by Fatenn Mostafa-Kanafani
In 1911, the 20-year-old Mahmoud Mokhtar (1891-1934) exhibited a small gypsum sculpture titled Ibn al-Balad. It was part of the first exhibition of the first graduating class of the first Egyptian School of Fine Arts [École Égyptienne des Beaux-Arts] in Cairo. Ever since it is said that Mokhtar proudly and rightly claimed to be the first Egyptian sculptor in Egypt in over 1700 years.
By the late 1960s / early 1970s, the figurative world of Gazbia Sirry (1925) began to fade away, and a world of abstraction slowly took over. With the same power, love for her homeland, and mastery of color, Gazbia spoke about and to the people of Egypt to craft a certain non-figurative spontaneity at the forefront of modernism to aptly express the complexities of the country and the dire conditions of its people.
In-between the two artists and all those years is a fascinating story of Egyptian modernism, whose artist-heroes are either still celebrated or forgotten and lost in the gaps of history.
From Mokhtar to Gazbia looks at how some of these artists engaged with issues of the nation-state, nostalgia, and tradition, while others faded the borders between narration and the human condition; how some chose to remain loyal to the traditional Western school of classicism, while others vouched to create an authentic and distinct visual language based on a variety of styles and aesthetics.
From Mokhtar to Gazbia features over fifty artworks handpicked and sourced from different private Egyptian collections as they seek a new home.
Whether you are a serious collector, a Fine Arts student, a historian, an artist, or simply an art lover, do take the time to visit the one-month exhibition, and do not forget to put on your twentieth-century hat.