Amongst the Pyramids of the Giza Plateau, contemporary art breathes new life to the ancient structures

After over a year of preparation and three years of negotiations with UNESCO, the ancient grounds of the Giza Plateau will be home to an unprecedented exhibition of its nature.

Around the ancient Pyramids of Giza, new artworks by contemporary artists around the world are installed in a merging of the old and the new. Organized by Art D’Égypte, the exhibition, titled Forever Is Now, features international artists are Russian artist Alexander Ponomarev; American artist Gisela Colón; Brazilian artist João Trevisan; French Artist JR; Italian artist Lorenzo Quinn; Egyptian artist Moataz Nasr; Egyptian born, Los Angeles- based artist Sherin Guirguis; British artists Shuster + Moseley; British artist Stephen Cox RA; and Saudi Arabian artist HRH Prince Sultan Bin Fahad.

Art D’Egypte is a privately owned Egyptian multidisciplinary firm founded by Nadine Abdel Ghaffar to support the Egyptian arts and culture scene. While their previous annual exhibitions have featured solely Egyptian artists, their fourth iteration, titled Forever Is Now, included artists of multiple backgrounds to create works inspired by the Pyramids. 

Some have decided to incorporate the physical sights of the Pyramids themselves. Artist JR installed an optical illusion of a hand holding a frame that would make a portion of the Pyramid disappear if viewed from the correct angle, titled Greetings from Giza. Works like Lorenzo Quinn’s Together framed the Pyramids and added an extra layer of meaning to the ancient structures.

Lorenzo Quinn, Together (2021). Courtesy of the artist and Forever Is Now. Photo: MO4NETWORK.

Other artists took a more liberal approach. Artist Gisela Colón’s Eternity Now was inspired by the sun and its role for the Ancient Egyptians both physically and spiritually. Sherin Guirguis’ Here Have I Returned was shaped after “an ancient sistrum, a sacred musical instrument used by the priestesses of Isis during healing and cleansing rituals and processions”. The site-specific installation is an homage to the history of women in Egyptian society and culture.

As one can imagine, there was some difficulty in executing the exhibition. Most who deal with historical ancient artifacts tend to stick only with the history and give little to no heed to the current art movement. “For [authorities], it’s a site of antiquities, it’s heritage, but contemporary art is not appealing to them,” Ghaffar said.

But according to Ghaffar, “we changed people’s mentality and now they actually say that the art makes these ancient walls speak.” If not done correctly, it can overshadow the historical meaning of these artifacts with the newness. Art D’Egypte, however, took care of the state and meaning of these ancient structures. None of the art directly interfered with the Pyramids themselves and instead accentuates the viewer’s perspective of the Pyramids. It’s an example of the present and future merging with the past to create an unforgettable experience.

The exhibition opened on October 21, 2021, and will run until November 7, 2021. You can view some of the works installed on Art D’Egypte’s Instagram.

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