Gypsum Gallery, which operates out of a converted 1920s-era apartment in Cairo’s Garden City neighborhood, was launched in 2013 by curator and gallery director Aleya Hamza to bring the region’s cutting-edge work into the commercial realm.
Hamza, who trained at London’s Goldsmith College, has been affiliated with several other Cairo art institutions, but saw room for a for-profit gallery that would help foster “the progressive and investigative art practices that in the region of the Middle East had been associated with the non-profits,” she says.
The work by Cairo-based artist
that Hamza will present at Art Basel in Basel’s Statements sector is emblematic of her program, which she says is “built on an in-depth engagement with sociopolitical, cultural, and formal questions.”
Called The Subduer, Maamoun’s project stems from a trip to one of the many public notary offices in Egypt. “In these offices, citizens, state functionaries and legal and bureaucratic processes strain on a daily basis to continue functioning with and against each other,” Hamza explains. “In the midst of these tense relationships, or maybe because of them, prayers abound.”
Using her cellphone, Maamoun secretly recorded images of these prayers found in various notary offices, written on “a slew of soiled and aging sheets of paper” and “informally pinned or taped on the walls,” in Hamza’s words. The resulting photographic installation and accompanying publication portrays Maamoun’s “personal story slamming against the bureaucratic machine and its idiosyncrasies,” while also representing “a collective fascination with religious representations,” Hamza says.