that his piece did not interfere with its surroundings but somehow supported their majestic timeless beauty. It outlines human connections through time, he said.
Among the exhibitors is also Egyptian artist Sherine Girgis, whose sculpture was inspired by an ancient Egyptian musical instrument called a sistrum and is engraved with Pharaonic-inspired patterns and excerpts from a poem by Egyptian poet Doreya Shafik.
“The exhibition offers an opportunity for artists to display their works in front of one of the oldest human-built structures in the world. It is the strongest possible promotion for culture and tourism in the country,” Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass told Al-Ahram Weekly.
The exhibition also displays works by 10 other Egyptian and international artists, including Egyptian artist Moataz Nasr, Russian artist Alexander Ponomarev, Brazilian artist Huao Trevisan, French artist JR, and Saudi artist Sultan bin Fahd.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 28 October, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly