Wael Shawky

I Am Hymns of the New Temples

The solo exhibition (international museum premiere) I Am Hymns of the New Temples of Egyptian artist Wael Shawky (Alexandria, 1971) will open to the public on Wednesday 17 April 2024, at the Museo di Palazzo Grimani ('Ala Tribuna') in Venice. Curated by Massimo Osanna (General Director of Italy’s National Museums), Andrea Viliani (Co-curator of the programme Pompeii Commitment. Archaeological Matters) and Gabriel Zuchtriegel (General Director of the Archaeological Park of Pompeii), the exhibition is organised in collaboration between the Museo di Palazzo Grimani and the Archaeological Park of Pompeii, and accompanies the artist's participation in the 60th International Art Exhibition La Biennale di Venezia, where Shawky has been invited to represent the Arab Republic of Egypt in the Egypt Pavilion.
The exhibition brings together the filmic work I Am Hymns of the New Temples realised by the artist in 2023 and which, after its premiere at the Archaeological Park of Pompeii, is presented in Venice as an international museum premiere – and a selection of multi-material works and drawings realised by the artist between 2022 and 2024. The exhibition project is conceived as an ideal dialogue between different spaces and times, in which contemporary artworks coexist with the archaeological works and the historical halls of Palazzo Grimani, outlining a path that prospectively leads from the Camaron d'Oro to the so-called Tribuna, also known as the Antiquarium or Camerino delle Antichità, the true fulcrum of the palace and its narration.
A narrator of processes of knowledge and expression, half way between the documentable and the imaginable, Wael Shawky explores the ways in which stories have been written and told and analyses how these have also shaped historical reality. In his works – which mix film, drawing, painting, sculpture, installation, performance and theatrical direction, and which are always the result of research into historical and literary sources – Shawky places us in a position of awareness of the ancient and contemporary narrative mechanisms used to interpret and transmit historical, social and cultural facts and, crossing time and space, evokes a both factual and imaginary dimension of history and society, as if they could never be defined once and for all, or only from one point of view.
Wael Shawky (Alexandria, Egypt, 1971) studied at the University of Alexandria before pursuing a MFA at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, United States. Wael Shawky’s work originates from research and travels taken by the artist in his native country and embraces the most diverse techniques and media: from drawing to sculpture, but mainly film, performance and storytelling. In the artist’s poetics, these techniques are often combined to create a fairy-tale yet real universe, in which elements of traditional Arabic culture and contemporary elements coexist: with a fixed eye on today’s events, the artist undertakes a re-reading of the cultural, religious and artistic characteristics of Middle Eastern history, creating other and fantastic realities that live and thrive in imaginary places.
Famous is his film trilogy Cabaret Crusades - The Horror Show File (2010), The Path to Cairo (2012) and The Secrets of Karbala (2015) - in which ancient puppets and marionettes become the protagonists of the historical medieval crusades, narrated by the artist with the eyes of the Arab historiography and the playful lightness of a children’s fable. Important solo exhibitions have been dedicated to the artist by museums and international institutions including M Leuven Museum, Brussels, Belgium; The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Fort Worth, TX, USA; The Louvre Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi, UAE; The Polygon, Vancouver, Canada; ARoS Museum, Aarhus, Denmark; Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Rivoli - Torino, Italy; Fondazione Merz, Turin, Italy; Kunsthalle Bregenz, Bregenz, Austria; Mathaf, Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha, Qatar; MoMA PS1, New York, USA; MACBA, Barcelona, Spain; K20, Beirut, Lebanon; Sharjah Art Foundation, Sharjah, UAE; The Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, USA; Kunst-Werke, Berlin, Germany; Cittadellarte-Fondazione Pistoletto, Biella, Italy; Kunsthalle Winterthur, Winterthur, Switzerland.


Wednesday, April 17, 2024 to Sunday, June 30, 2024
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Paid admission