For the first time in its around 4,500 year history, Giza’s monumental pyramid complex has hosted a contemporary art exhibition that juxtaposes its storied past with a vibrant present. Baptized Forever Is Now, the exhibition, sponsored by UNESCO, has a dozen works by 11 artists, Egyptians and other countries, exhibited on the vast plateau where the last of the seven wonders of the ancient world rests. In this way the works dialogue with each other. The organization is run by the private art firm Art d’Égypte, which in recent years has established itself as one of the most important companies on the country’s cultural and artistic scene and which organizes an art exhibition every year. contemporary in a historical site of Egypt. “This innovative and daring art exhibition opens a new field to the world of art exhibitions by creating a tangible bridge between the visual arts and the historical heritage of a country as emblematic as Egypt,” says Lucia Sollinger, honorary curator of Forever Is Now.
We take a visual tour of some of the most interesting works in this peculiar open-air exhibition.
Greetings from Giza. It is one of the works that has garnered the most attention. Signed by the enigmatic French artist JR, it is also one of those that best captures the conversation that Art d’Égypte wants to establish between Egyptian historical heritage and contemporary art. The installation, made on a steel and mesh structure, plays with the idea of a hand holding a black and white postcard that, when viewed from a precise point, creates an optical illusion in which the tip of the pyramid of Khafre , the second tallest in Giza, is separated from the rest of the construction.
Together. Another of the most commented and shared installations has been a majestic sculpture made with stainless steel rods that recreates two hands raised from the depths of the sand of the Pharaonic necropolis whose fingers touch each other. Create a shape similar to the pyramids that rise as a backdrop. The work symbolizes human connection through time, and has been designed by the prominent Italian figurative sculptor based in Spain Lorenzo Quinn, known for his expressive recreations of human hands and the son of the famous actor Anthony Quinn.
Here I am back. A large sculptural monument by Egyptian artist Sherin Guirguis pays tribute to the history of Egyptian women and their contribution to the country’s society and culture over time. The installation is inspired by the shape of the sistrum, a sacred musical instrument used by priestesses of the goddess Isis during rituals and processions. It features engravings with pharaonic motifs and excerpts from a poem by Egyptian feminist poet and activist Doria Shafik. The work seems to rise from the sand to remember the power and work of these women, and is subtly infused with the scent of jasmine oil harvested by women to make their historically invisible work visible.
Barzakh. Using dozens of crossed oars, the Egyptian artist Moataz Nasr, one of the greatest representatives of contemporary art in the Arab world, creates a structure reminiscent of a solar boat, like the funeral boat of Pharaoh Khufu, which at the same time acts as a species of corridor at the end of which the pyramids rise. The interspersed arrangement of the oars symbolizes the unity that exists between two opposing but at the same time connected kingdoms, such as life and death or this world and the one beyond, which is precisely the space through which the solar boat sailed. funeral home of the ancient Egyptians.
Eternity now. One of the most abstract installations, it embodies a timeless moment in which past, present and future merge in the pyramids of Giza. It is a nine-meter golden elliptical dome located in front of the sphinx, the last work on the exhibition route, and its author is the artist Gisela Colón. The sculpture pays tribute to the deep legacy of ancient Egypt as one of the cradles of ancient culture, its shape is inspired by the vast knowledge acquired by the Egyptians of the time, and its curvature is a nod to the mythical eye of Horus.
“With Forever Is Now, Egypt has set a world precedent by lending its most precious historical heritage, the Pyramids of Giza, not only to serve as an exceptional setting for this international contemporary art show, but to promote the visual arts themselves and give them the greatest possible visibility , thus signaling a possible way forward ”, Sollinger points out.
Ai-Da. Although it was part of a parallel project, it has also been planted in front of the Ai-Da pyramids, the world’s first ultra-realistic artist robot thanks to the use of artificial intelligence, which makes both her and her productions a double-layered work. . Created by a team of experts called the Oxfordians, Ai-Da’s presence sought to blur the lines between human and machine interactions and ultimately invite reflection on whether a world with this degree of robotic intervention is what we really want. As if they wanted to participate in the debate, Egyptian customs authorities held Ai-Da for 10 days on suspicion that it might contain spy tools, according to British media, before, thanks to diplomatic mediation, he was allowed to go. , to her too, to observe the pyramids.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.