...The atelier remains,
as though I had not abandoned it,
for more than 60 years,
embracing the sea view.”

”The unfamiliar Royal Ras Al Teen Palace,
moorings of the shipping boats,
screams of the seagulls...

* 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.

The artist was born in Alexandria, Egypt in 1930.  In 1954, he graduated from the University of Alexandria, with a major in English Literature.  During the years 1952-53, he studied art in the studio of Silvio Becchi, the son of Italian master Otorino Becchi whose former students included Seif and Adham Wanly, 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, among them A Al Gazzar, H El Telmisani, I Massouda, F Kamel, H Nada and M Moussa.  The Artist's first studio was in a shared apartment with Kamel Saliba, Alexandria's first Opera composer. His last studio in his birth city was at the Alexandria Atelier and he was one of the few select artists to exhibit at the inaugural opening of the city's Museum of Fine Arts (Alexandria).  The artist also started writing poetry and developing his 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.

Morsi 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 and both his creative practices, poetry and painting.  This was a time of 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 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 significant Baghdadi exhibitions for major local newspapers.

Returning to Egypt, the artist moved to Cairo in 1957 with his fellow Alexandrian co-horts:  Alfred Farag, notable Egyptian playwright, and Edwar EL Kharrat, renowned Egyptian poet and novelist.  In these years, Morsi was the first Egyptian to work alongside Egypt's acclaimed playwrights - Alfred Farag and Abdel Rahman Al Sharkawi to name a few - designing stage sets and costumes for The National Theater and the original, Khedival Cairo Opera House.  These art forms had until then previously been relegated only to Italian designers.  He also partnered with Abdel Hadi Al Gazzar and co-designed stage sets for the stage production of a 1936 expressionist anti-war drama, "Bury the Dead" by American playwright Irwin Shaw at the Cairo Opera House.  Other projects with AL Gazzar included several group shows and a book of Morsi's poetry alongside Al Gazzar's drawings.  The book was never published due to Al Gazzar's untimely passing, however, both poetry and related drawings live on. 

In 1968, Morsi co-founded the avant-garde magazine "Galerie '68" with a few of Egypt's most prominent contemporary writers among them Edwar Al Kharrat, Ibrahim Mansour, Gamil Atteya and Sayed Hegab among others and served as its Editor-in-Chief.   The publication immediately became Egypt's most reputable source as the voice of the new modernism in Arabic literature.  With these years the artist's journey into the world of criticism continued following its inception in Baghdad a decade earlier, publishing critiques on both art and literature, both of which remaining intimate domains.  Among many of the noteworthy publications, Morsi wrote two articles for the Grand Larousse Encyclopedia (1975); "Art in Egypt" and "Art in Iraq".  Once again the pioneer, he introduced a new creative vehicle to the Egyptian art public with his 1995 show"  "The Artist's Book".  Following his exhibition, a new Biennial, The Artist's Book, was introduced by Bibliotheca Alexandrina, The Library of Alexandria.

Though his writings remained prolific, subsequent to the 1967 war and the strong ensuing sentiment of his alienation, the artist took a decision to stop writing poetry and only returned in 2001 at the request of his childhood friend, Edwar el Kharrat, to write a piece commemorating Kharrat's 75th birthday.  The artist's words could be contained no longer and subsequent works culminated in the publication of several Diwans.

In 1974, Ahmed Morsi moved to New York City, where he continues to paint, write and critique form his Manhattan home.  In 1976, like many artists residing in the NYC-area, he took up the art of Lithography at The Art Students of New York on W57th street and added yet another dimension to his creative tools and in the last 20 years, the artist also embraced photography - the last art form to be included in Ahmed Morsi's extensive palette.

 

ARTISTIC ACTIVITIES:

  • Among the Solo Shows - Egypt
    • 1953:  First solo show at the University of Alexandria - Alexandria
    • 1958:  Cairo Atelier - Cairo
    • 1958:  Alexandria Museum of Fine Art - Alexandria
    • 1959:  Cairo Atelier - Cairo
    • 1960:  Alexandria Museum of Art - Alexandria
    • 1961:  Alexandria Museum of Art - Alexandria
    • 1966:  Cairo Atelier - Cairo
    • 1969:  Cairo Atelier - Cairo
    • 1970:  Cairo Atelier - Cairo
    • 1973:  Akhnatoun Gallery, Gezira Arts Center - Cairo
    • 1973:  Soviet Cultural Center in Alexandria - Alexandria
    • 1989:  Akhnatoun Gallery, Gezira Arts Center - Cairo
    • 1991:  "Cavafi Suite", Mashrabia Gallery - Cairo
    • 1995:  "The Artist's Book", Mashrabia Gallery - Cairo
    • 1996:  Akhnatoun Gallery, Gezira Arts Center - Cairo
    • 2003:  Akhnatoun Gallery, Gezira Arts Center - Cairo
    • 2005:  Akhnatoun Gallery, Gezira Arts Center - Cairo
    • 2012:  "Metaphysics", Gallery Misr - Cairo
    • 2016:   "Ahmed Morsi: A Pure Artist" first retrospective in Egypt, Ofok Gallery (Mahmoud Khalil Museum)- Cairo

 

  • Among other Solo Shows - International
    • 1956:  El Waziriyeh Gallery, Society of Iraqi Artists - Baghdad
    • 1970:  The Pace Gallery - London
    • 1975:  Columbia University - NYC
    • 1977:  Asifs Gallery - NYC
    • 1985:  Alif Gallery - Washington DC
    • 1987:  Vorpal, SoHo - NYC
    • 1996:  Accademia D'Egitto - Rome
    • 2017:  "Ahmed Morsi: A Dialogic Imagination" first international retrospective, Sharjah Museum in collaboration with Sharjah Art Foundation - Sharjah, UAE
    • 2017:  Art Dubai - Dubai, UAE

 

  • Among the Group Shows:
    • 1954:  Participated in a limited group show with A Al Gazzar, H El Telmisani, Ibrahim Massouda and the Alexandrian sculptor Mahmoud Moussa at the Société d'Alliance Française - Alexandria
    • 1954:  Participated in the 1st Biennale of Mediterranean Countries at the Museum of Fine Arts - Alexandria
    • 1955:  Participated in a limited group show with I Massouda, H Telmesani, F Kamel and H Nada at the Museum of Modern Art and Cultural Center - Alexandria
    • 1956:  Participated in the 2nd Biennale of Mediterranean Countries at the Museum of Fine Arts - Alexandria
    • 1958:  Participated in a second limited group show with A Al Gazzar, H El Telmisani, Ibrahim Massouda, Fareed Kamel and Mahmoud Moussa at the Alexandria Museum of Fine Art - Alexandria
    • 1958:  Participated in the 3rd Biennale of Mediterranean Countries at the Museum of Fine Arts - Alexandria
    • 1968: Participated in a limited group show with Ahmed El Rachidi, Adam Henein, Hassan Soliman, George El Bahgoury, Gamal Mahmoud, Daoud Aziz, Saad Abedl Wahab, Saleh Reda, Safeya Hilmi Hussein, Omar El Nagdi, Ali Desouki, Kamal Khalifa, Mohamed Hagrass, Mostafa Ahmed, Mostafa El Hallag, Makram Rizkallah and William Izhaq at the Cairo Atelier - Cairo
    • 1971:  The El Wasti International Exhibition - Baghdad
    • 1996:  The 6th International Biennale of Cairo - Cairo
    • 1996:  Participated in another session of the 6th Cairo Biennale as a member of the Committee of Jurors - Cairo
    • 2007:  Participated in the 1st Egypt "Salon" at Amir Taz Palace - Cairo
    • 2007:  Participated in a limited group ("Spirit of the Moment ..... Spirit of the Image") at Ebdaa Art Galley - Cairo
    • 2012:  Participated in a limited group show, "Surrealism, Present-day Cairo" at The Gallery - Cairo
    • 2016:  "Focus:  Works from Mathaf Collection" Select group from museum permanent collection, Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art - Doha
    • 2016:  "Looking at the World Around You:  Contemporary Works from Qatar Museums" at the Santander Art Gallery - Madrid
    • 2016:  "Debunking Orientalism", limited group show at The Untitled Space - SoHo, NYC

ACQUISITIONS:

Middle East - Major Institutional and private collections:

  • EGYPT - Museum of Egyptian Modern Art in Cairo and Museum of Fine Arts in Alexandria
  • EGYPT - Private Collections
  • IRAQ - Private Collections
  • KINGDOM OF SAUDI ARABIA - Private Collections
  • KUWAIT - Industrial Bank of Kuwait
  • KUWAIT - Private Collection
  • QATAR - Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha
  • SYRIA - Private Collections
  • UAE - Sharjah Art Foundation and Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah - UAE
  • UAE - Private Collections

International - outside the Middle East:

  • FRANCE - Private Collections
  • UNITED KINGDOM - Private Collections
  • UNITED STATES - Private Collections

OTHER ACTIVITIES:

  • First non-foreigner to design sets and costumes for both the Egyptian National Theater and the Cairo Khedival Opera House- Cairo: 
    • Designed stage sets and costumes for the first play written by Alfred Farag, "The Fall of the Pharoah"
    • Co-designed with Abdel Hadi Al Gazzar settings for the American play "Bury the Dead" by Irwin Shaw
    • Designed stage sets for first play written by Abdel Rahman Al Sharkawi, "The Tragedy of Jamila Bohreid"
  • 1956-1957:  Began writing Art Criticism for Iraqi news paper, Al Akhbar - Baghdad
  • 1968:  Co-founded "Gallery '68" magazine - Cairo
  • 1990:  Introduced to the art public in Egypt the "Artist's Book".  Thanks to this show, the Alexandria Library established a Biennale solely for the Artist's Book. 

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.