Egyptian painting found in cafe after missing for 50 years

A painting by Egyptian artist Abdel Hadi el-Gazzar – whose work helped define a generation of creators after the 1952 revolution – disappeared without a trace in 1971, when it was mistakenly sold after dismantling of the former headquarters of the Ministry of Culture. Just over 50 years later, the painting – titled ‘Inspired by the Lighthouses of the Red Sea’ – has finally been found, sitting unassumingly in a local cafe.

Cafe owner Hisham al-Hawary hung the painting on his walls for eight months before a customer offered to buy it for EGP 2 million. Al-Hawary first found the painting in his father’s warehouse; his father’s company, which specializes in demolition work, salvaged the painting from a wreck some twenty years ago.

When news of the sale came out, the Ministry of Culture issued a warning against its sale. In the statement, they claimed the painting as state property, which represents a crucial part of Egyptian artistic culture. After seeing the statement, al-Hawary contacted the artist’s daughter, Fayrouz el-Gazzar, and expressed his desire to return the painting to its rightful owners. The Ministry of Culture immediately formed a commission to examine the painting and confirmed its authenticity. The painting now sits comfortably in the Egyptian Museum of Modern Art.

Abdel Hadi el-Gazzar was part of the Contemporary Art Group movement, which rejected Western influences in favor of traditional folk art and techniques that emphasized Egyptian identity. El-Gazzar has had his work shown in Egypt, Belgium and Italy, where he officially represented Egypt at the Venice Biennale of 1952, 1956 and 1960.

About Walter Bartholomew

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