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surrealism in egypt
changing the surrealist game

Every so often, an exhibition comes along that somehow changes the artistic landscape. Not just in terms of its subject matter, or the ways in which it handles the presentation of the material and works involved. What makes such shows stand out is the repositioning of connections and context that they orchestrate, assembling arguments that force us to reassess our understanding and interpretation of particular chapters in art or in history.

One such exhibition is Art et Liberté: Rupture, War and Surrealism in Egypt (1938-1948), which opened in Paris at the Centre Pompidou last month and tours subsequently to Madrid, Düsseldorf and Liverpool. Curated by Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath, who set up Art Reoriented in 2009 and have since made their mark through artfully crafted shows and projects, Art et Liberté continues the duo's impressive track record for refreshing minds and reappraising perceptions of subjects we thought we already knew well. Think the iconic Tea with Nefertiti show at Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art in 2012-13, and Songs of Loss and Songs of Love: Oum Kulthoum and Lee Nan-Young at Gwangju Museum of Art in 2014.

Bardaouil and Fellrath - Sam & Till, as they are more usually known (or even by the combo "Still") - have now turned their attention to Surrealism, with impressive and far-reaching consequences. Billed as the first comprehensive museum exhibition about the Art and Liberty Group, a Surrealist collective of writers and artists living and working in Cairo during the decade spanning the Second World War, their latest show is ambitious both in terms of scope and message. It presents not only a...

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