Safar Khan is currently hosting the much-anticipated show by Ganzeer titled “The Virus is Spreading”. As usual Safar Khan had a great turn out at the opening, making Brazil Street in Zamalek look like a party just exploded on it. A few bottles of wine and the authorities would’ve shut down the entire island.
It needs to be said that I have a reverse reaction to any exhibition that people are excited about: The more the buzz about a show, the more skeptical I am about it. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been living here long enough to know that most of us privileged enough to go to art galleries are immensely more excited about the latest cafe than we ever would be about the latest art exhibit. Or maybe I’m just cynical about those who excite easily. In any case, I was sadly proven correct about my hunch with this particular exhibit.
I’m a big fan of Ganzeer- both the art studio and man behind that pseudonym, Mohammad Fahmy. He’s a solid artist and graphic designer- very few can contest that, really. He’s gained a huge following during the 2011 revolution for his scathing anti-SCAF graffiti and soon became a household name for anyone who knew anything about graffiti during that time (which is pretty much every young Egyptian and their mother).
I expected much, much more. It’s because I have been following a lot of Ganzeer’s work that I did- not because my expectations are warped. In fact, what was most disappointing is that MoFa (Fahmy’s other pseudonym. He’s cool like that) has been tweeting and posting these tidbits of images in anticipation of the show. They were brilliant. Sadly, they had a lot more quality of line and interest than most of the images seen in the show itself.
The bottom floor of Safar Khan was interesting. Smock full of imagery, graffiti and writing on the wall, it was a lot to take in. Ganzeer’s recognisable super hero character, a very well-drawn cat, political posters and an excellent full-length portrait of a garbage man holding a spray can leads the way to the main piece in the gallery. That piece happens to be the most intriguing creation by the artist but it was unfortunately censored last minute by the gallery’s owner, Sherwet Shafei, and frankly I can’t say I can blame her. A veiled woman stands naked waist done, vagina bare, with an umbilical cord attached from her to a baby above her head to the right, tangled in the process in a devil-like character, is the image that takes the entire back wall of the gallery. That wall is incidentally the one facing the glass right on the street- making for somewhat problematic situation for anyone associated with the gallery.
Honestly, I’d have thought that MoFa would’ve thought of that potential problem in advance, perhaps taking that piece to the top floor where it would be better concealed but still available for us to see in its entirety. I would have preferred that over anything on that top floor anyway (except for one single painting, which was fun to look at but nothing we haven’t seen before): a shame in and of itself. Nothing on that top floor was original, interesting, technically intriguing or even aesthetically pleasing in the least. It was such a dire shame to have wasted so much space on- Holy moly- a line traced image of the pyramids vista (yes, the pyramids) PRINTED on canvas. Or- another holy moly- painfully bad pseudo calligraphic paintings of the name “Mohammad”. I understand the irony, the kitsch, the commentary being made; but no. Not from this crew, not from Ganzeer.
I guess, knowing who these people are and how they think, I expected a lot more punch in their work. I wanted to leave the gallery reeling from their witty observation, their intricacy of line and their crazy imagery. Particularly when the curator/gallery owner happens to be Mona Shafei, possibly one of the most tolerant, contemporary and supportive of young talent in the city, there was no excuse for, at least, the top floor.
Regardless, it’s worth passing by the gallery to see the bottom floor- surely don’t bother with the stairs. I think that a lot of the drawings deserve a closer look, because although not at its fullest potential, Ganzeer’s super talent can be seen in them.