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Nadine Abdelghaffar Shares the Inner Workings of Art D'Egypte


Cairo is set to take center stage later this month when the city holds the second edition of “Forever is Now,” the contemporary art exhibition organized by art-promoting firm Art D’Egypte. Egypt has long exported art and culture to the world, and this exhibition aims to bring the world to Egypt through art.

While it has achieved many incredible feats since its inception, Art D’Egypte’s most iconic milestone remains “Forever is Now.” Staged against the backdrop of the Giza pyramids in late October 2021, the extravagant contemporary art exhibition was the first of its kind at the 4,500-year-old UNESCO World Heritage Site. It showcased mind-bending, large-scale installations by 10 Egyptian and international artists. In its effort to democratize art, the 4-week exhibition offered free entry, admitting more than 500,000 visitors from all walks of life. It received staggering publicity, getting ink from over 900 local and international media outlets and reaching over 2 billion people online. After achieving smashing success in its first edition, “Forever is Now” is returning to the Giza necropolis for a second from the 27th of October to the 30th of November.

The founder of Art D’Egypte, Nadine Abdelghaffar, was born in Alexandria and spent time around avid art collectors. She entered the art world professionally in 2010 as a consultant and curator. Six years later, Abdelghaffar launched Art D’Egypte, a firm born of a desire to support the Egyptian arts and culture scene. We had a chat with the art aficionado and entrepreneur to learn about her journey and the magical workings of Art D’Egypte.

Photo: Courtesy of Alexander Ponomarev/MO4 Network

Tell us a little bit about your beginnings. What were the experiences that led you here? 

Born in Alexandria, I was lucky enough to be close to art collectors like Hussam Rashwan, co-author of the painter Mahmoud Said catalogue raisonné, and Alexandrian architect Mohammed Awad, who is renowned for his work in the field of protection of Alexandrian heritage. I also grew up surrounded by many inspirational figures such as the family of the late Mohamed Nagui and his sister Effat, the iconic modern Egyptian artists.

My career as an art curator and consultant began in 2010. In 2017 I curated one of the most special projects to me, “Eternal Light”. This was the first contemporary art exhibition held at the Egyptian Museum. That’s when I discovered my passion and realized that I would like to turn my passion into a successful career. 

How was the idea for Art D’Egypte conceived?

Art D’Egypte was developed to support the International and Egyptian arts and culture scene. The company provides art consultancy to institutions, corporations and private collectors. It also offers curatorial services to public spaces and private entities. The aim is to support young artists and artists with scarce funds to display and publish their work. Cataloging Egypt’s modern and contemporary art heritage is a further goal of the company, achieved through the development of documentaries on modern Egyptian artists.

Art D’Egypte also hosts annual exhibitions that showcase contemporary art at eminent heritage sites, linking Egypt’s rich past to its creative present. Art D’Égypte’s first exhibition, “Eternal Light”, occupied the Egyptian Museum in 2017. It was followed by “Nothing Vanishes, Everything Transforms,” which took over the Manial Palace in 2018. In 2019, “Reimagined Narratives,” our third annual exhibition, was on view at four historic locations along Al-Mu’izz Street in the UNESCO world-heritage site of Historic Cairo. Lastly, the fourth exhibition, “Forever Is Now,” was the first International art exhibition at the Great Pyramids of Giza.

Photo: Courtesy of MO4 Network

What did it take to bring such a novel initiative of such a massive scale to life?

I would say that the key to Art D’Egypte’s success is simply the force of a passionate and dedicated team which I am proud to be part of, in addition to consistency and hard work. All of these factors combined have enabled us to reach milestones that were once just dreams.

Tell us about a moment or milestone along this journey that you cherish.

The greatest milestone that Art D’Egypte has reached is “Forever Is Now,” the first international art exhibition held at the Pyramids of Giza. It brought together the work of global artists for a one-of-a-kind opportunity to contemplate the wonders of an ancient civilization through the eyes of today’s artists. The event saw more than 500,000 visitors. 200 VIP guests flew in from around the world to attend the opening despite travel restrictions. Art students volunteered to give guides and work closely with artists. And we renovated numerous horse carriages and donated light fixtures to the heritage site.

How do you like to spend your time when you’re not working?

As a true Alexandrian, I love the sea and spend most of my free time swimming.

Who are some of your favorite artists?

I think all artists are special in their own way.

Photo: Courtesy of Hesham El Sayfi

How are the artists behind Art D’Egypte’s exhibitions picked?

The artists are selected by Art D’Egypte’s own curatorial team.

How do you think Art D’Egypte has influenced the culture around art in Egypt?

During the preparation period of our third exhibition, Reimagined Narratives, we were able to convince the government officials to place contemporary art pieces inside the Qualaoun Mosque. The idea of placing contemporary art pieces inside a historical mosque was unheard of before this moment. After the exhibition, the museum director asked us to donate the artwork. By democratizing art and making it accessible to everyone, we use art as a soft power to change people’s mentality.

How has Art D’Egypte contributed to the international recognition of Egyptian art?

Art D’Egypte’s main goal is to promote Egyptian art on an International level by participating in International art fairs such as Art Genève and Abu Dhabi Art.

Having international artists participate in our annual exhibitions along with Egyptian artists creates cross-cultural promotion. Last edition was the first year we included international artists and it was a great success. The exhibition was visited by more than 500,000 people and was shown across over 800 international and local media.

How do you think Egypt’s art scene has evolved over the past years and where do you think its future is headed?

I see great evolution in the art scene compared to the previous years. People are starting to believe in the role of soft power as well as the roles that art and culture play in our society. I believe the more we raise awareness about art, the more we create meaningful initiatives.

Photo: Courtesy of Hesham El Sayfi

What future plans do you have in store for Art D’Egypte?

Following the success of Forever is Now, last year’s first international showcase at the Pyramids of Giza, which was received with overwhelming acclaim, Art D’Égypte once again turns to artists to translate the wonders of history in the language of the present by launching a second edition. The exhibition will be open to the public from 27 October till 30 November.

We’ve also launched our global brand Culturvator, an international cultural platform where we can apply our successful work in other countries around the world by taking on international projects and creating strong cultural pairing.

Art D’Egypte has ventured into non-visual arts with multi-disciplinary exhibitions and projects like “Theatre of Cultural Values.” Do you see it delving further into other types of art, such as the performing, literary, or culinary arts?

Culturvator and Art D’Egypte are true advocates of any form of cultural expression. As a result, we have received the patronage of UNESCO under the 2005 convention of “Protection and Promotion Diversity of Cultural Expression.”