‘Cairo’ New Museum, New York
“Museum as Hub: Antikhana”
The concept of neighborhood in Cairo stretches far beyond a simple geographical designation on the city map. Cairo’s neighborhoods are urban structures that have incorporated the specific characteristics of their inhabitants in their identities. Nestled in the heart of downtown Cairo, the Townhouse Gallery of Contemporary Art shares its most immediate surroundings with the neglected nineteenth-century Said Halim’s Palace, numerous car mechanics’ garages, coffee shops, greengrocers, and carpenters. Downtown Cairo amalgamates architectural patterns of various eras, modifying and sometimes obscuring their original characteristics. Despite the urban disorder, this incongruity of styles and histories pave the way for an unusual and intriguing mixture of identity.
Throughout the years, this neighborhood called Antikhana has experienced a symbiotic coexistence between artists, writers, intellectuals, and conservative male workers from the “lanes,” the streets surrounding the Townhouse Gallery. In their works, artists Susan Hefuna, Ayman Ramadan, Jan Rothuizen, and Tarek Zaki capture this fusion of different historical eras, architectures, and inhabitants by using physical objects and the actual surroundings of the neighborhood. They integrate individuals, research different aspects of the social structure, and reload the trivial situations of everyday life with deeper meanings. The artists look at the neighborhood as a symbol, a microcosm of Egyptian society with its inherent contradictions. They act consciously as mediators between the obvious and subliminal perceptions of more profound social meanings.