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Downtown, Cairo, Egypt.
Townhouse Gallery of Contemporary Art: Bidoun Library
On October 12th, 2010 Townhouse Gallery launched its first exhibition following its summer hiatus, and we couldn't be more excited! As Townhouse is one of the leading independent art spaces in Cairo, the exhibits never fail to impress, immerse and inspire those that have the opportunity to get involved. This latest project is no exception. The visiting exhibition Bidoun Library is held on the first floor of the Townhouse building; so head down to Nabrawy Street; the gallery is located up the stairs and to the left.
The Bidoun Library has been archiving and teaming with collaborators since its first installation in Abu Dhabi three years ago. It is an offshoot project of the leading arts and culture publication of the Middle East, Bidoun Magazine. If you're not familiar with Bidoun Magazine; now is your time!
Since 2008, the Bidoun Library has partnered with art collectives worldwide, including a Lebanese comic’s journal and its latest stop in New York City. Unlike any other exhibition in recent months or even years; the exhibition’s simple focal point is paired with a rich history and philosophical questioning focused on the book as an object of expression.
As many of us know, the value of the written word has become increasingly reduced in recent times. Focusing on the 20th century, the library explores that period when written word, including the book, newspaper and periodical magazine, was in its most tangible form of circulation. The exhibit's collection of written word draws from printed matter from around and within the Middle East, including exhibition catalogues, artists' books and other printed materials. Viewing the book as a means of material production, the concept stems from some of the very first publishing projects that took place during the Cold War; where the written word meets image.
The Bidoun Library covers the entire first floor, including the front room that is lined with the autumn 2010 issue of the Bidoun Magazine titled 'Library.' This issue displays a catalogue depicting the latest Bidoun exhibition held in the USA.
Attached to each issue's cover are one-of-a-kind photographs accumulated by local collector Amgad Naguib. Four different hardback books are suspended from the ceiling by silver chains in the middle of the room, representing varying portrayals of how the Middle East has come to be defined through literature.
In the two middle rooms, shelves are stacked with rows of books, providing the viewer with both a live art experience and a true understanding of the exhibit as it plays out in individual viewers’ actions: books are thumbed through and read out loud by visitors. It compels you to explore and research the materials at hand, most of which are rarely available for commercial sale.
The majority of material located in the room to the right offers a great selection by and for artists, including a copy of the inspiring Art is for the People. Take a seat at one of the long tables and read as long as your heart desires. Lastly, check out the video installation in the back, which conjures up more speculation through the use of musical media.
The Bidoun Library is a collection of books based on a clear vision. While the library itself is an organised institution that collects the written word for archiving and experiencing the depths that these printed materials came from, the exhibit portrays how they are used and understood today.
Showing until November 17th, the exhibition’s hours are Saturday to Wednesday from 10AM to 2PM and 6PM to 9PM, and Fridays from 6PM to 9PM.
Eyes are the windows to the soul; an old saying that was perfectly demonstrated in Zamalek Art Gallery’s current exhibition, ‘The Magic Thread’.
‘The Magic Thread’ features a collection of unique, childlike and somewhat eerie figurative paintings by Syrian artist, Souad Mardam Bey, who, through her artistic talent and devotion, conveys intense feelings through the eyes of each painting.
Each painting portrays a different character; only it seems that the same captivating element in each one of them is the eyes, which seem to be filled with some sort of sadness or longing that can be further understood differently.
One particular painting shows a female figure –a child most likely— with her head titled to the side, smelling a white-petal flower with large longing eyes which seem to be gazing right out of the canvas. Everything about this painting is simple and bland; except the eyes, which are much more detailed and slightly bigger than one would expect which draws the viewer in even further.
The background of Bey’s paintings are simple and exist purely of one flat colour; which is why more attention is drawn to the innocent childish figures painted on top portraying a 2D style, similar to the one you find in children’s books.
Another painting that stood out depicts a young girl figure or doll, dressed up in a floral pink dress and make-up, looking into a mirror with large sad eyes, a common element in many of Bey’s artwork.
‘The Magic Thread’ is a title that not only draws on the childlike theme in this exhibition, but also evokes the idea of children’s toys and dolls coming to life, especially through their expressive eyes—which seemed to be the central point of this exhibition.
With its ray of unique large portraits and simple childlike style, Bey’s exhibition is without a doubt captivating one and it succeeded to attract a large crowd among art connoisseurs in Cairo.