Contemporary art on the Pyramids Plateau

Nevine El-Aref , Tuesday 31 Oct 2023

Stunning contemporary works of art are being displayed against the awe-inspiring backdrop of the Giza Plateau, writes Nevine El-Aref

Al-Khalifa s  Timeless Reality  / photo: Walaa El-Shaer
Al-Khalifa s Timeless Reality / photo: Walaa El-Shaer


The annual Forever is Now art series, set this year for its third edition against the backdrop of the Giza Plateau, features 14 inspiring installations nestled in the sands among the iconic monuments of ancient Egypt.

Running until 18 November, the exhibition celebrates ancient Egyptian culture through contemporary creativity. The event is organised by Art d’Egypte under the auspices of the ministries of tourism and antiquities, foreign affairs, and culture, and the Egyptian National Commission for the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

This year’s collection of artworks delves deep into the fertile realm of ideas inspired by the Pyramids, encompassing themes such as mythology, spirituality, technical innovation, and architecture. The artworks exhibit a wide array of materials, incorporating fibreglass, steel, stone, and marble, culminating in a harmonious blend of artistry and eco-friendliness.

“We are fortunate to host a remarkable group of artists engaged in a dialogue with this ancient civilisation,” said Art d’Egypte’s founder Nadine Abdel-Ghaffar. She said that Art d’Egypte collaborates closely with UNESCO to safeguard the iconic World Heritage Site of the Pyramids Plateau. A protective layer of 50 cm of imported sand has been employed to cradle the artworks, preventing any contact with the ground.

“It is a thrilling journey to present my artistic creations in one of the world’s most historically significant archaeological sites and alongside our illustrious ancient civilisation,” said Egyptian artist Mohamed Banawy whose work “As Above, As Below” represents keys from the realm of the spirit.

French artist JR, who is participating in the exhibition for the first time, is presenting an artwork called “From the Inside Out”. This is a platform that helps the world’s communities defend what they believe in and incite local global change through public art.

Anyone can create a “From the Inside Out” movement by displaying large-scale black-and-white portraits of members of their communities in public spaces. The project was launched after JR won a TED Prize in 2011.

“Reflection in Light” is the name of an installation by Greek artist Dionysios, who believes that the exhibition on the Pyramids Plateau is a profound experience that goes far beyond merely achieving artistic or professional recognition.

“My goal is to create a space and conditions that enable people to communicate with universal values, and the Giza Plateau is one of the most energetic places I have ever visited,” he said.

Greek artist Costas Varotsos is presenting his project “Horizon”, which focuses on the relationship between the Nile and the Giza Plateau, emphasising its significance for the world.

His “Horizon” is defined through the eight circles in which the world revolves. The celestial dome and the cycle of life expressed through the geometric shape of the circle are concepts related to the engineering of the Pyramids and their history.

“The importance of the artistic work is to establish a connection between the natural elements of the surrounding area,” he said.

The artistic project of Bahraini artist Rashid Al-Khalifa is “Timeless Reality” inspired by the greatness of Egypt. “Presenting my project near one of the wonders of the ancient world and alongside these outstanding artists is a dream come true,” said Al-Khalifa, adding that “one feels as if they are in a timeless moment when viewing and interacting with the project, where the past, present, and future come together.”

From the US, visual artist Carol Feuerman has contributed “Egyptian Woman in the Form of the Goddess Hathor.” She said that she intended to create this piece for the third edition of Forever Is Now due to her deep passion for the concept it embodies. It represents her interpretation of Hathor, where she is depicted as a contemporary woman embodying the essence of the goddess.

Belgian artist Arne Quinze’s “The Gateway of Light” / photo:Mo4

While the similarities between Feuerman’s sculptures and the goddess may not be immediately evident, the resonance she feels with Hathor is strong.

“My artistic talent lies in presenting realistic sculptures of women celebrating their natural beauty, and in these sculptures I strive diligently to represent the fluidity that reminds us of water, just as Hathor is also associated with water, fertility, love, beauty, music, joy, and motherhood,” she said.

“I sought to honour Hathor through this sculpture.”

The project of Saudi artist Rashed Al-Shashai represents a dance between the past and the present, blurring the lines between traditional and modern and renewing the perceptions of art, heritage, science, and sustainable practices.

Entitled “The Transparent Pyramid,” Al-Shashai’s work was prepared specifically for the site using palm fronds, an ancient craft, to pay tribute to the history of the Pyramids while providing a contemporary interpretation of their impact on the region and affirming the value of preserving traditional methods alongside innovation and creativity.

Dutch artist Sabine Marcelis has contributed her piece “Re”. Her art installation is inspired by the sun, and the site holds a special meaning for her, she said, as it is the birthplace of the sundial. She has created an artwork that not only represents a sundial, but that also harnesses the power of the sun, transforming it into energy. This reflects her deep respect for ancient Egyptian culture and its reverence for the sun god Re.

The French artist Stéphane Breuer shared his excitement about presenting his artwork “Temple” for the first time at the foot of the Pyramids. His piece is not just a physical monument celebrating a single king, as was the case in ancient times, but also appears as a golden inverted triangle floating in space like a divine apparition.

The Egyptian-British artist Sam Shendi is presenting his “The Phantom Temple”, a sculptural work that serves as a bridge between the past and the future, transcending classifications and fitting into any artistic context.

Argentinian artist Pilar Zeta introduced her artwork “Mirror Gate” by stating that it was inspired by her fascination with Egyptian culture and the ancient mysticism in Egypt.

She said the “Gate” was a multidimensional portal connecting the past and present and blending natural and artificial materials from the post-industrial era. She invites viewers to reflect upon their potential when they see their reflections inside the Pyramids, drawing connections to the limitless possibilities found in Egyptian mythology.

Visual artist Azza Al-Qubaisi is sharing her work “Treasures” this year, saying that it represents a journey capturing the secrets, shapes, and patterns of desert landscapes, along with cultural memories, stories, and ornaments from the past.

Her work uses materials reflecting the surrounding nature with earthy colours inspired by the deep roots of their heritage. It allows viewers to immerse themselves in an experience between the art piece and the sand dunes as they approach the Pyramids, watching their reflections as if on an inner journey through their personal lives.

Belgian artist Arne Quinze’s “The Gateway of Light” offers an alternative perspective on the Pyramids. Through his artwork, he explores the dynamics between the power of nature and its fragility. Quinze emphasises the ancient Egyptian culture where the sun played a crucial role. His piece presents the sun as the fundamental element for all forms of life, within a sculpted circular frame.

Quinze said that when viewers take up a specific position and look at the Pyramids through his art piece, they will see a carved image that beckons them to inspect these wonders of the ancient world.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 2 November, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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