Adam Henein is an artist who is not only committed to his artwork but also to developing the cultural scene in Egypt: he has worked closely with cultural practitioners and decision makers, he led the 1990 restoration of the Giza Sphinx, and he established the annual International Sculpture Symposium in Aswan in 1996. As an artist born into a family of metalworkers immersed in Egyptian antiquities, he nourished his artistic practice by drawing from these inspirations and surroundings. One of the most important sculptors in the contemporary Arab world, Henein’s work is part of Mathaf’s founding collection and his largescale sculpture The Ship is permanently installed in the museum’s piazza. His sculptural works are combinations of the simplicity of lines and mass, as well as symbols of beauty, coherence and purity. In Henein’s work, solid material transforms into lucid, natural and light forms that portray scenes around him.
The selection of works on paper shown in this exhibition date from 1976 to 1985 and were produced when Henein lived in Paris. They show his work as a painter invested in formal experimentation and innovation, employing Egyptian art, ideas and motifs alongside an engagement with twentieth-century European art movements and styles. Works like Birds riff on forms found in both nature and ancient Egyptian art, while others, such as The Ship, are clearly rooted in forms inspired by industry and modernity. In these works on woven paper and papyrus, space, density and perspective are as key for his working process as they are for reformulating the sculptural works for which he is best known. Henein has his own museum, which opened in Cairo in 2014.