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An Exhibition at Egypt’s Pyramids of Giza Reframes a Historical Space

A new exhibition unfolding at Egypt’s Pyramids of Giza reframes the historic site, as a place where not only history but also contemporaneity is reflected; as a site where individuals can also see themselves and their communities. The show, titled “Forever Is Now,” marks the third iteration of the exhibition and features site-specific installations by 14 international and regional artists. Each artist, through their individual practice, investigates Egyptian heritage in tandem with topics of today, such as renewable energy and artificial intelligence, pointing towards how the past continually informs the present and future.

“Each and every artwork has a diverse message,” says Nadine Abdel Ghaffer, founder of Art D’Egypte by Culturvator, the organization hosting the show. But despite each artist’s unique approach, with the show, “people can see the line between the antiquity and the contemporary,” she continues.

One work takes the shape of a 4.2-meter-tall plinth arising from the sand, its laminated solar glass awash in an ombre of reds, yellows, and off whites. Titled RA (all works mentioned 2023) and created by the Dutch artist Sabine Marcelis, the sculpture is rooted in concepts surrounding the sun. Specifically, it references the fact that the sundial was invented in Egypt and ancient Egyptian reverence for the sun god, Ra. Yet at the same time, it is crafted from a material that could be used to change the world: solar glass harnesses the sun’s energy and transforms it into power. Imagine a city in which skyscrapers generated enough energy to be self-sufficient thanks to the glass used in their windows.

Meditation on Light by Dionysios, meanwhile, merges with the landscape so successfully that a visitor might miss it—and that’s precisely the point. For the 8-by-4-meter ground installation, the Greek artist cast leaves in bronze and plated them with gold; in the dessert, they’re placed atop linen and a wood base, blending into the surrounding golden sand and reflecting the sunlight. Although the shape of the leaves’ installation might seem intuitive, it was, in fact, created by artificial intelligence: Dionysios prompted an AI to create a visual interpretation of prayers on light, stripped of ideological references, proposing the final artwork as a conduit to commune with the gods.

Other standout works include an iteration of French artist JR’s ongoing series Inside Out Giza 2022/2023, featuring black-and-white poster-size photographic portraits of people living the area; Argentinian artist Pilar Zeta’s Mirror Gate, a geometric gate constructed from materials like stone and mirrored glass that was inspired by ancient Egyptian mysticism but stands today as a portal between past and present by way of incorporating both natural and artificial materials; and Bahraini artist Rashid Al Khalifa’s Reality is Timeless, featuring 12 golden totems inscribed with patterns inspired by the Tower of Babel and arranged across 18 meters to form a quasi-maze.

With such large-scale works, a primary goal of the exhibition is to democratize art, a particularly meaningful intention in the region, Abdel Ghaffer explains. “We [Egypt] only have one contemporary art museum and it’s been stagnant for a very long time,” she says. “The average person doesn’t get the chance to see contemporary art.”

As such, the works on view around the pyramids are free to visit, and for the duration of the exhibition they become an important part of one of the most-visited tourist sites in the world. As an extension of this mission, Art D’Egypte by Culturvator also launched “If The Walls Could Talk” this year at Cairo’s Salah al-Din Citadel, activating another UNESCO World Heritage Site with contemporary concerns. Part art and design festival, part exhibition, the event invites viewers to consider the hidden narratives inherent to the places we inhabit, the stories within the walls.

“The vision is to always showcase different heritage sites,” Abdel Ghaffer continues. But it’s key that “the story is real,” she explains, “because people are proud to be part of [these events] and the result—the impact on the public and on young people—is what keeps us going.”

Source: Wallpaper