nadin abdel gaffar

interview: the art of egypt/culturvator presents forever is now 03

Two successful editions followed with works by SpY and juniorForever is Now returns to Egypt this year with a third edition runs from October 26 to November 18, 2023. This annual event is the first and only contemporary art exhibition to be held at the Pyramids of Giza, a 4,500-year-old UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the surrounding plateau. Bringing together global artists to reflect on the enduring legacy of one of humanity’s most fascinating and mysterious structures, it traces the continuities of themes that stretch from our ancient past to the present day, while paying tribute to the ingenuity and reflections of human civilization and art.

A former art advisor turned curator, Nadine Abdel Gaffa first launched Forever is Now in 2021, fundamentally changing Egypt’s cultural landscape ever since. Born in Alexandria to French and Egyptian parents, Nadine used her mixed background to launch herself into the art world, starting her journey with a fascination for Alexandria, a city where art, architecture and archeology take center stage. ‘I merged all three three into what was originally Art D’Égypte,she tells designboom in a recent interview.

Greetings from Giza (2021) by JR | image © Hesham Alsaifi

In 2016, Nadine created Egyptian art as a multidisciplinary platform to support Egyptian arts and cultural initiatives. Since 2021, the firm has run the annual Forever is Now exhibition at the Pyramids of Giza, becoming a powerhouse with growing international recognition year on year. The numbers speak for themselves: over a million visitors combined, three million in global reach, 1,800+ international press coverage and one billion organic views. To consolidate and support the expanding initiatives and influence of Art D’Égypte, Nadine founded Culturvator in 2023 as a global consultancy that collaborates with public and private entities to promote culture in various disciplines, including visual arts, film, heritage, design and music. Read on as designboom offers a glimpse into this year’s exciting program and talks to curator Nadine Abdel Ghaffar, who traces her journey on the art scene and reflects on the cultural impacts her initiatives have had and beyond.

nadin abdel gaffar at the launch of forever is now the third edition and democratization of the arts
ORB Under the Same Sun (2022) by SpY | image courtesy of Art D’Égypte/Culturvator

how forever is now the third edition excels

In a recent conversation with designboom, Nadine points out how this year’s edition stands out by emphasizing the concept of “play” to transform the Giza Plateau into a space of randomness, serendipity and experimentation, with interactive sculptural artworks inviting viewers to engage. By becoming creators of their own experience and changing the outcome of each work, visitors blur the line between artist and viewer in a playground of possibilities. ‘This year it’s a more engaging experience, no longer just a dialogue between the artists and the pyramids. Now it is a trilogy between artist, viewer and the ancient place,she shares with us.

Beyond this interactive trilogy, Forever is Now 03 stands out more globally than previous releases. It also unveils a special art and design festival of the second UNESCO– cultural heritage site: Salah al-Din citadel. Taking place between October 22 and November 4, 2023, the festival, titled If The Walls Could Talk, presents yet another example of Art D’Égypte/Culturvator reimagining a historic space through contemporary art and culture. Essentially, If the Walls Could Talk invites the viewer to peel back the layers of time and explore the untold stories woven into the Citadel. Paintings, sculptures and installations take over the historical space, each capturing the hidden essence of these narratives and what lies beneath the surface. In her curatorial statement, Nadine concludes that this year’s edition is all about lookstowards the future while honoring our past and staying rooted in the present.’

nadin abdel gaffar at the launch of forever is now the third edition and democratization of the arts
Inside Out photo booth installation by JR | image © Hesham Alsaifi

In line with the global vision of Art D’Égypte, the festival includes three group exhibitions bringing together more than 50 artists from around the world and the Middle East – namely Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Palestine, Morocco, Qatar , Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia and UAE. Participating artists include Mohammed Abla, Omar Tusun, Gisela Colon, Zhan Boghosyan, eL seedsMohamed Abuelnaga, Christian Pelizzari, Seif El Rashidi, Hamza Bunua, Abdulrahim Sharif, Balqees Fakhro, Adele El Sivy, Suad Abdelrasoul, Mahmoud Obaidi, Diaa Azzawi, Sarvan Baran, Gada AlcandariAbdelrasul Salman, Ayman Baalbaki, Abdul Rahman Katanani, Nabil Anani, Slimane MansourHassan Burkia, Yusef Ahmed, Nasser Al TurkiShrouq Bint Fahad, Khaled El Owais, Salah El Mur, Youssef Abdelke, Bahram Hadju, Khaled Takreti, Abdul Kader Al Rais, Fatma Lutah and more.

nadin abdel gaffar at the launch of forever is now the third edition and democratization of the arts
image © Mo4 Network

the curatorial journey of nadin abdel gaffar

The success behind Art D’Égypte/Culturvator and subsequently Forever is Now comes down to Nadine’s primary vision: connecting ancient Egyptian art with that of the 21st century. ‘The whole idea behind Art D’Egypte when it started was to really show the transcendence that Egyptian artists have with their heritage,she states. This transcendence is materialized with a celebration of modern art and culture among the sites of Egyptian heritage – namely the Pyramids of Giza, Tahrir Square, the Salah al-Din Citadel and the historic Muiz Street in the heart of Cairo.

Her vision of juxtaposing contemporary art with antiques and cultural objects came to life in 2017, igniting the four iterations organized by Art D’Égypte. Although it was met with quizzical looks and shaking heads, the first iteration, Eternal Light (2017), at the Egyptian Museum proved to be a huge success. “Iit was such a great success that we began to gain the trust of the public sector to work together. It evolved into a larger concept: Nothing Disappears, Everything Transforms (2018) at Manial Palace, an entire enclosed space that hosted a much larger exhibition,’ Nadine talks about designboom.

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