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Modern African Art : A Basic Reading List

Northern Africa
Egypt

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Cairo modern art in Holland / curated by William Wells and Janine van den Ende; photography, Erik and Petra Hesmerg. Amsterdam: Chios Media BV, 2001. 144pp. illus. (chiefly color), portraits, bibl. refs. N5350.C1813 2001 AFA. OCLC 240474337.

A fortuitous encounter at the Town House Gallery for Contemporary Art in Cairo led to this exhibition in the Netherlands, which featured fourteen Egyptian artists: Huda Lutfi, Amre Heiba, Hesham Nawwar, Sabah Naiem, Jenny Leimert, Martin McInally, Hadeel Nazmi, Lara Baladi, Ahmed Askalany, Moataz Nasr, Nasser Elssamadisy, Rehab El Sadek, Nermine Hammam, and Khaled Hafrez. The works of each artist resonates with Pharaonic art, architecture, and aesthetics, which so pervade the Egyptian landscape and psyche. In the two introductory essays Maria Golia and Marilu Knode address the artists’ identity, cultural heritage, and engagement with Modernism.



Contemporary art in Egypt / edited by Hamed Said; photographs by D. Kañiƒ. Cairo: Ministry of Culture and National Guidance in cooperation with the publishing house "Jugoslavija," 1964. xiii, 120p., 22p. of plates. illus. qN7381.S2X 1964 AFA. OCLC 01057910.

The Nasser revolution in July 1952 marked a turning point in the political history of the country. It also marked a new chapter in the art of modern Egypt, one that was sponsored and encouraged by the revolutionary government. This book, published by the Ministry of Culture and National Guidance, contains works from the Egyptian national collections, most created in the decade following the revolution. The work is not, however, overly political in content or tone. A brief, rather flowery essay introduces the catalog and pays tribute to a few of the older generation of artists - Mahmoud Mokhtar, Mahmoud Said, Ahmed Sabry, Mohamed Nagy, and Habib Gorgi. The plates (120 black-and-white, 22 color) illustrate sculptures, paintings, architecture, textiles, tapestries, jewelry, ceramics, and mosaics.


Egyptian landscapes: 50 years of tapestry weaving at the Ramses Wissa Wassef Art Centre / by Hilary Weir, Suzanne Wissa Wassef and Yoanna Wissa Wassef. Cairo, Egypt: Ramses Wissa Wassef Art Centre, 2006. 64 pp. illus. (color). NK3088.A1E39 2006 AFA. OCLC 179295604

The tapestry workshop founded in 1941 by Ramses Wissa Wassef in Old Cairo moved to Harrania in 1952. It thrived and continues today under the leadership of his two daughters. The high-warp weaving that distinguishes Harrania weaving uses bright natural-dyed wool and cotton. The weavers do not use cartoons or sketches. Batik painting was introduced later. The Harrania tapestries typically depict lush landscapes or busy marketplaces.



Gegenwart aus Jahrtausenden: Zeitgenössische Kunst aus Ägypten = The present out of the past millennia: contemporary art from Egypt / edited by Karin Adrian von Roques and Dieter Ronte. Bonn: Kunstmuseum Bonn; Köln: Wienand Verlag, 2007. 198pp. illus. (pt. color), bibl. refs. Text in German and English. N7381.8.G44 2007 AFA. OCLC 183315840.

Thirteen Egyptian artists were selected for this exhibition in Bonn, Germany in 2007: Emad Abd El Wahab, Mohamed Abla, Wael Darwish, George Fikry, Khaled Hafez, Huda Lutfi, Youssef Nabil, Sabah Naim, Shady El Noshokaty, Ayman Ramadan, Ayman El Semary, Wael Shawky, and Hazem Taha Hussein. They represent a cross-section of contemporary practice, young and older artists, women and men, working in a variety of media. All the works exhibited were executed in the few years leading up to this 2007 show. Essays by several curators, critics and artists set the historical background and context within which Egyptian artists work

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Kane, Patrick M. Politics, discontent and the everyday in Egyptian arts, 1938-1966. PhD dissertation, State University of New York at Binghamton, 2007. Ann Arbor: UMI Dissertation Service, 2007. xiv, 311 leaves. illus., bibliog. (pp. 289-311). BH221.E3K36 2007a AFA. OCLC 317-60142.

This comparative study of Egyptian aesthetics interprets the historical and political context of artistic discourse during the years 1938 to 1966. It is a period market by intense clashes between landlords and rural laborers over the material conditions of labor set against the Depression and the Cold War. Kane discusses the rise of the Egyptian Surrealists from the late 1930s and the Contemporary Art Group from the later 1940s in comparison with the discourse of the Egyptian nationalist renaissance that arose from the late 1920s. The waging of polemical discourse by the Egyptian Surrealists from the late 1930s was framed in the context of political and institutional struggles, specifically in the rise of art teachers and artists who argued against an elite academicism that sought to dominate Egyptian artistic discourse. This struggle initially took the form of a debate between graduates and proponents of the Academy of Fine Arts, founded in 1908, and the new graduates of the Teachers College. In response to the Academy’s formalism, the Surrealists, many of whom were graduates of the Teachers College and employed as teachers in rural towns, advocated the discourse of a broader aesthetics experience based on the inclusion of all classes and members of society. The critique by the Surrealists and the Contemporary Art Group was formed in the context of the rise of mass political mobilization against the large landowners and the old regime, which culminated in the revolts and coup of 1952.

The arts and aesthetics of middle 20th century Egyptians crossed and interact with two issues: the Egyptian peasant struggles against capitalist agriculture; and the problem of nationalism and the state, as a reconfiguration of the capitalist domination of productive relations, before and after the 1952 revolutionary coup. In response to these critical issues, artistic discourse about contemporary art and the unevenness of daily life and culture transcended the epistemology of the modern or the contemporary as temporal categories which set themselves off as historical transitions. – author’s abstract.



Kane, Patrick M. The politics of art in modern Egypt: aesthetics, ideology and nation-building. London : I. B. Tauris, 2013. xxvi, 247pp. illus., bibliog. N72.P6 K36 2013 AFA. OCLC 769547026.

The rise of modernism in Egyptian art was part and parcel of the social and political transformations in Egypt in the 20th century. The dynamics between the state culture and artistic dissent and what Kane calls “Egyptian aesthetics” is the backbone of this narrative.

Contents: The social horizon of Egyptian aesthetics -- Art institutions, agrarian conflict and fascism from 1908-40 -- Art in Egyptian civil society, 1938-51 -- The festival and the state : the contemporary art group and a philosophy of traditional arts -- The landlord-peasant battles as a subject for the arts : from Buhut to Kamshish -- Conflicts in the arts over upper Egypt : ?Abd al-Hadi al-Gazzar and his contemporaries -- Conclusion : political currents in the philosophy and experience of Egyptian aesthetics.

This book is the published version of the author's doctoral dissertation (2007). See preceding entry.



Karnouk, Liliane. Contemporary Egyptian art. Cairo: American Univeristy in Cairo Press, c1995. 140pp. illus. (color), bibl. refs. N7381.7.K36 1995X AFA. OCLC 32903521.

The 1952 revolution in Egypt, which brought Gamal Abd al-Nasser to power, was a dramatic turning point for the country and for artists in particular. Karnouk continues her story, begun in Modern Egyptian art: the emergence of a national style (1988), from this watershed of revolutionary change. The state took over; the arts were institutionalized into state bureaucracies, and many artists were co-opted into the public sector. Patronage was controlled by the state as was art criticism, since the press was nationalized.

Artists faced a persistent dynamics between pressures of nationalism and internationalism, between an authentic Egyptian art and an imported modernism, between co-option by the state or maintaining artistic independence on the margins. Against this backdrop, Karnouk singles out fifty-one artists whose work and careers reflect what was happening in the Egyptian art world during the turbulent decades from the 1950s to the 1990s.

In the 1970s a revival of Islamic art occurred and some artists attempted to negotiate between Islam and modernism. A new calligraphic art was one important component of those negotiations. The younger artists of the 1990s, who have grown up in a more hybrid world of Egyptian cultural heritage, internationalism and Kitsch, are exploring new forms and media.

Reviewed by Elizabeth Rodenbeck in Arts and the Islamic world (London) nos. 27-28: 107-108, 1996; by Venetia Porter in Africa (London) 67 (4): 653-654, 1997.



Karnouk, Liliane. Modern Egyptian art, 1910-2003. New revised edition. Cairo: American University Press in Cairo, 2005. xi, 274pp. illus. (chiefly color), bibliog. (pp. 251-255). N7381.7.K37 2005 AFA. OCLC 61160735.

Liliane Karnouk expands her already substantial scholarship on modern Egyptian art in this new revised edition, which combines two earlier volumes on the subject (see preceding and following entries) and projects the story up to 2003. The “Youth Generation” of the 1990s experienced an intensification of the forces of globalization and postmodernism. The Egyptian pavilion at the 1995 Venice Biennale was a milestone of the decade. Egyptian artists, somewhat freed from officialdom’s bureaucratic shackles, experimented in new directions, with new media and explored new themes. Karnouk elaborates on artistic trends with the body, the environment, the printed word and books, photography and video. She highlights individual artists who exemplify each of these thematic categories. This survey text is very well illustrated with many new images from the most recent period.



Karnouk, Liliane. Modern Egyptian art: the emergence of a national style / foreword by P. J. Vatikiotis. Cairo: American University in Cairo Press, 1988. 89pp. illus. (pt. color), bibl. refs. N7381.K18 1988 AFA. OCLC 19079154.

Modern artistic expression in Egypt coincided with the nationalist movement in the 1920s and was the key to unlocking the essential dilemma for the modern artist: how to respect the Egyptian cultural heritage, whether Islamic, Coptic or Pharaonic, without being overwhelmed by it and so risk being marginalized internationally and how to translate that same heritage into a truly modern nationalistic, individualistic expression that rises above the parochial.

In this first of a projected two-volume work, Karnouk explores this dialectic through the work of three generations of artists from 1900 to 1956. She focuses on certain individual artists as representative of these periods, beginning with the earliest, the neo-Pharaonic artists, exemplified by Mahumud Mukhtar. She then turns to Mahmud Said, Muhammad Naji, and Raghib Ayyad, who moved beyond this. The second generation in the 1930s and 1940s saw a new reactive expression, a conscious moving away from "history," while the third generation of artists were less ideological ("folk realists"). Abd al-Hadi al Jazzar and Hamid Nada are discussed as representing this period. The final chapter focuses on architect Hassan Fathy as exemplar of the fusion between artistic tradition and modern expression, a success slow to catch on but ultimately enduring.



Winegar, Jessica. Creative reckonings: the politics of art and culture in contemporary Egypt. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2006. xxi, 377pp., 16pp. of plates. illus, (pt. color), bibliog., pp. 355-369. N72.S6W58 2006 AFA. OCLC 70265572.

Contemporary Egyptian artists are confronting issues of cultural authenticity, globalization, post-colonial identity, and politics of representation. Based on research initially done for a doctoral dissertation, this book lays out the cultural debates going on in Cairo betweem artists of the older and younger generations, between state-sponsored and indpendent artists, and between foreign and Egyptian curators. Winegar looks also at the contemporary art market in Cairo, the role of public and private galleries, and individual Egyptian art collectors, and the dominance of the state in promoting visual arts.

Reviewed by Dina Ramadan in Art journal (New York) 67 (1) spring 2008, pages 119-121.