Since Nadine Abdel Ghaffar founded Art d’Egypte in 2016, she has organised three exhibitions showcasing Egyptian contemporary art at heritage sites, the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square, the Manial Palace and Al Muizz Street in Old Cairo.
“It only made sense that our next exhibition be at the grandest of all Egyptian heritage sites, the last standing of the seven ancient wonders of the world, the Pyramids of Giza, and its surrounding plateau,” Abdel Ghaffar tells The National.
Art d’Egypte’s fourth exhibition Forever is Now is set to take place from October 21 to November 7 at the Pyramids of Giza.
In contrast to previous exhibitions, it will feature works by 10 international contemporary artists, two of which are Egyptian.
“Since it is the first curated contemporary art exhibition at the pyramids in its 4,500-year history, we felt a cultural obligation to humanity to involve artists from all around the world,” Abdel Ghaffar says.
She calls the project a “huge undertaking” for her team of eight women who are “doing the job of 1,000” with the help of many partners and supporters from the Egyptian government to international curators and donors.
It is being held under the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities and Tourism, Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the patronage of Unesco.
The challenges include preserving the nature of the Unesco World Heritage Site, managing complicated logistics and having a limited time of 10 days to set up the art displays.
But the task is worth it, Abdel Ghaffar says, to fulfil Art d'Egypte's goals of democratising art and promoting cultural tourism in Egypt.
The 10 international contemporary artists participating are: Ukrainian artist Alexander Ponomarev; Puerto Rican artist Gisela Colon; Brazilian artist Joao Trevisan; French artist JR; Italian artist Lorenzo Quinn, Egyptian artists Moataz Nasr and Sherin Guirguis; British artists Shuster + Moseley and Stephen Cox RA and Saudi artist Sultan bin Fahad.
Many have created a buzz around their artwork, such as French street artist JR, who recently unveiled a large-scale mural in Rome that seemingly turns a building inside-out.
The displays at Forever is Now will be unique and “each artwork in itself is like a separate project”, Abdel Ghaffar says.
Each artist is given a specific, measured space to work with in the desert plateau, while respecting limitations to carefully preserve the area.
“It’s definitely one of the most sophisticated challenges that I’ve been through,” Nasr tells The National.
He says the task is difficult because the majesty of the Pyramids of Giza has the ability to eclipse everything around them.
“It’s a spot with the most incredible energy in Egypt. And anything that’s going to be shown there is going to disappear because of the power of the place,” he says.
“A lot of artists could really fail putting their work there, so I just hope that my work will be well seen in such a strong, incredible environment.”
The initiative is also an important step towards increasing appreciation of contemporary art among Egyptians and others, he says.
A multimedia exhibit documenting Egypt’s modern art history through 14 Egyptian artists, including Mahmoud Said and Ghada Amer, will also take place in conjunction with Forever is Now.
Separately, Art d’Egypte is putting on Cairo International Art District in Downtown Cairo, which opened on September 15 and will run until October 27. The artwork, which mainly highlights local artists, is on show in 12 rugged spaces in the centre of the newly renovated 19th-century district.
Art d’Egypte’s exhibitions are all free for the public. Its community engagement programmes include public talks, art residency programmes, scholarships and Unesco-led workshops to train youth as art guides.