Contemporary art enthusiasts will notice three major changes to this year’s Egypt International Art Fair, taking place in Cairo next month.
It is now called Art Cairo; only galleries are featured, rather than independent artists; and it will be held at the capital’s hottest new venue, the Grand Egyptian Museum.
“We’re getting to a new maturity level,” Mohamed Younis, who founded the fair in 2020, tells The National.
Art Cairo, which runs from February 11 to 14, will feature 30 galleries from around the Middle East with works by more than 150 artists.
The exhibition was previously at the Dusit Thani LakeView hotel in east Cairo. It had a rocky start in March 2020, when it was held only days before the Covid-19 pandemic was declared.
In 2021, Covid-19 health and safety measures still presented a challenge to attracting a large number of visitors.
Last year marked the beginning of true success, Younis says, with 11,000 people visiting the fair over five days. This year, organisers are expecting between 15,000 and 18,000 visitors.
Younis says they changed the name to Art Cairo and limited participation to galleries in order to better align with international art fairs.
Choosing the “majestic venue” of the Grand Egyptian Museum, which partially opened for events in December, will also elevate the show’s profile, he says.
Although Cairo has a vibrant art scene, it has few notable and consistent art fairs of international calibre to its name. For example, the Cairo Biennale returned after a nine-year hiatus in 2019, only to disappear from the calendar again.
Art Cairo project manager Noor Alasker believes Egypt should have more art fairs than it does. "It has plenty of galleries, artists and collectors — the main elements of an art fair,” she says.
Younis, a marketing and management consultant who also co-founded Azad Art Gallery, recognised an opportunity despite obstacles.
“The problem is that Egyptian artists are not that well-known internationally. And international artists are not that well-known inside Egypt. We were a bit closed to the world… so this has opened us to the world,” he says.
Art Cairo’s board of trustees is made up of gallery owners and curators, such as Art Talks founder Fatenn Mostafa-Kanafani and Lebanese art expert Saleh Barakat.
What galleries are participating?
The galleries featured in this year’s show include 12 from Egypt: Arcade, ArtTalks, Azad Art Gallery, Gallery Misr, Le Lab, Mashrabia Gallery of Contemporary Art, Medrar, Motion Art Gallery, Picasso East Art Gallery, Shelter Art Space, Tintera and Zamalek Art Gallery.
A large proportion of the regional galleries come from Lebanon, such as Art on 56th, Kaf contemporary art gallery, Nadine Fayad Art Gallery, Saleh Barakat Gallery and Zaat.
The Emirates is represented by Dubai’s Fann A Porter and Abu Dhabi’s Khawla Art & Culture, a centre founded by Sheikha Khawla bint Ahmed Khalifa Al Suwaidi, wife of Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed, National Security Adviser.
Other participants include Errm Art Gallery from Saudi Arabia, Fine Arts by Fatina Al Sayed from Kuwait, George Kamel Gallery from Syria and Q0de Art Space from Jordan.
Which artists will be featured?
Both emerging and established artists will be exhibiting at Art Cairo, provided they are represented by galleries.
Established artists include Serwan Baran, the first solo artist to represent Iraq at the Venice Biennale in 2019, and Palestinian painter Sliman Mansour.
Syrian artists, such as Ghassan Nana, Rima Salamon, Mohamad Khayata, Anas Albraehe and Souad Mardam Bey, will be prominently featured.
Khaldoun Hijazin, executive director at the Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts, will participate through Amman’s Wadi Finan Gallery.
Lebanese exhibitors include self-taught artist Georges Bassil and interdisciplinary creator Hiba Kalache.
Among the works by Egyptians on show are those by well-known visual artist Mohamed Abla, abstract painter Nazli Madkour, figurative sculptor Ahmed Askalany and the late Egyptian artist Gamil Shafik.
How much will the artwork cost?
Most of the artwork will be on sale, excluding some installation videos and projects, private collections and NFTs.
The pieces, ranging from $500 to $100,000, will be priced in Egyptian pounds.
Art Cairo takes place from February 11 to 14 at the Grand Egyptian Museum from 3pm to 10pm daily. One-day tickets cost 200 Egyptian pounds ($6.70) and four-day tickets cost 300 Egyptian pounds ($10). They can be purchased online at collardtickets.com/event/art-cairo