Exhibitions Museums Cultural exchange Belgium

Arab Spring turmoil scuppers two shows

Belgian museum unable to obtain loans and “collaboration guarantees” from Egypt

Thousands in Tahrir Square celebrate the election of the Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi as president of Egypt in June. But the country's political upheaval has stalled loans to museums (Photo: Flickr user Jonathan Rashad)

The Centre for Fine Arts (Bozar) in Brussels has been forced to postpone two major exhibitions due to open this autumn because of complications arising from the Arab Spring. Political turmoil in the Middle East has made it increasingly difficult to obtain loans and “collaboration guarantees” for the shows “Engaging Egypt” and “The Ottoman Orient in Renaissance Art”, says a Bozar spokeswoman. Both shows have been postponed until 2014 at the earliest.

“Engaging Egypt”, which was scheduled to open on 5 October, “aims to throw light on the country's lesser known periods and artistic trends, for instance Coptic or Islamic art, with [a strong emphasis on] local works from local museums,” adds the spokeswoman. “The reactions from policy-makers at the highest level, including the Minister for Antiquities and the Minister for International Cooperation, have always been really positive.” Negotiations have, however, stalled since the uprising erupted in Egypt last year.

The Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris, which co-organised the exhibition, also confirmed that it had removed the show from its schedule, saying that the move was down to “timing and financial issues”.

“The Ottoman Orient in Renaissance Art”, due to open on 29 September, has also been postponed, though the museum’s spokeswoman says that the ambitious scale of the show, “financially and content-wise”, was a contributing factor in the decision. “We want to co-produce [the show] with two partner museums, so that it can travel to three locations… we prefer to postpone it to ensure the quality of the project,” she adds. The unnamed partner institutions are based in Vienna and Paris.

The Centre for Fine Arts plans to focus, nonetheless, on the Mediterranean region and the Arab world in the next year through a performing arts programme and film screenings. The current exhibition, “Mapping Cyprus” (until 23 September), explores cultural and political exchanges on the island from the 12th century to today.

Other exhibitions due to launch at Bozar later this year include a retrospective devoted to the Flemish expressionist artist Constant Permeke (11 October-20 January 2013) and the first survey of works by the postwar Belgian furniture designer Jules Wabbes (17 October-13 February 2013).

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