* Verse from "Elegy for the Mediterranean Sea", written by Ahmed Morsi and translated from Arabic.
"Portrait of the Artist with a Broken Mirror" (1970), 81 x 124 cm - Barjeel Art Foundation Collection.
Ahmed Morsi is a modern and contemporary Egyptian artist, poet and art critic.
Ahmed Morsi was born in Alexandria, Egypt in 1930. In 1954, he graduated from the University of Alexandria, Faculty of Arts with a major in English Literature. During the years 1952-53, he studied art in the studio of Silvio Becchi, son of Italian master Otorino Becchi, in Alexandria. Early on, Ahmed Morsi was initiated into Alexandria’s literary society as well as the city’s very own rising group of artists. By his early twenties, he was participating in group shows with Egypt’s most notable modern artists, including A Al Gazzar, H El Telmisani, I Massouda, F Kamel, H Nada and M Moussa. His last studio in his birth city was at the Alexandria Atelier and he was one of the few handpicked artist selected to exhibit at the opening of the city’s Museum of Fine Arts. Morsi was also writing poetry and developing this talent in parallel with his painting and in 1949, he published his first Diwan, “Songs of the Temples / Steps in Darkness” at the age of 19.
He moved to Baghdad, Iraq in 1955, where he taught English to supplement his two-year stay, but primarily to sever his dependence on his beloved city, Alexandria and its influence on him. This was a time of a cultural renaissance in Iraq, when Baghdad was a center for the literati, the artists and the intellectuals. It was in Baghdad that he developed a friendship and a working relationship with several Iraqi writers and painters, among them Abdel Wahab Al Bayati, Fuad Al Takarli and Ardash Kakavian; and these relationships continued to produce noteworthy creative cooperation as well as life-long friendships throughout the coming decades. It was also in Baghdad where the artist developed his talent for art criticism and was invited to cover major Baghdadi exhibitions for local papers.
Returning to Egypt, he moved to Cairo in 1957. In these years, Ahmed Morsi was the first Egyptian to work alongside Egypt’s acclaimed playwrights, Alfred Farag, Abdel Rahman Al Sharkawi, designing stage sets and costumes for The National Theater and the original, Khedieval, Cairo Opera House – art forms that had until then previously been relegated only to Italian designers. He also partnered with Abdel Hadi Al Al Gazzar and co-designed stage sets for “Bury the Dead” by American playwright Irwin Shaw at the Cairo Opera House. Other projects with Al Gazzar included a book of Morsi’s poetry alongside Al Gazzar’s drawings. The book was never published due to Al Gazzar’s untimely passing, however the poetry/drawings live on. In 1968, he co-founded the avant-garde magazine “Gallerie ‘68” with Edwar Al Kharrat, Ibrahim Mansour, Gamil Atteya, Sayed Hegab and others and served as its Editor-in-Chief. This publication immediately became Egypt’s most reputable cultural source as the voice of the new modernism. With these years began the Artist’s journey into the new world of criticism in Egypt, publishing critiques on both art and literature, both of which remaining intimate domains.. He wrote two items for Grand Larousse Encyclopedia (1975); “Art in Egypt” and “Art in Iraq”. Again the pioneer, Ahmed Morsi introduced a new creative vehicle to the art public in Egypt with his 1995 show: “The Artist’s Book”. Following his exhibition, a new Biennial, The Artist’s Book, was created in Alexandria, under the auspices of the Biblioteca Alexandrina.
Though his writings remained prolific, subsequent to 1967, Morsi took a decision to stop writing poetry and only returned in 2001 at the request of his childhood friend Edwar El Kharrat, writing a piece commemorating Kharrat’s 75th birthday. Morsi’s poetry could not be contained any longer and subsequent works culminated in the publication of several new Diwans.
In 1974, Ahmed Morsi moved to New York City, where he continues to paint, write and critique from his Manhattan home. In 1976, like many artists residing in the NYC area, he took up the art of printmaking at The Art Students’ League and added yet another dimension to his creative tools and in the last 20 years, the Artist embraced photography – the last art form to be included in Ahmed Morsi’s extensive palette.
Among the Solo Shows - Egypt
- 1953 First solo show at the University of Alexandria - Alexandria, Egypt
- 1958 Cairo Atelier - Cairo, Egypt
- 1958 Alexandria Museum of Fine Arts - Alexandria, Egypt
- 1959 Cairo Atelier - Cairo, Egypt
- 1960 Alexandria Museum of Fine Arts - Alexandria, Egypt
- 1961 Alexandria Museum of Fine Arts - Alexandria, Egypt
- 1966 Cairo Atelier - Cairo, Egypt
- 1969 Cairo Atelier - Cairo, Egypt
- 1970 Cairo Atelier - Cairo, Egypt
- 1973 Akhnatoun Gallery, Center of Fine Arts (Princess Aisha Museum) - Cairo Egypt
- 1989 Soviet Cultural Center - Alexandria, Egypt
- 1991 “Cavafy Suite”, Mashrabia Gallery - Cairo, Egypt
- 1995 “The Artist’s Book”, Mashrabia Gallery - Cairo, Egypt
- 1996 Akhnatoun Gallery, Center of Fine Arts (Princess Aisha Museum) - Cairo Egypt
- 2003 Akhnatoun Gallery, Center of Fine Arts (Princess Aisha Museum) - Cairo Egypt
- 2005 Akhnatoun Gallery, Center of Fine Arts (Princess Aisha Museum) - Cairo Egypt
- 2012 “Metaphysics”, Gallery Misr - Cairo, Egypt
- 2016 “Ahmed Morsi: A Pure Artist” retrospective , Ofok Gallery (Mahmoud Khalil Museum) - Cairo, Egypt
- 2017 “Ahmed Morsi: You Closed Your Eyes in Order to See the Unseen”, Gypsum Gallery - Cairo, Egypt
Among the Solo Shows - International:
- 1956 Al Wazireyeh Gallery, Society of Iraqi Artists - Baghdad, Iraq
- 1970 The Place Gallery - London, UK
- 1975 Columbia University - NYC, USA
- 1977 Asif Gallery - NYC, USA
- 1985 Alef Gallery - Washington, DC, USA
- 1987 Vorpal Gallery - SoHo. NYC, USA
- 1996 Accademia d’Egitto - Rome, Italy
- 2017 “Ahmed Morsi: A Dialogic Imagination” retrospective, Sharjah Museum - Sharjah, UAE
- 2017 “Ahmed Morsi”, Art Dubai - Dubai, UAE
Among the Group Shows:
- 1954 Inaugural exhibition of the Museum of Fine Arts - Alexandria, Egypt
- 1954 Limited group show with A Al Gazzar, H El Telmisani, I Massouda and M Moussa, Société d`Alliance Française - Alexandria, Egypt
- 1954 First Biennale of Mediterranean Countries, Museum of Fine Arts - Alexandria, Egypt
- 1955 Limited group show with I massouda, H El Telmissani, F Kamel and H Nada, Museum of Modern Art and Cultural Center - Alexandria, Egypt
- 1956 Second Biennale of Mediterranean Countries, Museum of Fine Arts - Alexandria, Egypt
- 1958 Second limited group show with A Al Gazzar, H El Telmissani, I Massouda, F Kamel and M Moussa, Museum of Fine Arts - Alexandria - Egypt
- 1958 Third Biennale of Mediterranean Countries, Museum of Fine Arts - Alexandria, Egypt
- 1968 Limited group show with Ahmed El Rachidi, Adam Henein, Hassan Soliman, George El Bahgoury, Gamal Mahmoud, Daoud Aziz, Saad Abdel Wahab, Saleh Reda, Safeya Hilmi Hussein, Omar El Nagdi, Ali Desouki, Kamal Khalifa, Mahmoud Hagrass, Mostafa Ahmed, Mostafa El Hallaj, Makram Rozkallah and William Izhaq, Cairo Atelier - Cairo, Egypt
- 1971 El Wasti International Exhibition - Baghada, Iraq
- 1996 6th International Biennale of Cairo - Cairo, Egypt
- 1996 Member of Committee of Juror, 6th International Biennale of Cairo - Cairo, Egypt
- 2007 First “Egyptian Salon”, Amir Taz Palace - Cairo, Egypt
- 2007 Limited group show: “Spirit of the Moment...Spirit of the Image” with Ahmed Fuad Selim and Hilmi El Tuni, Ebdaa Gallery - Cairo, Egypt
- 2012 Limited group show: “Surrealism, Present-day Cairo” at The Gallery - Cairo, Egypt
- 2016 Limited group show: “Looking at the World Around You: Contemporary Works from Qatar Museums” at the Santander Art Gallery - Madrid, Spain
- 2016 Limited group show: “Debunking Orientalism”, Untitled Space - SoHo, NYC, USA
- 2016 Limited group show: “When Art Becomes Liberty: The Egyptian Surrealists (1938-1965)”, Palace of Fine Arts - Cairo, Egypt
- 2017 Limited group show: “When Art Becomes Liberty: The Egyptian Surrealists (1938-1965)”, Museum of Modern and Contemporary
- Egyptian Museum of Modern Art: Cairo, Egypt
- Museum of Fine Art: Alexandria, Egypt
- Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art: Doha, Qatar
- Sharjah Art Foundation: Sharjah, UAE
- Barjeel Art Foundation: Dubai, UAE
Private Collections in Egypt, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudia Arabia, Syria, France, UK and USA.
- 1956-1957 Began writing art criticism in Baghdad for Iraqi Newspaper, “Al Akhbar”
- 1958 - 1962 First Egyptian to design sets and costumes for the Egyptian National Theater and old Khedival Cairo Opera House productions in Cairo:
- Designed stage sets and costumes for the first play written by Alfred Farag, “The Fall of the Pharaoh”
- Co-designed with Abdel Hadi Al Gazzar stage sets for the American play “Bury the Dead” by Irwin Shaw
- Designed stage sets for the first play written by Abdel Rahman AL Sharkawi, “The Tragedy of Jamila Bohreid”
- 1968 Co-founded “Galerie ’68” avant-garde magazineine, serving as Editor-in-Chief, Cairo
- 1995 Introduced “The Artist’s Book” to the Art public in Egypt. Thanks to this pioneering effort, the Bioblioteca Alexandria established a Biennale solely for this creative medium.
THE OTHER FACE OF CREATIVITY:
1949 Published his first collection of poems, “Songs from the Temples / Steps in Darkness” - Alexandria
1957-1974 Covert activities in the art scene in Egypt for the “Second Program” on Public Radio and participated in the “Culture News Around The World” radio program - Cairo
Stage set designs (selection):
Galerie '68 magazine covers:
Artist's Book: "Song for Cairo", poem by Salah Abdel Sabbour, prints by Ahmed Morsi
Artist's Book: "Cavafy Suite", poem by Constantin Cavafy and prints by Ahmed Morsi (1990)
THE OTHER FACE Of CREATIVITY:
- 1949: Published his first poetry collection "Songs of the Temples / Steps in Darkness" - Alexandria
- 1957-1974: Covered the activities of art in Egypt for the 2nd Program Radio in Cairo and participated in the radio program "Culture News Around the World"
- 1959: Co-translated "Eluard, The Poet of Freedom and Love" with Iraqi poet Abdel Wahab Al Bayati, which was published by Al Maaret Bookshop in Beirut
- 1959: Co-translated "Aragon, The Poet of Resistance" with Abdel Wahab Al Bayati which was published by Al Maaret Bookshop in Beirut
- 1968: Decided to stop writing poetry as a reaction to many causes, mainly his inner feeling of estrangement in his own home as a poet and because he did not belong to the "traditional" tribe
- 1968: Co-published along with Edwar Al Kharrat, Ibrahim Mansour, Gamil Atteya and Sayyed Higab the avant-garde magazine "Gallery '68", which played an important role in the development of the new-modernism of Arabic literature
- 1970: The Iraqi Ministry of Culture published his book "Picasso"
- 1975: The Iraqi Ministry of Culture published his book "Introduction to American Black Poetry"
- 1997: He reclaimed the poet who was exiled 30 years prior, without calculation
- Translated Arthur Miller's play "A View From the Bridge" for the radio, which was staged in the 1970s at
- the National Theater
- 1999: The Supreme Council of Culture published his study "Contemporary American Poetry I"
- 2001: The National Center for Translation published his book "Readings of Contemporary American Poetry II"
- The League of Books published his book "Contemporary American Poetry III"
- The Supreme Council of Culture published his book "American Contemporary Art"
- 2012: Supreme Council of Culture published his anthology, "The Collected Poems"
The artist continues to paint and write, exhibiting and publishing his works in Egypt, the Middle East, Europe and North America.