Wael Shawky Egypt, b. 1971


Wael Shawky (b. 1971, Alexandria), one of the most important contemporary artists in the Middle East, has presented works with narratives where fact and fiction intermingle through a variety of media including drawings, paintings, and installations, with a focus on films. Reinterpreting existing historical narratives, the artist has addressed concepts regarding artistic, religious, and transnational identities based on extensive research and investigation on history and mythology. Shawky’s films turn a broad range of themes and abstruse issues into fascinating epic poems. In addition to providing profound reflections on history and tradition, the lyrical visual language that he uses serves to translate the history of the Arabs and the Middle East, which have become fixed through a Western perspective, into contemporary narratives. However, the message conveyed by the artist is not based on a perspective biased toward any one world but points in the direction of healing that encompasses both worlds. Shawky, who beautifully unravels narratives of historical contradictions and pain, has the power to console the present through his works and wish for a new beginning for the human race in the present and the future alike.


Wael Shawky currently divides his time between Alexandria, Egypt and Philadephia, USA and studied Fine Art at the University of Alexandria and at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. His major recent solo exhibitions have been held at venues including the Castello di Rivoli, Turin (2016); Fondazione Merz (2016), Turin; MoMA PS1, New York (2015); Serpentine Galleries, London (2013-14); and KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin (2012). His major recent group exhibitions include the 14th/9th Istanbul Biennial (2015, 2005), 11th Sharjah Biennial (2013), 13th Documenta (Kassel, 2012), 9th Gwangju Biennale (2012), and 50th Venice Biennale (2003). Since 2015, Shawky has established MASS Alexandria, an educational program in his hometown to provide support to local young artists.