Art et Liberté

Mayo, Portrait, 1937, oil on canvas, 46 × 36 cm, European Cultural Centre of Delphi, Greece, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017


14 July, 2017, 7 p.m.
Free entrance.

Anette Kruszynski, Artistic director (temporary) of the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen

Talk on the making of the exhibition with curators Sam Bardaouil und Till Fellrath, moderated by Doris Krystof


Art et Liberté. Rupture, War and Surrealism in Egypt (1938 – 1948), Editions Skira, Paris 2016, 224 pages, numerous colour illustrations, Museum edition, 35,00 Euro.


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

15 July – 15 October 2017
K20 Grabbeplatz

This is the first comprehensive museum exhibition about the largely forgotten Cairo based group Art et Liberté ("art and liberty", "jama’at al-fann wa al-hurriyyah"). The exhibition presents more than 200 works from around 50 collections in 12 different countries, including paintings, works on paper, prints, photographs, films, books, and archival documents. At the dawn of World War II and during Egypt's colonial rule by the British Empire the surrealist collective of artists and writers was engaged in its defiance of Fascism, Nationalism and Colonialism.

Through their works, artists such as Hassan El-Telmisani, Inji Efflatoun, Fouad Kamel, Amy Nimr, Samir Rafi, and Ramses Younane amongst others, gave voice to the group's political, aesthetic and social commitment. The collective's main driving force was the Cairo-based poet and literary critic Georges Henein, the son of a diplomat and a cosmopolitan personality who had been closely associated with the Parisian Surrealists grouped around  André Breton from as early as 1933. Surrealism, with its often provocative, always poetic, subversive, anarchic, and intimate amalgamation of poetry and painting, resonated very strongly in Cairo where it stood firmly in its fight against political repression and for the ideal of human freedom.

This exhibition features a direct link to the  Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen: the Cairo-based artists' collective explicitly declared solidarity with many of the classical modernist artists who were persecuted by Hitler, Mussolini, and Franco. Some of these artists are represented today in the permanent collection. Alluding to the defamatory and propagandistic National Socialist exhibition devoted to "Entartete Kunst," the Art et Liberté group headed its founding manifesto of December 1938 with the words "Long Live Degenerate Art!" and demanded: "Together, Let us overcome the Middle Ages that emerges from the heart of the Occident."

This overview of the multifarious activities of the Art et Liberté group serves as a prologue to the extensive presentation Excentric Modernism, planned for autumn 2018 at the K20, which investigates manifestations of non-Western modern art on various continents in the framework of the research project "museum global" (2015 – 2018). As the first artistic tendency of modernism, the impact of Surrealism was international in scope. With its redefinition of Surrealism, Art et Liberté in Cairo established a contemporary pictorial and literary language that was equally rooted in both, global and local realities.

Curators: Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath (Art Reoriented, Munich and New York), Doris Krystof (for the Düsseldorf station of the exhibition).

The exhibition was shown previously at the Centre Pompidou / Paris and the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía / Madrid. After Düsseldorf, it will be shown at the Tate Liverpool (Nov 17, 2017 – March 18, 2018), and finally at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm (April 21 – Aug 19, 2018).

The exhibition is supported by:
S.E. Sch. Hassan M.A. Al Thani