Melbourne, Florence, Paris, Colombia, Colorado... a quick look at JR's Instagram account reveals a world tour of creations in the past few months despite the pandemic. And now: Egypt. The popular French street artist has announced that he will be creating a new work at the Pyramids in Giza, Cairo, in October. "This is not a photomontage... but the art work in October might be a photo collage," reads the Instagram caption under an image of the artist posing nonchalantly (and inconceivably) on the back of a rearing horse.
"I've never been so excited to work on a project, this is an incredible site and I can't wait to come back to the Pyramids for the installation," JR tells The Art Newspaper. The artist is well known for his optical illusion works at famous sites. Most recently he has created a a trompe l’oeil in Paris that makes it look like the Eiffel Tower is teetering on the edge of a deep ravine. In 2016, he took on a different kind of pyramid—the one I.M. Pei designed structure outside the Musée du Louvre—which he made "disappear".
The commission at the Pyramids is part of the exhibition Forever is Now (21 October 2021-7 November 2021) organised by Art D’Egypte, a company that aims to promote the contemporary Egyptian art scene with annual exhibitions at historic sites. In what is billed as the first event of its kind at the 4,500-year-old Unesco World Heritage Site, it will show works by Egyptian and international artists along a trail around the Giza plateau.
"We are so happy to be collaborating with local, regional and international artists on this historical exhibition that is a token of hope to humanity," says Nadine Abdel Ghaffar, the founder of Art D’Egypte. "Being at the foot of the Great Pyramids of Giza sends a message of hope to the world that humanity shall prevail as did our ancient Egyptian civilisation. We stand here in dialogue with this civilisation 5,000 years later."
Other confirmed participants in the show include the Italian-American artist Lorenzo Quinn; the Ukrainian artist Alexander Ponomarev; Puerto Rico-born, Los Angeles-based artist Gisela Colon; Egyptian artist Sherin Guirguis; and Saudi Arabian artist Sultan Bin Fahad. Speaking about her participation in the project Colon tells The Art Newspaper: "Sometimes the stars are aligned only once in a lifetime, and this is one of those timeless moments, where past, present and future come together in Egypt. Working with an amazing, dynamic all-women team [at Art D’Egypte] has been extraordinary."
The artificial intelligence robot Ai-Da—currently exhibiting at London's Design Museum—will also create a work at the Pyramids as part of a collateral project. More participating artists are due to be announced in the coming months.