On the front cover of this issue of the Cairo Review is an image depicting Forever Bicycles, an installation by the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, featured in the Ai Weiwei Absent exhibition in 2011 at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum. On the back cover is a photograph of Tank Versus Bread Biker, a wall mural also created in 2011 by the Egyptian artist Ganzeer. Ai and Ganzeer are artists of our globalized age, who transcend borders, cultures, and indeed our conventional ideas about art.
The bicycles neatly reflect the theme of our Summer 2014 edition: Mobility of Art. For The Cairo Review Interview, journalist Dorinda Elliott traveled to the Beijing suburb of Caochangdi and spoke with Ai about the prospects for liberty in China and the global impact of his art. Closer to home in Cairo, Ganzeer authored a piece for us on what he calls Concept Pop, a play on Concept Art and Pop Art, which he defines as art that deploys popular aesthetics to deliver meaningful messages to the masses.
In his essay “The Art Effect,” David Joselit examines the roles of power and culture in the development of a global civil society. Art not only reflects globalization, he writes; it is one of its “stealthy agents.” In “Collapsing Certainties,” Partha Mitter argues the Western modernist canon undermines local voices and practices and thereby undermines the plurality of expressions. Joobin Bekhrad reports on a surprising frenzy in contemporary art sales in “Tehran Bazaar.” In “Revolution to Revolution,” Nadia Radwan describes the arc of Egyptian public art from the time of independence leader Saad Zaghloul to the Tahrir Square uprising.
Senior Editor Rozina Ali marvels at the “rise of the rest” when it comes to the globalization of art—seen, for example, in the booming art market in China, or in the construction of major new art museums in Qatar and Abu Dhabi. In directing our editorial effort for this issue, she connected with gallery owners in the Middle East, curators in Europe, scholars in America, and artists in Asia. “The real story of global art isn’t its production,” Ali reports, “but the mobility of the ideas it expresses.” She came away with questions for further study: “Is the international art market really creating meaningful global connections through diverse thought and taste? Or is it just reaffirming ‘Western’ standards with new players?”