Events | At ” Centre Pompidou, Paris” – Private Preview – October 19, 2016 – “Art et Liberté: Rupture, Guerre, et Surréalisme en Égypte (1938 – 1948)

AL MASAR GALLERY | Contemporary Art


We are delighted to invite you to the opening of our exhibition

Art et Liberté: Rupture, Guerre, et Surréalisme en Égypte (1938 – 1948)

Wednesday, October 19, 2016 from 18.00 to 20.30

Centre Pompidou

Level 4, Galerie du Musée and Galerie d’Art Graphique

Place Georges-Pompidou, 75004 Paris


Ramses Younane, Untitled, 1939. Oil on canvas. 46.5 x 35.5 cm. Courtesy H. E. Sh. Hassan M. A. Al Thani collection, Doha  



About the Exhibition

Art et Liberté: Rupture, Guerre et Surrealism en Égypte (1938 – 1948) is the first comprehensive museum exhibition of its kind about the Art and Liberty Group (Art et Liberté-jama’at al-fann w’ al-hurriyyah), a collective of surrealist writers and artists living and working in Cairo.

Five years in preparation, the exhibition consolidates the findings of extensive primary research and hundreds of field interviews conducted in Egypt and worldwide. It showcases the work of 36 artists with more than 130 paintings, works on paper, and photographs dating from the late 1920s until the early 1950s. The exhibition equally features more than 150 archival documents, historical photographs, film footage, and primary manuscripts, most of which have never been exhibited before. In reuniting these artworks and documents, drawn from around 50 public and private collections from Egypt and 12 other countries, this historic exhibition charts for the first time a precise chronology and offers an all-encompassing presentation of Art et Liberté.

Founded on December 22, 1938 upon the publication of their manifesto Long Live Degenerate Art, the group provided a restless generation of young artists, writers, intellectuals and political activists, with a heterogeneous platform for cultural and political reform. The exhibition highlights the active role that Art et Liberté played within a complex international and fluid network of surrealists, spanning cities such as Paris, London, Mexico City, New York, Beirut and Tokyo. At the dawn of the Second World War and during Egypt’s colonial rule by the British Empire, Art et Liberté was globally engaged in its defiance of Fascism, Nationalism and Colonialism. 

The exhibition is organized around a number of sections that reflect the thematic concerns and artistic practices of the group. One section, for instance, explores Art et Liberté’s treatment of the human body, responding to the destruction, poverty and prostitution brought by the war. Another, highlights the idea of “Subjective Realism”, the group’s definition of Surrealism that frames it’s differentiated pictorial and literary expression. One section is devoted to photography, illustrating the group’s adoption of techniques dear to the Surrealists such as photomontage and solarisation, and the use of the surrealist photograph to critique nationalism, notably here through the irreverent representation of Ancient Egyptian monuments. To give one more example, one section explores the connections between literature and visual art within the group, and pays tribute to one of its founding figures, the Surrealist writer Georges Henein, who was very close to André Breton until they parted ways in 1948. In addition, the exhibition provides an excursion into the Contemporary Art Group, a collective of artists whose members – some of whom were affiliated with Art et Liberté – are among the most recognized of Egypt’s modern artists. This section reveals, for the first time, that unlike what is commonly known, Art et Liberté did not see this collective as a continuation of their Surrealist practice, but as a mouthpiece for a new form of nationalism.

Through exploring the various themes that permeate the work of Art et Liberté, the exhibition sheds light on the group’s advocacy of the liberation of artists from the confines of geographical boundaries and political propaganda. Through their new definition of Surrealism, a movement they perceived as one in crisis and in need of renewal,  the group sought to achieve a contemporary literary and pictorial language that was as much globally engaged as it was rooted in local artistic and political concerns. Moving beyond the polarizing dichotomies of Saïdian Orientalism and post-colonial discourse, this exhibition sheds light on Art et Liberté’s negotiation of Surrealism, and advocates an inclusive vision of art history.


International Exhibition Tour

Musée national d’art moderne – Centre Pompidou, Paris (France):

20 October 2016 – 16 January 2017

Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid (Spain):

14 February 2017 – 28 May 2017

Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen K21, Düsseldorf (Germany):

15 July 2017 – 15 October 2017

Tate Liverpool, Liverpool (U.K.):

10 November 2017 – 11 March 2018



Academic Monograph 


The exhibition content is based on a 352-page academic monograph on the Art and Liberty Group and Surrealism in Egypt. Published by I.B.Tauris in London, this is the most comprehensive study on the topic to date.

Surrealism in Egypt: Modernism and the Art and Liberty Group
By Sam Bardaouil
I.B.Tauris, London, 2016, 352 pages, 104 illustrations, ISBN 978-1-78453-651-0 


Click here for more information on the I.B.Tauris website  

Exhibition Catalogue

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully-illustrated catalogue in five separate editions.

English Edition

Art et Liberté: Rupture, War and Surrealism in Egypt (1938 – 1948)

Edited by Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath, with a contribution by James Gifford

Skira Editore Milan, 2016, 224 pages, ISBN 978-2-37074-031-1

Arabic Edition

جماعة الفن و الحرية: الإنشقاق و الحرب و السريالية في مصر (١٩٣٨ – ١٩٤٨)

Edited by Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath

Skira Editore Milan, Italy, 2016, 256 pages, ISBN 978-2-37074-049-1

French Edition

Art et Liberté: Rupture, Guerre et Surréalisme en Égypte (1938 – 1948)

Edited by Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath

Skira Editore Milan, Italy, 2016, 256 pages, ISBN 978-2-37074-030-4

German Edition

Art et Liberté: Umbruch, Krieg und Surrealismus in Ägypten (1938 – 1948)

Edited by Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath, with a contribution by Doris Krystof

Skira Editore Milan, 2016, 224 pages, ISBN 978-2-37074-048-9

Spanish Edition

Art et Liberté: Ruptura, Guerra y Surrealismo en Egipto (1938 – 1948)

Edited by Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath

Skira Editore Milan, 2016, 224 pages, ISBN 978-2-37074-049-0