Townhouse Cairo Reopens Following Closure by Egyptian Authorities


Update, 2/18: Townhouse director William Wells tells The Art Newspaper that the gallery, while now open to staff, remains closed to the public.

The prominent Townhouse Gallery in downtown Cairo is tentatively reopening two months after it was shuttered by Egyptian authorities, Mada Masr reported. The nonprofit gallery and theater space — a stalwart of the country’s contemporary art scene and in operation since 1998 — was “raided” by some 25 officials in December, who reportedly confiscated equipment and ordered the facility’s closure. The move provoked widespread condemnation and consternation both domestically and internationally. Observers noted at the time that the venue’s targeting came amid a broader state crackdown, with Egyptian security services seeking to stifle possible avenues for dissent and protest ahead of the five year anniversary of the January 25, 2011 popular uprising in Tahrir Square.

The gallery has denied that its closure was politically motivated, with a spokesperson citing “administrative failures” instead. Townhouse and its affiliated Rawabet theater is now expected to reopen Tuesday after two emergency exits were brought up to code, in apparent partial satisfaction of the relevant government authorities — the gallery has pointed to “a lack of clarity” regarding the administrative concerns that prompted the closure.

“Only recently, in February, did the local municipality begin cooperating, and it allowed us to open for 15 days, during which time inspections will be held to decide what is missing from the space and how we will need to comply with their new terms,” the spokesperson, Yasser Gerab, told the state-owned Ahram Online outlet in the gallery’s first statements to media since its closure. (Townhouse has not responded to a request for comment from ARTINFO.)

Townhouse West, an offshoot space of the gallery’s located in the Sheikh Zayed suburb of Cairo, was not affected.

Mostafa Heddaya (@mheddaya)

(Photo: Townhouse Gallery in Cairo, via Townhouse Gallery/Facebook)