Fathi Hassan’s Shifting Sands: An Egyptian-Nubian artist’s odyssey at a London gallery

This year’s London Gallery Weekend features a highlight exhibition at Frieze’s No. 9 Cork Street galleryFathi Hassan: Shifting Sands, by Egyptian-Nubian artist Fathi Hassan. The exhibition runs until Saturday 15 June 2024.

This exhibition, organised by The Sunderland Collection, which features rare antique world and celestial maps, promises to captivate attendees.

Fathi Hassan, born in Cairo in 1957, gained prominence in the 1980s. In 1988, he became one of the first artists of African descent to be featured at the Venice Art Biennale.

After moving from Egypt in his early twenties to study at the Naples Art School, Hassan spent many years in Italy. Now based in Edinburgh, he works across various media, including photography, painting, drawing, and installation.

Hassan graduated from the Naples Art School in 1984 and became an active figure in an avant-garde art scene that attracted international artists such as Joseph Beuys, Andy Warhol, and Hermann Nitsch.

This period of political and artistic upheaval, along with a vibrant dance-music scene, deeply influenced his work. Hassan exhibited many of these figures, challenging traditional notions of high art in ways that continue to influence his practice.

His artistic growth was also shaped by his work as an actor and set designer for screen and stage.

Beth Greenacre, curator of The Sunderland Collection’s Art Programme, reflects on her collaboration with Fathi for his current exhibition: “Throughout his practice, Fathi Hassan explores the space between meaning, memory, and symbolism.

“In this new body of work, his own multicultural history and diasporic identity find a home in response to the cartographic treasures of The Sunderland Collection.

“I am thrilled to be working alongside such a remarkable artist and to have stepped into his pluralistic world as he continues to mine the collective memory and oral traditions of lost territories at a pivotal moment in the evolution of his career.”

While working with The Sunderland Collection, Hassan created art that explores the sharing of ideas and cultures around the world, cultural meetings, and his own history. The artwork shown at Frieze is a rich mix of memories, ideas, historical figures, and his unique artistic style.

In his series Trail Blazers, Hassan envisions a space where musicians, writers, entertainers, and scientists converge, their lives and work profoundly impacting global thought and culture.

This series includes figures such as Virginia Woolf, Charlie Chaplin, and Muhammad Ali, as well as ancient icons like Muhammad al-Idrisi and Averroes.

These characters bridge geographies, eras, and identities, interacting within collaged backgrounds made from rare maps in the collection.

This idea of figures defying space and time resonates deeply in Hassan’s work, which aims to transcend spatial and temporal boundaries to connect with his historical past. However, it also suggests figures adrift in unfamiliar times and places.