Art lovers flock to the opening of Al-Ahram Arts Centre
The Al-Ahram Arts Centre will open on Sunday at the Al-Ahram New Building on Galaa Street in central Cairo.
The opening will be attended by Mamdouh El-Wali, CEO of Al-Ahram and head of the Journalists Syndicate; Mohamed Hassanein Heikal, former editor-in-chief of Al-Ahram newspaper, along with many renowned journalists and prominent figures.
The centre's opening will be celebrated with the inauguration of an art exhibition called Century of Egyptian Artthat showcases gems acquired by Al-Ahram over the decades. Mostafa El-Razzaz's book, A Century of Art,will also be launched with the exhibition.
For half a century or more, art was integrated into the life of Al-Ahram. Some pieces were exhibited at the entrance to the building. Some ended up in the offices of senior editors. Others ventured into the rooms of senior writers and literary figures such as Naguib Mahfouz, Tawfiq El-Hakim and Youssef Idris. Visitors to Al-Ahram cannot but notice the art displayed on walls, near elevators, and in news rooms.
The idea of the Arts Centre and its inaugural exhibition was first proposed by Sylvia El-Nakkady, editor-in-chief of El-Beit, a monthly publication about architecture, interior design and art published in Arabic by Al-Ahram. El-Nakkady wanted to bring Al-Ahram’s decades-long interest in art and its art collection to public view.
Acting on the proposal, Al-Ahram's former CEO, Abdel-Monem Said, formed a committee to curate the exhibition. The committee, made up of El-Nakkady, artist and historian Mostafa El-Razzaz, artist Helmi El-Toni, and art acquisition chief Wahid El-Kalsh, reviewed a total of 650 pieces in the collection and chose 100 pieces to go in the exhibition.
The practice of collecting art was initiated in the mid-60s by Heikal, a collector and art aficionado himself. The novelist and playwright Tawfiq El-Hakim was also an important force behind the collection. Another man who was heavily involved was Kamal Al-Mallakh, the writer known for his encyclopaedic knowledge of art and archaeology. Al-Mallakh used to scout for young talent and commission them to do pieces for Al-Ahram.
By the early 1990s, with more than 400 pieces already collected, Al-Ahram hired Wahid El-Kalsh to photograph and archive the pieces. El-Kalsh, who now heads the Department of Art Acquisition at Al-Ahram, says his department provides art photos and information to various publications within Al-Ahram. The department also restores art and conducts further acquisitions.
Some of the pieces in the collection have grown significantly in value over the years. The most valuable at present is believed to be Mahmoud Said’s painting Girl with Hazel Eyes. Other works from the 1940s by artists such as Nehmia Saad, Ragheb Ayyad, and Said Khattab are also of high monetary and historical value.
The exhibition will run for three months and is open to the public.
Sunday 9 December at 7pm
Al-Ahram New Building, Galaa Street, Ground Floor, Cairo