Iconic City: it’s the turn of Cairo

Following the success of last year Iconic City: Brilliant Beirut, this year brings an exhibition dedicated to Cairo. ‘Iconic City: Cairo Now! City Incomplete’ inspiration from the Egyptian capital’s host of red brick buildings in varying stages of completion, aiming to gauge the current mood of the city’s creative scene. Mohamed El Shahed (curator of the British Museum’s Modern Egypt Project, Cairo-based architect, independent researcher and writer for the Cairobserver), curates what will be a multidisciplinary presentation conducted by young entrepreneurs, aspiring artists and graphic designers, alongside veteran design practitioners.

“Design education is not a thing here”, explains the curator “and Cairo’s creative economy has no established meeting point, network, national design event or marketing platform. Most of the young designers I’ve chosen to champion won’t ever have met each other.” The contemporary talent he has sourced is impressive in terms of range and quality, but as the title of his show ‘Cairo Now! City Incomplete’ suggests, it is unstructured and its potential largely untapped.

The exhibition begins with a literal interpretation of the title’s theme –the city’s continuous expansion into the desert with partly realized satellite cities and speculative urbanism where buildings are often left incomplete to avoid taxation.
Furniture on display is a contemporary take on those everyday objects that no doubt will make their way into Elshahed’s collection for the British Museum.

Elshahed’s selection also demonstrates a keen eye for graphics. He’s effusive about design collectives Tombokka and Cairopolitan who have been busy branding Cairo by turning the city’s metro sign, taxi logos and the humble Rivo aspirin into cushion covers, T-shirts, plates and tote bags.  Valerie Arif’s metro map and Khtoot Wust El Balad’s typefaces, inspired by the shop signs of Downtown Cairo, further celebrate the visual language that tells the story of Cairo Now.