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“Art et Liberté: Rupture, War and Surrealism in Egypt (1938-1948)”

The Reina Sofía Museum presents its first ever exhibition dedicated to the activity of the group “Art et Liberté,” created in Cairo during World War II.

February 15, 2017
The Reina Sofía National Museum and Center for the Arts is presenting its first exhibition ever on the activity of the group Art et Liberté, a collective of artists created in Cairo during World War II. The exhibition is made up of an ensemble of approximately one hundred pictorial works and a great deal of photographic and documentary materials.

The Art et Liberté group, founded by Georges Henein, Ramses Younane, Kamel el-Telmisany and Fouad Kamel, cultivated a vernacular form of artistic practice linked to Surrealism and international art debate. Its members questioned the academically oriented, nationalistic tendencies in bourgeois art predominant in Egypt at that time, while pursuing artistic exchanges with Surrealist movements from other places like Paris, Brussels and Mexico City.

The group’s involvement with Spain’s reality in the 1930’s occurred on several levels, being expressed in particular through its commitment against the expansion of fascism. The Egyptian Surrealists’ selection of Picasso’s Guernica to illustrate their first manifesto, Vive l’art dégeneré (Long Live Degenerate Art, 1938), and their condemnation of Franco’s uprising in different publications, which they used to offer their solidarity to the artists and people of Spain, are an example of this involvement.

The exhibition constitutes a critique of conventional historiographical classifications, taking a special interest in the multi-faceted nature of modernity. It has been given the support of Casa Árabe, which believes it has made a contribution of great importance to art history in the Arab world and to global historiographical debate in general.
The exhibition and all of the prior research work were carried out by the curators Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath, founders of the initiative Art Reoriented and curators of exhibitions and initiatives of major international relevance, most of which place a focus on the art scene in the Arab world. Two of their prior works as curators could be seen in our country:  “Té con Nefertiti” (Tea with Nefertiti, IVAM, November 2013 to January 2014) and “Juego de Pistas” (I Spy with My Little Eye, Casa Árabe headquarters in Madrid, September to November 2015 and Casa Árabe in Cordoba, December 2015 to February 2016).

The exhibition can be seen until May 28 at the Museo Reina Sofía’s Sabatini Building (4th floor). Further information
  • “Art et Liberté: Rupture, War and Surrealism in Egypt (1938-1948)”
    Ramses Younane. No title, 1939
  • “Art et Liberté: Rupture, War and Surrealism in Egypt (1938-1948)”
    Mayo: The Bird, 1937
  • “Art et Liberté: Rupture, War and Surrealism in Egypt (1938-1948)”
    Photograph of the Art et Liberté group and sympathizers, 1945
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