cairo

View of “When Art Becomes Liberty: The Egyptian Surrealists (1938–1965),” 2016. Foreground: Abdel Hady El-Weshahy, Man of the Twentieth Century, n.d. Background, from left: Ahmed Morsi, Adam and Eve, 1959; Ahmed Morsi, Artist in Alexandria, 1989; Ahmed Morsi, Elegy of El-Gazzar, 1968.

“When Art Becomes Liberty: The Egyptian Surrealists (1938–1965)”

Palace of Arts

View of “When Art Becomes Liberty: The Egyptian Surrealists (1938–1965),” 2016. Foreground: Abdel Hady El-Weshahy, Man of the Twentieth Century, n.d. Background, from left: Ahmed Morsi, Adam and Eve, 1959; Ahmed Morsi, Artist in Alexandria, 1989; Ahmed Morsi, Elegy of El-Gazzar, 1968.

ON DECEMBER 22, 1938, nearly two years after the Nazi Party organized its infamous “Entartete Kunst” (Degenerate Art) exhibition in Munich, a motley group of writers, literary critics, lawyers, and artists based in Cairo published their historic manifesto, “Long Live Degenerate Art.” Throwing their weight behind beleaguered European modernists who were being “abused and trampled underfoot” by forces of the “new Middle Ages,” this group not only aligned themselves with global antifascism, they proclaimed their faith in the primacy of individual freedom against the onslaught of nationalism in interwar Europe. This, in sum, was the official calling card of the Art and Liberty group. Recognized for its internationalist rhetoric and its identification with André Breton’s Surrealist movement, the group—as a major exhibition this past fall at the Palace of Arts in Cairo, curated by

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