Wael Shawky (Egyptian artist, Born 1971)

Wael Shawky (Egyptian artist, Born 1971)

Wael Shawky is an Egyptian artist, was born in Alexandria, Egypt in 1971. He spent his early childhood in Mecca, Saudia Arabia, and returned to Egypt at the age of 13. He is famous for his style of work in which he presents the contemporary world’s practice with an eyepiece of ancient traditions. Wael Shawky art practice is a fusion of fiction, spirituality, reality and childlike wonders that perplexes the audiences. His work holds the ideas of national, religious and artistic style that he presents through storytelling, movies, and performances. He is the most famous artist of the Middle East who not only gained national but as well as international recognition for his extraordinary and tremendous works. He studied at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA, and at Alexandria University, Egypt.

Wael Shawky has staged a trilogy of Puppets and Marionettes “Cabaret Crusades” to describe the medieval clashes between Muslims and Christians and created an epic recreation of these conflicts. The first part of this puppet animation was titled as ”The Horror Flies” and it was presented in 2010, the 2nd was ”The Path of Cairo” presented in 2012 and the last one was ”The Secrets of Karbala” presented in 2014. The last part of this trilogy was inspired by Amin Maalouf’s “the crusades through Arab eyes” by a Lebanese writer. This trilogy was voted as the seventh most significant artwork of the 21st century by “The Guardian”. 

Courtesy of Lisson Gallery

He cast child actors for his trilogy movie “Al Araba Al Madfuna” to describe the poetic tales and myths and pay tribute to the importance of these tales of the past. He gets inspiration for this film from a short story “sunflower” written by Mohammad Mostagab, an Egyptian writer, and his travels of different regions where local people dig tunnels in the search of ancient treasures. He has also received an art award for this trilogy.

His work was presented at the 12th ISTANBUL BIENNIAL, In 2011. During 2013, for SHARJAH BIENNIAL, he created a live performance of Qawwali, where thirty workers mainly from Pakistan performed. He received SHARJAH BIENNIAL prize for his work. 


Serpentine Galleries, in London, held Shawky’s solo exhibition during 2014. In 2016, he had solo shows at AUSTRIA, IN TURIN, ITALY and at the FONDAZIONE MERZ AND CASELLO DI RIVOLI. His work is a part of many public collections, especially The Museum of Modern Art, in New York, the National Gallery OF Canada, in Ottawa, and The Tate Collections, in London.  During 2017 he presented the Arabic Version of SONG OF ROLAND at the opening of der Welt theatre in Hamburg, Germany. This epic installation translates epic French lyrics “La Chanson de Roland” into classic Arabic versions that were performed by twenty-five Fidjeri singers. This is a type of music that was sung by PEARL DIVERS  from the Persian Gulf States, as a custom from the past 800 years.

Wael Shawky, The Song of Roland: The Arabic Version – وائل شوقي، أغنية رولاند: النسخة العربية

Courtesy of Medrar.TV

Wael Shawky is represented by Lisson Gallery and his current work is exhibited at Lisson Gallery, New York. Wael Shawky presented the “Gulf project camp” in 2019 from 13 September to 16 October. He presented this exhibition at Lisson Gallery New York with a mesmerizing installation. Wael turned the art gallery into an epic sculptural environment during The Gulf Project Camp 2019. Besides this, he will present a series of big-scale wood relief work and highly intricate glass sculptures produced in Venice and a collection of ink and oil drawings. The wooden sculptures were made by using ancient woods dated back from 400 and 2000 years. 

The Gulf Project Camp 2019, Wael Shawky

Wael Shawky Art Practice is focused on the architectural significance of politics and history that’s why instead of illustrating an acquainted scene of pilgrims flocking to the religious site he removed all figures and just focused on architecture significance and installed the landscapes with a mysterious and spiritual atmosphere with the existence of selected creatures from myths.

Shawky is the founder of an art residency program “MASS ALEXANDRIA”, that’s the first independent art studio program in Egypt, for young artists and art students. His work is exhibited widely and he also has many solo exhibitions and also participated in many significant international art exhibitions “Sharjah Biennial”,” Documenta 13” and “Istanbul Biennial”. He is also the winner of many art awards including Ernst Schering Foundation Art Award in 2011, award for Filmic Oeuvre in 2013, the Abraaj Capital Art prize in 2012, in 2005, The International Commissioning Grant and an art award from Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and during 2015 received 1st Mario Merz Prize

He is currently living at Mathaf, and partnering with Fire station, in DOHA,  he conducted his research there, for his first full-length feature film on PERSIAN GULF’S OIL production history. In 2018, he started working on filming for this project. One the most celebrated artist in Egypt is wale Shawky and his works of art deserve all this respect and recognition, an art form which is filled with the richness of history and other elements of life and philosophy.

Wael Shawky

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