Wael Shawky (b.1971, Egypt)

One of the most powerful and urgent voices to emerge from the Middle East in the last decade, Wael Shawky explores systems of belief and reinterprets faith, myth and history through the lens of the modern media. Based on extensive periods of research and enquiry, Wael Shawky’s work tackles notions of national, religious and artistic identity through film, performance and storytelling. Whether instructing Bedouin children to act out the construction of an airport runway in the desert or organizing a heavy metal concert in a remote Egyptian village, Shawky frames contemporary culture through the lens of historical tradition and vice versa. Mixing truth and fiction, childlike wonder and spiritual doctrine, Shawky has staged epic recreations of the medieval clashes between Muslims and Christians in his trilogy of puppet animations – titled Cabaret Crusades: The Horror Show Files (2010), The Path to Cairo (2012) and The Secrets of Karbala (2014) – while his two part film, Al Araba Al Madfuna (2013), uses child actors to recount poetic myths, paying homage, rather than mere lip-service, to the important narratives of yesteryear. Shawky was born in Alexandria where he lives and works.

Wael Shawky has exhibited extensively around the world. Recent solo exhibitions include Serpentine Galleries, London (2013-14); KW Contemporary Art Institute, Berlin (2012); Nottingham Contemporary (2011);Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (2011);Delfina Foundation, London (2011) and Cittadellarte – Fondazione Pistoletto, Biella (2010). He has participated in the 11th Sharjah Biennial (2013); Documenta 13,Kassel, (2012); the ninth Gwangju Biennial, (2012); SITE Santa Fe Biennial (2008); Istanbul Biennial (2005); and the 50th Venice Biennale (2003).

Recent awards include the Award for Filmic Oeuvre created by Louis Vuitton and Kino der Kunst (2013); the Abraaj Capital Art
Prize (2012), the Schering Foundation Art Award (2011), as well as The International Commissioning Grant and an award from the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, in 2005. Shawky founded the educational space MASS Alexandria in 2010 and is represented by Sfeir-Semler Gallery in Beirut and Hamburg.

Shawky, Wael b.1971

related artists / Egypt / Middle East