CULTURE

Egyptian Faiyum and sculpture

The two exhibitions which President of the Republic Costis Stephanopoulos and Egypt’s first lady, Suzanne Mubarak, opened at the Athens Concert Hall recently offer a good opportunity to become acquainted with ancient Egypt. The first exhibition, held in the Concert Hall’s foyer on the ground floor, consists of some strikingly beautiful Faiyum portraits on sarcophagi (Faiyum is a style of portrait painting examples of which have been found mainly in the province of Faiyum), sculptures and jewelry, all on loan from the Archaeological Museum of Cairo, as Christos Lambrakis, president of the Athens Concert Hall, pointed out at the opening. Minister of Culture Evangelos Venizelos referred to the longstanding collaboration between the two countries on cultural matters. «Whenever we have requested anything from Egypt, the response from its museums and other institutions has always been very generous. Greece has been equally generous to Egypt, especially in her contribution to the revival of the library in Alexandria.» Dr Handoussa Ahmed Tohfa, Egyptian archaeologist from the Archaeological Museum of Cairo, provided further information on the Faiyum portraits. «Andre Malreau pointed out the lasting quality of the Faiyum paintings when he stated that they shine throughout the centuries. In fact, they are part of Egyptian burial customs. Ancient Egyptians believed that imprinting the details of a dead person’s face and mummifying the body was crucial to the soul’s rebirth.» The exhibition, organized by art critic Efi Andreadi, does justice to the lively colors, representative personalities and striking gazes of the Faiyum paintings. «People often wonder whether the Faiyum paintings are Egyptian, Greek or Roman. The answer is that they were found in Egypt, while their technique is Greek and the jewelry and hair styles they depict are a direct reference to the Roman civilization,» said Suzanne Mubarak in her speech at the opening. The remaining pieces in the exhibit, gold necklaces, bracelets, busts of kings and statuettes, among others, are of high quality as well, something that also applies to the exhibition’s layout: Visitors are more likely to feel that they are visiting a museum rather than the foyer of a concert hall. The second exhibition, «The New Valley of the Nile,» is on display on the first-floor landing. The photographs depict unknown necropolises, as well as striking landscapes of the Libyan Desert and its oases and are accompanied by explanatory texts. Further information is provided about a major project to rejuvenate the Nile basin by channeling water from Lake Nasser. The project, initiated by the Egyptian government, is called «The New Valley.» If completed, a great boost will be given to an area that, despite its early fertility, is currently threatened by drought. Both exhibitions run to July 15 and admission is 6 euros (3 euros for students). Both shows are open every day from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and catalogs, in Greek, are also available. Athens Concert Hall, 1 Kokkali & Vas. Sofias, tel 210.728.2000.