The story of a building on Madabegh Street that played a pivotal role in Egypt’s nascent art scene. Built by a French entrepreneur and eventual home to Egypt’s first art society and to the era’s most important antiquities dealer, it stands witness to the birth of the modern art movement in Egypt.
Although grounded in French method and theory, the École des beaux-arts was essentially Egyptian in philosophy. Over its history, it has nurtured many generations of talented artists who have succeeded in blending international training with Egyptian tradition and heritage.
The first generation of modern artists blended European fine arts with Egyptian themes and traditional techniques. Currently enjoying revived interest, they succeeded in reflecting the cultural renaissance of their time and created a fertile environment for successive generations of artists.
At the end of the 1930s, a group of avant-garde Egyptian intellectuals rebelled against what they saw as the gradual retreat of their nation into restrictive social customs and despotism. They sought to liberate the Egyptian consciousness by means of artistic freedom and radical political action, creating the Egyptian surrealist movement.
Fuelled by dreams of revolution and freedom, Egypt’s second and third generation of artists reflected their tumultuous reality and produced a rich creative output unparalleled to this day.
Throughout the modern era, the hand of the Egyptian state can be seen in the fine arts, from the construction of national monuments to the sponsorship of art exhibitions. This has brought a wealth of creative output, often reflecting the political leanings of the day, as the state navigated the waters between support and control.
During the first half of the twentieth century, a number of vibrant art hubs flourished in Cairo and beyond. Some eccentric, others more earnest, collectively, they nurtured some of Egypt’s most celebrated modern artists and contributed a spontaneous richness to the burgeoning local art scene.
The Egyptian modern art movement was accompanied by a small but influential circle of art critics and journalists who attempted not only to discuss but occasionally to define the parameters of Egyptian art.
From major collections to intimate, private museums, we discover the best places to explore Egypt’s hidden treasure trove of modern art.
Established in 1929 thanks to the vision of painter Ragheb Ayad, the Egyptian Academy of Fine Arts in Rome—which remains highly influential to this day—is a tribute to the multiculturalism that typified the Egyptian art scene of the early twentieth century.
Egyptian modern art has been breaking records at auctions for several years now. How can novice collectors make sure they’re getting their money’s worth? We look at what makes a good investment.
Al-Ahram Foundation boasts one of the most important Egyptian art collections outside the boundaries of public museums. A rich amalgam of paintings, sculptures, wall art and photography, the collection chronicles the Egyptian fine art movement and captures the spirit of contemporary reality.
With a landmark new museum planned for Beirut, Lebanese-Palestinian art collector and patron Ramzi Dalloul has ambitious plans to expand the global reach of modern and contemporary Arab art.
From the mid-1800s to the 1970s, and from the establishment of museums to the jailing of artists, we bring you the events that defined the development of modern art in Egypt.
A selection of some of our favourite paintings.