The Custodian: Guarding Egypt’s Artistic Legacy with Dr. Ramzi Dalloul and the Dalloul Art Foundation with Dr. Hussam Rashwan

Rima Nasser: We Understand That You Possess A Substantial Collection Of Modern Egyptian Art. Could You Please Explain How Your Passion For Collecting And Preserving This Art Is Intertwined With Your Collaboration With Dr. Ramzi Dalloul And The Dalloul Art Foundation?

DR. Hussam Rashwan: My journey into art collecting began in 1974 when I was 26 years old, having been born in 1948. The serendipitous start to my collection can be attributed to my love for cinema, or as the French say, “cinephile.” In the years 1973-74, I was a member of a cinema club called “Le Club de Film, Alexandria,” which met every Saturday at the Museum of Fine Arts in Alexandria. This exposure to modern Egyptian art while spending Saturdays and other days of the week at the Museum of Fine Arts in Moharram Bek allowed me to meet influential figures like Effat Nagy, Saad Al-Khadem, and various other artists who introduced me to the world of modern Egyptian art.

My encounter with Dr. Ramzi Dalloul took place in Dubai in March 2014 during a dinner organised by Christie’s, where we happened to sit at the same table. Dr. Dalloul introduced himself to me and mentioned his aspiration to build a collection of Arab Art. I advised him that his endeavour should aim for a museum- level collection, distinct from a private one.

The distinction lies in the focus on quality over quantity. I explained to him that when people visit the Louvre, they come to see the finest artworks. Therefore, it’snot about amassing numerous artworks but about acquiring the best, exemplified by pieces like Mahmoud SaÏd’s Les Bains des Chevaux à Rosette.

RN: Collaboration Often Plays A Pivotal Role In Meaningful Preservation Efforts. How Has Your Connection With Dr. Ramzi Dalloul Influenced Your Engagement With The Dalloul Art Foundation, And What Noteworthy Collaborations Have Arisen From This Partnership?

Mahmoud Said Catalogue Raisonné

HR: Certainly, I used to meet Dr. Dalloul twice a year in Dubai, usually during auction events. Additionally, I visited the foundation in Beirut on several occasions. We maintained frequent communication, sometimes even daily over the phone. Dr. Dalloul would seek my guidance on which artworks to acquire, particularly from Sotheby’s and Bonhams. My consistent advice to him was to invest exclusively in the finest works, rather than settling for any piece.

RN: Your Contribution To Preserving The History Of Modern Egyptian Art Is Commendable. Could You Elaborate On Your Collaboration With Dr. Ramzi Dalloul And The Foundation In Furthering The Mission Of Safeguarding This Culturally Rich Heritage?

HR: It’s worth mentioning that I initially met Dr. Dalloul in March 2014, although my recollection suggests it might have been before October 2014. During this collaboration, I assisted in curating a collection of reference books on modern Egyptian art. On one of my visits to Dubai around October 2014 or March 2015, I transported approximately 31 kilogrammes of books for Dr. Dalloul. These books are now housed in Beirut, with some also located in London. Dr. Dalloul would occasionally contact me late at night to discuss the contents of these books, such as insights about Samir Rafeh or Mahmoud SaÏd.

RN: Dr. Basel Dalloul, As The Custodian Of The Dalloul Art Foundation, Plays A Pivotal Role In Art Preservation. How Is Your Connection With Dr. Basel Dalloul Significant In The Context Of Your Collaborative Efforts And The Shared Goal Of Preserving Art And Culture?

Mahmoud Said Catalogue Raisonné

HR: I’d like to express my gratitude to Dr. Dalloul and Basel for their contributions, particularly Dr. Dalloul’s pioneering sponsorship of the catalogue raisonné of Mahmoud SaÏd, which involved a generous $50,000 donation. This catalogue raisonné for Mahmoud SaÏd was the first of its kind in the Middle East and has become a reference work for Mahmoud SaÏd’s art. It not only contributes to preserving his legacy but also aids in distinguishing between genuine and counterfeit artworks. Subsequently, we completed the catalogue raisonné for Abdel Hadi El-Gazzar. We are currently working on another project, the English version of Aimé Azar’s book on modern Egyptian painting, set to be released next year. This comprehensive work spans two substantial volumes, each containing around 600 pages, covering modern Egyptian art up to 1961. We are currently in the process of revising the biographies of approximately 97 different Egyptian artists, and the Dalloul Foundation is providing support for this project.

RN: The Art World Frequently Benefits From The Collaborative Efforts Of Collectors, Scholars, And Foundations. Can You Share Some Memorable Moments Or Achievements Resulting From Your Collaborations And Explain The Significance Of These Accomplishments In Preserving Modern Egyptian Art?

HR: I’m part of a community engaged in reevaluating the collection at the Faculty of Fine Arts, Alexandria University. This evaluation encompasses financialassessment and artwork authentication.

The collection housed at the Faculty of Fine Arts Museum is among Egypt’s most valuable art collections. Since 2018, we have been actively working on this project in collaboration with various scholars.

I have also served as a board member of the Museum of the Faculty of Fine Arts in Zamalek, affiliated with Helwan University. Our contributions have involved authenticating artworks and determining their value.

RN: As A Scholar And Collector, You Straddle Both The Academic And Artistic Worlds. How Does This Unique Perspective Influence Your Role In Preserving Art, And What New Directions Do You See Your Collaborations Taking In The Future?

HR: I believe we have received requests from some of the families of artists to initiate a significant effort, such as the development of catalogues raisonnés and monographs for deceased artists. As a result, several projects are in the works for some of the modern Egyptian artists in Egypt, with my contributions slated for completion by the end of next year.

I have also made contributions to Rawi magazine, particularly in issues related to modern Egyptian art and Egyptian cinema. I’m readily available and have provided assistance to several PhD students working on theses about Modern Egyptian Art, whether they are studying in Egypt or abroad. I’m always willing to help, and anyone seeking contributions or assistance can access materials from our archives.


About Dr. Hussam Rashwan

Dr. Rashwan owns an outstanding collection of Modern Egyptian Art. He is also a scholar who sees his role in preserving the History of Modern Egyptian Art by undertaking and supporting research projects, helping many scholars around the world. He has an impressive collection of priceless literary references related to Modern Egyptian Art.

Being part of Egypt’s academic elite art circle, Dr. Rashwan is in contact with art collectors, leading academics, major institutions and curators. His personal library and his unparalleled knowledge have gained him a reputation in the expertise of Modern Egyptian Art.

Dr. Rashwan contributed to the Mahmoud Saïd monograph compiled by E. Dawestashy in 1997. Along with Dr. M. Mitwally and Dr. M. Shaker, he masterminded the Golden Jubilee Book of the Faculty of Fine Arts, Alexandria. He was also a major contributor to “One Hundred Years of Creativity, 1908-2008”, a commemorative book by the Faculty of Fine Arts, Alexandria. He is also the co-author of Abdel Hadi El-Gazzar catalogue raisonné and currently working with Dr. Amal Nasr on an encyclopaedic monograph of artist Said-El-Adawi.

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