What to expect from Egypt International Art Fair 2021: 'Everything came together beautifully'

The fair aims to set a new precedent for collaboration and dialogue between artists, curators and collectors operating in the Mena region

Despite Covid-19, the second Egypt Int’l Art Fair begins in Cairo on Friday with a varied roster of artists from across the region. The work of more than 120 Arab artists will be featured as part of the international event, which is organised by a group of independent artists, curators, critics and collectors, all from various Arab nations.

Look through the gallery above to see examples of a few works that will be on display.

The three-day show, which will run until Sunday at the Dusit Thani LakeView Cairo hotel, is considered to be one of the largest art events in Egypt. While last year’s iteration was held only a few days before the pandemic was declared, this year organisers had to go to great lengths to implement health and safety measures so the event could still go ahead.

A show of work from independent artists and galleries

And not only is it happening, it’s also bigger than before. “The collection this year is truly varied, and we tried as curators to make sure all the various kinds of art from all over the Mena region are equally represented,” co-curator and project manager Nour Elasker tells The National. “There are definitely more artists at this year’s edition than the last.”

What many people don’t know is that there is a tremendous interest in modern art in Egypt and the Arab world

Mohamed Younis, co-founder of Egypt International Art Fair

Elasker, who has more than 14 years of experience working with some of the region’s most prominent art galleries, including in Dubai, had been part of the event as a participating gallery last year.

The new format will mean the fair is divided into two main sections: works by artists who are represented by galleries and works by independent artists.

Elasker explains that many creatives in the Mena region, especially in Egypt, are not represented by galleries, and organisers wanted to make sure they were given an equal opportunity to showcase their work. All the artwork on display is also going to be on sale, bar a few exceptions, she says. For example, notable works by the likes of Egyptian Modernists Mahmoud Mokhtar and Samir Rafi, among others, will be hosted for viewing only.

“We are offering a really wide price range to make sure everyone can leave the fair with a piece of art they love. We have artworks worth 1,000 Egyptian pounds [$64], and other works that are worth well over 1 million Egyptian pounds.”

Who will be showcasing work this year?

The fair is going to be rife with prominent names from the Arab art world, such as Syrian artist Majd Kurdieh and Damascus-born Mohannad Orabi, who currently lives and works in Dubai. Artists Serwan Baran and Ali Nuri from Iraq, Georges Bassil from Lebanon, Salah El Mur from Sudan and Hakim Al Akel from Yemen will also have work displayed.

“As much as I am proud of the big names we have participating at the fair this year, I am equally excited by some of the younger artists who will be making an appearance for the first time,” says Elasker. “I can safely say, as a curator, that many of the younger talents are going to be big names in the future.”

These young up-and-comers will also include students showcasing their graduation projects, in keeping with the curators’ efforts to ensure as many different voices as possible are represented.

While the majority of the works displayed will be canvases in a wide range of styles, Elasker says there are a couple of video art installations, as well as an interactive exhibit titled Letters to the Future.

Prominent private collections hold a place of honour

Another exciting addition to the fair is the private collection of Syrian actress Jumana Murad. This includes some of the most important Modern art pieces ever made by Arab artists, says Elasker.

Fair co-founder Mohamed Younis says: “What many people don’t know is that there is a tremendous interest in Modern art in Egypt and the Arab world.

Mohamed Younis, co-founder and managing director of Egypt International Art Fair
Mohamed Younis, co-founder and managing director of Egypt International Art Fair

“It’s just that people don’t get a chance to view it with such accessibility. This was one of the main reasons we chose to host Jumana Murad’s collection, to educate new audiences on some of the brilliant work made by Arab talent in the past.”

Younis was inspired to establish the fair in 2019, but getting the first event off the ground was challenging. “In order to convince artists, galleries and sponsors to back the event in their respective ways, we had to organise an event that could compete with some of the most prominent art fairs in the region. Not just another group exhibition.”

The organisers feel they have accomplished just that. “When everyone learns of the scale of the event, from the massive marketing campaigns to the displays, the venue and everything else, they are excited to participate. Everything came together beautifully, and I couldn’t be more proud,” says Younis. “I am truly impressed by what’s being showcased this year. Our artists have done some formidable work.”

The Egypt International Art Fair takes place from Friday to Sunday, February 26 to 28, at the Dusit Thani LakeView Cairo.

More information is available here.

Updated: March 2, 2021 09:30 PM

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