Townhouse Gallery of Contemporary Art: ‘The Popular Show’ Exhibition
Contemporary art institutions are often known for their practiced exclusivity
concerning the constant question of what art is. Located in Downtown Cairo, Townhouse
Gallery of Contemporary Art has responded to this common criticism with an
experimental exhibition called ‘The Popular Show’.
The concept behind
the exhibition was not only to counter this exclusivity; but also to offer the public
an opportunity to openly present any of their works within a well-known contemporary
art context. Acceptable submissions included art objects, regardless of their
medium, quantity and duration; as well as alternative forms of contribution
including statements, public performances and text.
Not only does this
allow the artists to wholly determine the content of the show; but it also
garners a variety of art in general. It sets aside moot distinctions, which are
usually incorporated into exhibitions and the discursive space of art itself.
Because of this, the experiment allows the public to define the gallery space
by both participation and collection. Furthermore, it presents the opportunity
for both professional and non-professional art appreciators to see what individuals
around Cairo are creating and what might be in store for the future of Cairo’s
contemporary art scene.
On March 6th,
the exhibition opened to a more-than-full house. Right away, it was easy to see that the show was
appropriately named. By popular choice, the definition of both art and the
exhibition were given to the people and an exciting energy filled the air. It was a new and exciting experience for many Cairenes who had never had the chance to display their artwork before.
The submitted works of 134 apsiring local artists fill three rooms from floor to ceiling. From a
viewer’s perspective, the exhibition is quite overwhelming; not only due to the
vast quantity of pieces present but also to the chaotic variation of
medium, style and experience.
However, there are a
few pieces to watch out for. In the back room, two large ink sketches come
framed on parchment paper. Created by Osama Abdel Moneim, the sketches embody space
and activity in a social setting. In the same area, revolutionary-inspired art includes
a series of cool graphic, glass pieces; depicting Mubarak simply as an echo of
Ben Ali. Head to the next room where you can catch a set of small black and
white lithographs embodying a sweet and tender story. On the wall perpendicular
to that, Ezzat Abdel Aziz’s nightscape piece is impressive.
In its entirety, the
exhibition’s experimental basis was just that; an experiment. With no clear
guidelines or conceptualization behind the collected pieces, cohesion was
non-existent where an unfurling mess was unfortunately present. Fortunately for
those participating, though; the openness of Townhouse and the local art
community alike aided in the success of the show.