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Townhouse Gallery of Contemporary Art: Cairo’s Leading Independent Art Space

Townhouse Gallery of Contemporary Art: Cairo’s Leading Independent Art Space
    written by
    Aleksandra Sekinger

    In many international cities, established art spaces
    are usually located in high-class neighbourhoods and boast a rich clientele.
    Townhouse Gallery of Contemporary Art goes strongly against that grain; situated
    in a Downtown automobile district and showcasing talented local and
    international art for the masses.

    Opened in 1998, Townhouse Gallery of Contemporary Art
    has made its name over the past decade as the most active independent arts
    space in Cairo.
    Not only does Townhouse exhibit some of Cairo’s
    most talented local artists, the gallery also encourages the Cairo community to make art and explore their
    creative side by participating in their workshops.

    In recent years, Townhouse has exposed Cairo to some very cool projects, including Breaking
    Boredom, an exhibit organised by Ahmed Foula featuring Cairo’s hottest up-and-coming graphic
    designers, including artists like George Azmy, Mahmoud Hamdy and Ganzeer.
    In 2009, Townhouse created a Model
    Citizens
    installation, which was a collaboration of over a dozen artists
    that worked with over 10,000 photos of Townhouse’s neighbourhood to create an
    extremely detailed miniature model of the neighbourhood. Narratives on the
    neighbourhood’s history and what changes the community would like to see were
    documented.

    In 2010, Townhouse uncovered an era of Egyptian art
    history that most Cairenes had never heard of, which is the Egyptian Surrealist
    Movement. Organised in the style of a ’happening,’ the exhibit aimed to present
    the work of the Egyptian Surrealists, or the Art and Freedom Group, as they
    called themselves, in a way than honours their attitude towards art and life.

    The main spaces used for Townhouse exhibits are the
    Factory Space and the First Floor Gallery. The Factory Space is affectionately
    named so because it was once a paper factory before Townhouse acquired it in
    2002, and it is the large ground-floor space next to the gift shop. The first-floor gallery
    is the first floor of the building on Nabarawy
    Street , which holds the Townhouse sign. The second floor of the same building holds the Townhouse library,
    which hosts occasional lectures and film screenings, as well as studios for local
    and international artists.  

    The Rooftop Studio, an initiative that Townhouse launched
    in 2009, is an artist-managed studio space on a rooftop located on Nubar Street in Downtown
    Cairo that gives local artists a space to develop personal projects. By
    creating a communal space for local artists, artists get feedback from the
    public and fellow artists from different backgrounds. Visitors are welcome at
    the Rooftop to discuss personal art with the artists.  

    Townhouse is not only a gallery; it’s an art
    collective that cares about the social conditions of the community. Every
    Friday, Townhouse holds workshops for working children who often work most of
    the week to support their families and receive little education. The Friday
    workshops allow children to explore their creative side and interact with
    peers.

    Every Saturday, Townhouse holds workshops sponsored by
    SAWA in the Factory Space which are open to anyone looking to explore individual
    artistic interests. Sometimes there is a set theme, and some raw materials like
    flexible wire and charcoal are supplied for free. Most of the time, there’s
    just loads of paper, pencil and paints for free use. Even some famous local
    artists show up at the workshops; creating a very positive environment for both
    the established and the amateur artist. Participating in Townhouse’s SAWA
    workshops is a great way to become acquainted with the Cairene art community.

    Located in a busy quarter off Champollion Street, Townhouse stands at
    the intersection of two small side streets. If walking on Champollion Street away from Tahrir Square, take
    the right before the kofta eatery Abu Khaled. Ahead, there’s Ahwa Taka’eeba, a street café serving
    shisha, juice and tea. Walk past the ahwa; and you’ll see the Townhouse Gallery
    sign.

    Although there has some harsh criticism about the
    originality of some of its exhibits, Townhouse Gallery has successfully influenced
    the way art is represented in Cairo,
    and continues to keep the Capital on the pulse of the contemporary international
    art community.

    Stay plugged in to Cairo 360 for events, reviews and news at
    Townhouse.

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