Khaled Hafez

Egypt 1963

Installation, Video Art, Painting, Collage

Khaled Hafez
Khaled Hafez
June 3, 2016
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Stress caused by military confrontations, unexpected political landmarks, and the subsequent socioeconomic consequences can affect a person in various ways. Khaled Hafez is an Egyptian artist who grew up is a society that was reshaped according to continuous changes since the mid-seventies. In that process of change, the society lost some of its Oriental character, but at the same time, it acquired other traits, with globalization and consumerism being the most responsible for the new patterns of thinking and behavior. Many have lost their interest in exploring the issues such as authentic versus the contemporary, but also many artists, including Hafez, choose to tackle more challenging themes like the sacred versus the commercial.

Khaled Hafez - Seated Goddess on White, 2009
Khaled Hafez – Seated Goddess on White, 2009

Combining the Egyptian Symbols with the Western Icons

Identity is a dominant and recurring theme in his work, and he often uses multiple juxtapositions to explore a combination of multiple visual elements, rather than insert it in a unique reality. Hafez mediums of choice are installations, painting, collage, videos/films, where the ancient Egyptian symbols get combined with Western icons. The old paper is used in the collages, yellowed artificially by excessive solar exposure or naturally, representing the mummified past, icons are today’s present and the painted distorted figures are the artist’s proposal for the future. His painting, with its unique aesthetics, is recognizable by the imagery of the body perfection, where the choice of the image always reflects the perfection of body proportions, which is a criterion that was used in Mediterranean mythology. Hafez’s videos since 2001 have addressed consumer behavior, subjugations, political leadership, democracy, fundamentalism, and the sacred. The ironic approach was mutual for all of those themes, but he didn’t use it forcibly in a manner favorable by neither old nor the new regimes, as the artist simply didn’t care. It was just art.

The artist works in installations, collages, paintings and film-making

Khaled Hafez - Divine Exodus, 2009
Khaled Hafez – Divine Exodus, 2009

Between Medicine and Art

The use of western images was inspired by Hafez’s travels in his 20’s when he backpacked through several European countries. That was all before bio and techno-terrorism, Osama Bin Laden, September 11, the American invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. He read about the West in history books and wanted to discover The West, the one that represented the free world. So the idea of juxtaposing the Western images with eastern images in his collages was born, where he continuously tried to create a visual language that was capable of representing ideas legible to both West and East. During the 80’s, Hafez studied medicine while pursuing evening classes in fine arts at the same time. In 1987, he received his medical degree, and his M.Sc. as a medical specialist in 1992. All the way through his medical training, he was exhibiting his pieces and creating new ones. Around 1995, he felt the need to make a decision regarding his future, so he stopped his medical practice and made a transition to pharmaceutical marketing. In 2005, he finally dedicated himself to studio work. Hafez earned an MFA in New Media and Digital Arts from Transart Institute in New York, and Danube University in Krems, Austria.

He wanted to discover the West he’s been reading about in history books

Khaled Hafez - Chapter 8 - Living Forward By The Day, image via Deborah Colton Gallery
Khaled Hafez – Chapter 8: Living Forward By The Day, image via Deborah Colton Gallery

A Filmmaker

By July 2011, Hafez turned his back on all events and took all political elements out of his work because it was obvious to him that regressive forces and similar groups in Egypt were stealing the revolution. In a way, his painting is quite similar to his videos. He is neither an abstract painter nor a video artist because he likes to tell stories, and he considers himself a filmmaker rather than a video artist. Where video art is about trying to get the audience to feel, see or perceive, film-making makes a statement, and that perfectly corresponds to the artist’s needs and desires.

Khaled Hafez lives and works in Cairo.

Featured image: Khaled Hafez – portrait. Image via
All images copyright of the artist

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2015A Temple for Extended DaysAyyam Gallery, Dubai, UAESolo
2015Arab TerritoriesPalais De La Culture, Constantine, AlgeriaGroup
2015Who said tomorrow doesn’t exist?TRIO Biennial, Rio de Janeiro, BrazilGroup
2015Eye of the Thunderstorm: Effervescent Practices from the Arab World56th Venice Biennale, Venice, ItalyGroup
2015View From Inside: Contemporary Arab Photography, Video and Mixed Media ArtAbu Dhabi Festival, Abu Dhabi, UAEGroup
2015Hidden Subject: ParallaxArte Sanat, Istanbul, Turkey; Foya Art Gallery, Ankara, TurkeyGroup
20153rd Mardin BiennialMardin Museum and other locations, Mardin, TurkeyGroup
2015In the Eye of the Thunder Storm56th Venice Biennale, Venice, ItalyGroup
2014A Room of His Own: Masculinities in Korea & the Middle EastArtsonje Center, Seoul, South KoreaGroup
2014I’m Better Than TomorrowHayaka Arti, Istanbul, TurkeyGroup
2014ISEA 2014: International Symposium of Electronic ArtZayed University, Dubai, UAEGroup
2014Mapping StrifeDeborah Colton Gallery, Houston, Texas, USAGroup
2014View from InsideFotoFest Biennial, Houston, Texas, USA Group
2014The Art of Life: Between Tradition and ChangeUppsala Museum of Art, Uppsala, SwedenGroup
2014Images of the SensibleKuad Gallery, Istanbul, TurkeyGroup
2014Tradition-ReversalCollegium Artisticum, Sarajevo, Bosnia & HerzegovinaGroup
2014Hajj, Le Pelerinage a La MecqueInstitut du Monde Arabe, Paris, FranceGroup
2013Berlin ChromosomeGalerie Naimah Schhutter, Berlin, GermanySolo
2013Handling MemoriesAB Gallery, Lucerne, SwitzerlandSolo
2013Beyond The CodesRaymaluz Art Gallery, Madrid, SpainSolo
2013Moving Forward by the DayMeem Gallery, Dubai, UAESolo
2013Khaled Hafez - Deciphering the Past Within the PresentA.R.T.e.s. Galerie – University of Cologne, Cologne, GermanySolo
2013On Noise, Sound & Silence: Water Composite, Portable Nation: Disappearance as work in progress55th Venice Biennale, Maldives National Pavilion, MaldivesGroup
2013Tradition-ReversalState Museum of Contemporary Art, Thessaloniki, Greece; Gervasuti Foundation, Venice, ItalyGroup
2013The Shadows Took ShapeThe Studio Museum, Harlem, New York, USAGroup
2013Tussen Verhulling en ModerniteitCultuurcentrum Brugge, Brugge, BelgiumGroup
2013Re-imagining EgyptSaffron Walden Museum, Essex, UKGroup
2013ALANICA 7: 7th International Contemporary Art SymposiumVladikavkaz Museum of Art, North Ossetia, RussiaGroup
2013Longing for Mecca: The Pilgrim’s JourneyRijksmuseum Volkenkunde, Leiden, NetherlandsGroup
201325 Years of Arab CreativityNational Museum of Art, Manama, BahrainGroup
2013Egyptian Art TodayAB Gallery, Lucerne, SwitzerlandGroup
201325 Years of Arab CreativityAbu Dhabi Festival in partnership with Institut du Monde Arabe, The Gallery at Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi, UAEGroup
2013Desert Shouts - City WhispersBekris Gallery, San Francisco, California, USAGroup
2013Passages AfricainesLes Chantiers de la Lune, La Seyne-sur-Mer, FranceGroup
2013Grounded: Back to Square 1Lopez Museum, Manila, PhilippinesGroup
2012Khaled Hafez – Windows Upon the WorldVideo Art Program, Hiroshima MOCA, Hiroshima, JapanSolo
2012On Codes, Symbols & Stockholm SyndromeSafarKhan Gallery, Cairo, EgyptSolo
20122nd Kathmandu International Art FestivalKathmandu, NepalGroup
2012Rencontres de BamakoLaureats Presentation - Foundation Blachere, Apt, FranceGroup
2012Liberation – A Process ReviewHavremagasinet, Boden, SwedenGroup
201225 Years of Arab CreativityInstitut du Monde Arabe, Paris, FranceGroup
2012The Past1st Santorini Biennale, Santorini, GreeceGroup
201241st International Film FestivalRotterdam, HollandGroup
2012Hajj: Journey to the Heart of IslamBritish Museum, London, UKGroup
2012Rising Images – LowaveCinema du Reel-Centre Pompidou, Paris, FranceGroup
2012Beautiful Life: Memory and NostalgiaPier-2 Art Center, Kaohsiung City, TaiwanGroup
2012Subversion: A Comedy of MannersCornerhouse, Manchester, UKGroup
201211.02-2011: the video diaries11th Havana Biennial, Havana, CubaGroup
20119th Bamako Photo BiennaleNational Museum of Art, Bamako, MaliGroup
2011Reframing RealityMuseum of Contemporary Art, Roskilde, DenmarkGroup
20118th Mercosul BiennialPorto Alegre, BrazilGroup
2011Beautiful Life: Memory and NostalgiaSouth Hill Park, Bracknell, UKGroup
2011Miragem (Mirage)Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil, Rio de Janeiro, BrazilGroup
2011East from 4,24: Collection XXVIIMuHKA: Museum of Contemporary Art, Antwerp, BelgiumGroup
2011Miragem (Mirage): Contemporary Art in the Islamic WorldInstituto Tomie Ohtake, Sao Paulo, BrazilGroup
2011Resistance(s) III: Arab Video ArtsAnkara International Film Festival, Ankara, TurkeyGroup
2011Windows Upon OceansState Museum of Contemporary Art, Thessaloniki, GreeceGroup
2011Miragem (Mirage): Contemporary Art in the Islamic WorldMuseu Nacional do Conjunto Cultural da Republica, Brasilia, BrazilGroup
2010First Temple of FlightAl Masar Gallery, Cairo, EgyptSolo
2010Gods & SuperheroesGaleria Luz & Suarez, Madrid, SpainSolo
201012th International Cairo BiennaleCairo, EgyptGroup
2010DwellingManifesta 8, Murcia, SpainGroup
2010Miragem (Mirage): Contemporary Art in the Islamic WorldCentro Cultural Banco do Brasil, Rio de Janeiro, BrazilGroup
2010Resistance(s) IIIFondazione Merz, Torino, ItalyGroup
2010Resistance(s) IIICasa Arabe, Madrid, SpainGroup
2010Modernities + Resistances3rd World Festival of Black Arts & Cultures, Dakar, SenegalGroup
2010CAVE: Contemporary Arab Video EncounterMaraya Arts Center, Sharjah, UAEGroup
2010Tarjama (Translation)The Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Ithaca, New York, USAGroup
2010The Presidents: RemixBlancpain Art Contemporain, Geneva, SwitzerlandGroup
2010What’s Happening Now? Contemporary Art from EgyptCasa Arabe, Madrid, SpainGroup
2010Fuck Ups – Fables and FiascosGalerie Caprice Horn, Berlin, GermanyGroup
2010IN-FLUX: Awkward Conversations17th African Film Festival, New Museum, New York, USAGroup
2010Categorical ImperativesThe Guild Gallery, Mumbai, IndiaGroup
2010Resistance(s) IIICentre George Pompidou, Paris, FranceGroup
2009Tarjama (Translation)Queens Museum, New York, USAGroup
20092nd Thessaloniki Biennale of Contemporary ArtThessaloniki, GreeceGroup
2009Deconstructing Myths & RealityGalerie Caprice Horn, Berlin, GermanyGroup
2009Icons ReloadedElysee Arts Gallery, Liege, BelgiumGroup
2009Unveiled: New Art from the Middle EastSaatchi Gallery, London, UKGroup
2008Desert Snow & Other StoriesGalleria San Carlo, Milan, ItalySolo
2008BorderlinesLe Violon Bleu Gallery, London, UKGroup
20083rd Guangzhou TriennialGuangdong Museum of Art, ChinaGroup
2008Breaking NewsF&A Projects, Paris, FranceGroup
2008Cairoscape: Images, Imagination and Imaginary of a Contemporary Mega CityKunstraum Kreuzberg, Bethanien, Berlin, GermanyGroup
2008Neighbors in DialogueCollegium Artisticum, Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina; Skenderija Centre, Sarajevo, Bosnia & HerzegovinaGroup
2008Om Kalsoum - La quatrieme pyramideInstitut du Monde Arabe, Paris, FranceGroup
2008Collectiepresentatie XXIMuHKA: Museum of Contemporary Art, Antwerp, BelgiumGroup
2008Trilogie Mediterraneenne: From Athens to Marseille to CairoPalais des Arts, Marseille, FranceGroup
2008Arab Artists Between Italy & the MediterraneanItalian Cultural Institute, Damascus, Syria; Beirut, Lebanon; Cairo, EgyptGroup
2008Gates of the MediterraneanPalazzo Piozzo di Rosignano a Rivoli, Torino, ItalyGroup
2007More ChromosomesIl Divano Di George, Modena, ItalySolo
2007Contact ZoneNational Museum of Art, Bamako, MaliGroup
2007The Present Out of the Past MillenniaKunstmuseum, Bonn, GermanyGroup
2007RecognizeContemporary Art Platform – UCL, London, UKGroup
2007This DayTate Modern, London, UKGroup
2007Visions of a Contaminated Memory7th Sharjah Biennial, Sharjah, UAEGroup
2007Without TitleMuHKA: Museum of Contemporary Art, Antwerp, BelgiumGroup
2007Neighbors in DialogueFeshane, Istanbul, TurkeyGroup
2006North-East to SouthwestDoual’art, Douala, CameroonSolo
2006Philadelphia ChromosomeGalleria San Carlo, Milan, ItalySolo
2006Kartomania & Tout-en-KartonFrench Cultural Center, Cairo, EgyptSolo
2006Revolution, Belief1st Singapore Biennale, various locations, SingaporeGroup
20067th Dak’Art BiennaleDakar, SenegalGroup
2006Images of the Middle EastMuseum of Contemporary Art, Roskilde, DenmarkGroup
2005French MemoriesCCM Jean Gagnant, Limoges, FranceSolo
2005African MemoriesChantiers de la Lune, La Seyne-sur-Mer, FranceSolo
2005Mediterranean EncountersHorcynus Orca Foundation, Messina, ItalyGroup
2004Kartonopolis & Some 10 Years LaterTownhouse Gallery, Cairo, EgyptSolo
2004Visions of a Cheeseburger Memory6th Dak’Art Biennale, Dakar, SenegalGroup
2002Nut, the President’s Necktie & BatmanTownhouse Gallery, Cairo, EgyptSolo
2001Cairo Modern Art in HollandAFAS Circustheater, The Hague, NetherlandsGroup
2000Icons of the Second FloorTownhouse Gallery, Cairo, EgyptSolo
1999Halfway Home & the Electronic GodsGezira Art Center, Cairo, EgyptSolo
1999Faster Than the CityTownhouse Gallery, Cairo, EgyptSolo
1998Visions of a Rusty MemoryCairo-Berlin Art Gallery, Cairo, EgyptSolo
1998Unimportant ItemsCairo Atelier, Cairo, EgyptSolo
1992Steps on Desert SandsAkhenaten III Gallery, Cairo, EgyptSolo
1990Prisoner of FreedomCairo Atelier, Cairo, EgyptSolo
1989A Tale of Two LeosNile Gallery, Cairo, EgyptSolo
1987DeliresFrench Cultural Center, Cairo, EgyptSolo