Khaled Hafez’s artistic approach pulls apart prime dichotomies – modern/traditional, East/West, sacred/profane – to create intercultural iconographies that exceed simplistic analyses of identity.
"Realms of the Hyperreal", a title that references Jean Baudrillard’s simulacrum of signs, brings together major works from three aspects of Hafez’s practice: large-scale painting, video, and installation. In bold canvases, Hafez sets in motion a Pop topology of Pharaonic symbolism and capitalist mythology. Images from fashion advertising and health culture are ‘kidnapped’, in the artist’s words; digitally manipulated, blown-up and inserted into compositions the scale of Ancient Egyptian wall paintings. Signifiers cross time periods as well as cultures, and superheroes find each other across millennia: see the amalgam of the jackal-headed God Anubis and a ripped Superman.
The permeable line between reality and fiction animates the video "Revolution (Liberty, Social Equity, Unity)" (2006), a critical take on the postcolonial rule of Egypt and the false promises of various governments. Three screens represent, via the actions of a freedom fighter, military politics, neoliberal bureaucracy and fundamentalism. The protagonist wields a different tool on each screen – a gun, a hammer and a knife – each of which are recast in the corresponding installation "Contaminated Belief" (2007) into solid copper sculptures, now captured in sleek glass museum vitrines.
Following the Egyptian revolution of 2011, these works take on new significance, demonstrating Hafez’s commitment to the relationship between art and politics, and how one might transform the other. In drawing attention to certain polarities of contemporary life – whether in Egypt, America, or Europe – Hafez’s visual languages seek common artistic ground.
Khaled Hafez (born in 1963) is a visual artist based in Cairo, Egypt. His work has been exhibited at the Venice Biennale (57th, 56th and 55th editions), the 12th Cairo Biennale (2010), Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris, the Hiroshima Museum of Contemporary Art in Japan, and New York’s New Museum, among others. His work is in the public collections of the British Museum and the Saatchi Collection in London, the MuHKA Museum of Art in Belgium, and the Barjeel Art Foundation in Sharjah, UAE. Hafez was the recipient of a Fulbright scholarship in 2005 and a Rockefeller fellowship in 2009.