The Cairo 360 Editors’ Choice Awards 2017: Arts & Culture Award Winners
It’s been a turbulent few years for arts and culture in Egypt. While the fallout of the January 25th Revolution galvanised local artists and relevant institution to an extent, many of the former have faced censorship, while, even worse, some of the latter have faced closure.
The winners of the 2017 Cairo 360 Editors’ Choice Awards in this category have not only fought the good fight, but they’ve actively made the local arts and culture scene more encompassing and accessible to Egyptians from all walks of life, be it through exhibitions by both the country’s newer and older generations, regular gigs showcasing the best of local talent or hosting courses, classes and workshops to give a boost-up to Egypt’s emerging talent.
As one of the most unique cultural hubs in Cairo, 3elbt Alwan’s quirky interior, regular events and inviting atmosphere has made it one of the most popular venues of its kind in Cairo – one where some of the best local talent regularly take to the stage at.
Located in the stunning Baehler Mansion in Zamalek, Al Masar Gallery is a regular canvas for Egypt’s contemporary artists, with the gallery hosting exhibitions by some of the biggest names in the field.
While there’s something of a New York loft vibe to it, Art Talks importance extends further than just the exhibitions it hosts. In addition to welcoming old and new names, it’s the gallery’s educational seminars and talks that have secured it another ECA win.
Away from the dainty galleries of Zamalek and Downtown, Arts-Mart is a behemoth of a gallery who’s massive annual art fair has become one of the most important date on the arts and culture calendar. Located on the tip of the Cairo-Alex Desert Road, Arts-Mart has come a long way since it first appeared as an online platform helping artists showcase and sell their work.
A pioneer in its own right, Darb 1718 is one of the most significant and important cultural centres in the whole of Egypt in catering to an increasingly art-aware Cairo through everything from concerts and dance performances, to film screenings and workshops. It’s a matchless venue located in the most culturally rich of places in Fustat.
One of the newer cultural centres in Cairo, Dots Space was, for a long time, something of a hidden gem. But it’s experienced a rapid rise to popularity, with its exhibitions, workshops, events and inclusive rapport with its visitors earning it an award.
Although it has its detractors, there are few cultural venues as established and as active as El Sawy Culturewheel. While its regular concerts bring in the crowds, it’s the venue itself that keeps them there. It’s become something of a hangout spot and doesn’t get nearly enough credit for its non-music activities.
In choosing winners in this category, there’s more to the picking process than the physical venue. In the case of Falaki Theater, and several others, it’s the curation of the entity that is arguably more important – the calibre of the art on show, if you will. With this Downtown landmark, you get the very best of local, regional and international theatre.
Although one of the younger galleries in the gallery-heavy island of Zamalek, Gallery Misr has very quickly established itself as one of the best. Although it may not hold the same sense of grandeur as its peers, its embracing of younger and more experimental artists makes it a nailed-on winner.
Having opened in 2014, Gypsum Gallery is one of the more unique galleries in Cairo. Located in Garden City, it often hosts exhibitions by regional and international artists thanks to a network that extends to Alexandria, Cairo, Amman, Basel, Beirut and Tehran, under the watchful eye of independent curator, Aleya Hamza.
Although not as heavily as self-promoted as other winners on this list, Zamalek’s Magolia. Leaves of Art is very, very dear to its frequenters, thanks to a string of interesting film screening, open discussions and events, all wrapped up in an airy and distinctly artistic atmosphere.
Downtown Cairo’s Makan hosts music and culture events like no other. Regular performances from unique outfits like Mazaher, Mawawil and Jaafra amongst others, make this a unique venue, if only for the fact that it’s very different to others and is one of the few places that is actively and consistently preserving Egypt’s indigenous music.
There’s a running joke that suggests that in a few years, there will be more photographers than doctors in Egypt. No one can quite put their finger on why the craft has become so popular over the last few years, but one reason is Photopia – an institution that has helped groom, mould and launch many a budding photographer.
One of the most famous Zamalek galleries also happens to be one of the most enduring and daring. Picasso’s rotation of exhibitions often welcomes some of the more out-of-left-field artists in the city, while the space itself is ideal as a gallery.
Although it was in danger of closing down last year, Garden City’s ROOM Art Space is still going strong. As one of the most active and prolific venues of its kind, many still frequent it as a space for studying, on addition weekly gigs that host some of the most interesting and eclectic local acts.
Small in size, big in personality, Safarkhan’s commitment to local artists, be they veterans or newcomers, has made it a critical player in the local arts and culture scene – one that never fails to impress with its choices of artists and curation.
Like we’ve touched on already, the success of these winners isn’t just in the service it offers, so to speak – it’s equally in their participation in the wider scope of the field and that’s exactly what SOMA, as a gallery and art school, excels at in offering a range of different course and workshops, in addition to exhibitions and other events.
It’s been a tough few years for Townhouse Gallery. As a prime time player in Downtown Cairo’s bustling art scene, it’s reopening after it was shutdown was not only a relief for many, but an important sign that the city’ arts and culture venues can fight back.
While Maadi is heavy on cafes and restaurants, it’s been a little thin on consistent arts and culture venues over the years. But the arrival of Yellow Umbrella could well be a signal for change. Having opened December 2016, the venue has become popular scope of events – everything from movie and sports events screenings, to workshops and concerts.
After expanding into two halls instead of one, allowing it to hosts to concurrent exhibitions, it’s difficult to argue the statement that Zamalek Art Gallery hosts more exhibitions than any other gallery in Egypt. As a space, it’s as sophisticated and suitably understated as you’ll find in the city.
Having opened a whole new world to film fans – a world that would only previously be accessible through festivals – Zawya has played an important part in bringing the best of world cinema to Cairo. Many thought it would be a flash-in-the-pan project, but Zawya as a cinema and advocate of independent film and art is as strong as ever.
Check out all this year’s Cairo 360 Editor’s Choice Award Winners here and stay tuned for more on the best that Egypt’s capital has to offer!