On the Giza Plateau in Egypt, the third edition of the ambitious contemporary art initiative, Forever is Now, has launched. This year’s programme includes a series of imposing sculptures and installations conceived by 14 artists from the region and around the world, including Rashed Al Shashai, Stephan Breuer, Azza Al Qubaisi, and JR, among others. The works engage in dialogue with the iconic Pyramids of Giza and the rich cultural legacy of the UNESCO World Heritage site.
Organised by the contemporary arts platform CulturVator – Art D’Égypte, the exhibition delves into connections between tradition, spirituality, and technology. On view until 18 November 2023, the programme underlines the enduring influence of Egyptian history on artistic imagination. To learn more about the initiative, as well as Egypt’s growing contemporary art scene, Something Curated spoke with its founder, Cairo-based art consultant and curator, Nadine Abdel Ghaffar.
Something Curated: What inspired you to launch Forever is Now?
Nadine Abdel Ghaffar: When I was working as an art advisor, I started to consider Egypt’s place in the contemporary art world and how to raise the country’s often overlooked status as a centre for contemporary art on a global scale. I began to ask questions about the context in which we view art. Why should art travel to the people to be viewed within the confines of a white box? What if instead people travelled to the art to experience it with in a historical context? This is the foundation from which my firm Art D’Egypte first started hosting exhibitions of 21st century works at historic Egyptian locations that connected with the country’s cultural heritage.
In 2017, we held our first exhibition Eternal Light at The Egyptian Museum, which was followed by Nothing Vanishes, Everything Transforms in 2018 at the Manial Palace and Reimagined Narratives at al-Mu’izz Street in 2019. When I got the idea to extend our reach internationally, I knew we had to stage an exhibition amongst the monumental presence of the Pyramids of Giza, one of the most mesmerising historical sites and a centre of tourism for people all around the world. The idea for Forever is Now was born and the vision came to fruition in 2021 with the launch of its first edition. Now in its third year, we’ve hosted a total of six very successful iterations.
SC: Can you tell us about the programme’s 3rd edition — how did you approach selecting the artists and works included this year?
NAG: This year’s programme is the most ambitious yet, displaying a total of 14 artists from twelve different countries. Focused around the concept of ‘play,’ the edition includes interactive sculptural artworks that allow viewers to control the outcome of each piece. Forever is Now 03 has strong elements of engagement, directly involving the viewer and inserting them into the dialogue between the artists and the pyramids.
SC: Could you expand on the significance of the site on which the exhibition takes place?
NAG: With Forever is Now I wanted to give the public the opportunity to view art in a historical context while also making the experience as approachable as possible. In placing the art in front of pyramids, a public space, I knew it would take away the intimidation factor that can often accompany the viewing of contemporary art.
SC: And on a broader note, how have you observed the contemporary art scene evolve in Egypt over the recent years?
NAG: We’ve seen a lot of attention come to the contemporary art scene in Egypt since the launch of Forever is Nowand our efforts to bring public exhibitions throughout the region. There are so many amazing Egyptian artists and galleries really working to benefit contemporary art and build the profile of the country.
Through our firm and consultancy Art D’Egypte – Culturvator, the presenting organisations of Forever is Now, we’ve witnessed a receptiveness and openness from audiences for more accessible and democratised art experiences in the region, along with significant opportunities to evolve and expand the contemporary art scene.
In recent years, the heart of downtown Cairo has become one of the most prominent centres of art and creativity in Egypt and a destination for art lovers, collectors and enthusiasts. This October, we launched our third edition of CIAD in this area, which stages individual and group exhibitions in four locations across downtown Cairo.
Feature image: Rashed Al Shashai, Translucent Pyramid, 2023. Photo: Walaa Al Shaer. Courtesy CulturVator – Art D’Égypte