The exhibition “When Arts Become Liberty: The Egyptian Surrealists (1938–1965),” curated by Salah Hassan,1 Hoor Al Qasimi, Ehab Ellaban, and Nagla Samir, focused on a specific thread of modernist art in Egypt from the 1930s to the 1960s. Held at the Palace of Arts in Cairo and sponsored by the Sharjah Art Foundation (Fig. 2), the exhibition worked to situate Egyptian surrealist practices within global discourses and nationalist politics while also suggesting an afterlife in more contemporary works through the 1990s.

Egyptian surrealism formed with a 1938 statement—titled “Long Live Degenerate Art!”—issued against the rise of European fascism and censorship and connecting to the international circles of the Surrealist movements. The Art and Liberty Group (Jama'at al-Fann wa al-Hurriyyah), at the center of this exhibition, was made up of...

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