Current Exhibition

Art et Liberté

Rupture, War and Surrealism in Egypt (1938 – 1948)

Ramses Younan, Untitled, 1939.
Oil on canvas. 46.5 x 35.5 cm.
Courtesy H. E. Sh. Hassan M. A. Al Thani collection, Doha.

Exhibition Venues

About the Exhibition

Art et Liberté: Rupture, War and Surrealism in Egypt (1938 – 1948) is the first comprehensive museum exhibition of its kind about the Art and Liberty Group (Art et Liberté—jama’at al-fann wa al-hurriyyah), a surrealist collective of writers and artists living and working in Cairo.

Five years in preparation, the exhibition consolidates the findings of extensive primary research and hundreds of field interviews conducted in Egypt and worldwide. It showcases more than 110 paintings, works on paper, and photographs dating from the late 1920s until the early 1950s. The exhibition equally features more than 150 archival documents, historical photographs, film footage, and primary manuscripts, most of which have never been exhibited before. In reuniting these artworks and documents, drawn from over 46 public and private collections from Egypt and 12 other countries, this historic exhibition charts for the first time a precise chronology and offers an all-encompassing presentation of Art et Liberté.

Founded on December 22, 1938 upon the publication of their manifesto Long Live Degenerate Art, the group provided a restless generation of young artists, writers, intellectuals and political activists, with a heterogeneous platform for cultural and political reform. The exhibition highlights the active role that Art et Liberté played within a complex international and fluid network of surrealists, spanning cities such as Paris, London, Mexico City, New York, Beirut and Tokyo. At the dawn of the Second World War and during Egypt’s colonial rule by the British Empire, Art et Liberté was globally engaged in its defiance of Fascism, Nationalism and Colonialism. Through exploring the various themes that permeate the work of Art et Liberté, the exhibition sheds light on the group’s advocacy of the liberation of artists from the confines of geographical boundaries and political propaganda, and their uncompromising faith in the empowerment of humanity. Through their new definition of Surrealism, the group sought to achieve a contemporary literary and pictorial language that was as much globally engaged as it was rooted in local artistic and political concerns. Moving beyond the polarizing dichotomies of Saïdian Orientalism and post-colonial discourse, this exhibition sheds light on Art et Liberté’s negotiation of Surrealism, and advocates an inclusive vision of art history.

Publications

Academic Monograph

Surrealism in Egypt: Modernism and the Art and Liberty Group
By Sam Bardaouil
I.B. Tauris, London, 2016, 354 pages, 104 illustrations, ISBN 978-1-78453-651-0

Exhibition Catalogue

English Edition
Art et Liberté: Rupture, War and Surrealism in Egypt (1938 – 1948)
Edited by Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath, with a contribution by James Gifford
Skira Editore Milan, 2016, 224 pages, ISBN 978-2-37074-031-1

Arabic Edition
جماعة الفن و الحرية: القطع و الحرب و السريالية في مصر (١٩٣٨ - ١٩٤٨)
Edited by Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath
Skira Editore Milan, Italy, 2016, 256 pages, ISBN 978-2-37074-048-9

French Edition
Art et Liberté: Rupture, Guerre et Surréalisme en Égypte (1938 – 1948)
Edited by Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath
Skira Editore Milan, Italy, 2016, 256 pages, ISBN 978-2-37074-030-4

German Edition
Art et Liberté: Umbruch, Krieg und Surrealismus in Ägypten (1938 – 1948)
Edited by Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath, with a contribution by Doris Krystof
Skira Editore Milan, 2016, 224 pages, ISBN 978-2-37074-048-9

Spanish Edition
Art et Liberté: Ruptura, Guerra y Surrealismo en Egipto (1938 – 1948)
Edited by Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath
Skira Editore Milan, 2016, 224 pages, ISBN 978-2-37074-048-9