Ahmed Abdel Wahab (Egyptian, b. 1932)
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Ahmed Abdel Wahab (Egyptian, b. 1932)

Key of Life

Ahmed Abdel Wahab (Egyptian, b. 1932)
Key of Life
bronze with brown patina
height: 70 7/8in. (180cm.)
Conceived in 1987, this work was cast in 2014 and is number two from an edition of two
Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner.
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Lot Essay

'I have reached a truth beyond Egyptian aesthetics in understanding art and its relation with intermediary materials. The Egyptian artist respects the requirements of the material and his/her works of art enfold potential energy. Perhaps this tendency appears because I am used to sculpting my sculptures as the potter with his/her pots, as did the ancient Egyptian.'
(Ahmed Abdel Wahab quoted).

The sculptor Ahmed Abdel Wahab is one of Egypt's most distinctive Modern artists whose works are deeply rooted in the Egyptian identity, fusing ancient Egyptian art with a modern style. Born in 1932 in the city of Tanta - a city renowned for hosting one of the most famous Egyptian folk Mawlids, namely Mawlid El-Sayed el-Badawy- Abdel Wahab would experiment from a young age the commemorations that brought together believers from across the country and the associated folkloric events and traditions. On the occasion of these festivities, the artist would also discover the surrounding craft markets and started practicing with various materials such as wood, metal and limestone to create his very first sculptures.

A few years later, Ahmed Abdel Wahab moved from his rural town to Cairo, carrying many memories and his recollections of his folkloric background. He enrolled at Faculty of Fine Arts, in the Department of Drawing and Painting, but soon switched to sculpture. After completing his studies in Cairo, he obtained a scholarship at the Atelier of Luxor, a period in his time that would greatly influenced him and his future career. He roamed Upper Egypt, discovered the great monuments and many rustic villages, and sought for a pure authentic Egyptian spirit, seeking to connect past and present. During this period, Abdel Wahab was very prolific and his works reflected his surroundings and his own feelings towards life and nature.

In 1958, he joined the General Company for Ceramic and Porcelain Products in Mostorod, where he learned the technicalities and methods to prepare gypsum, using mud firing pottery and glazing ceramics. He later obtained a scholarship to study the art of ceramics abroad, in former Czechoslovakia where he experimented with ceramic.

At the time of the establishment of the Faculty of Fine Arts in Alexandria in 1960, Ahmed Abdel Wahab settled in the city and taught at the Faculty. In 1962, he obtained another scholarship from the Ministry of Culture at the Atelier of Luxor, under the supervision of the artist Hamed Saeed. During that period, he completed the statue of Ibn El-Nil (Son of the Nile) that was chosen to represent Egypt in the National Division for Folk Arts in former Czechoslovakia.
In 1968, he obtained a three-year scholarship to Italy where he discovered Western art, Renaissance paintings and was introduced to leading contemporary Italian artists of the time. His first-hand encounter with Western art further consolidated his love and fascination with the Egyptian aesthetics and their simplicity.
Upon his return to Egypt, he was deeply inspired by the Egyptian civilization and its artistic features and worked on the figure of Akhenaton that inspired many of his portraits that were made with a combination of cement, white glue, glaze and graphite, a material that was reminiscent of the basalt stone used in ancient Egyptian art.

Throughout his life and artistic career, Ahmed Abdel Wahab represented Egypt in many international exhibitions and was granted numerous awards. In 2002, he received the State Appreciation Award in Arts in recognition of his creative value and his skills at the international level. Prominent private Egyptian and European collectors, as well as the Museum of Modern Art, Cairo, the Museum of Fine Arts, Alexandria, the Museum of the Faculty of Fine Arts, Cairo and the Museum of Modern Art, Prague, all feature works by Ahmed Abdel Wahab in their collections.

The Bibliotheca Alexandrina held a permanent exhibition in honour of Abdel Wahal's sculptures, reflecting on his eclectic career. Having spent most of his life in Alexandria and having contributed to the teachings of the Faculty of Fine Art, this honourary exhibition comes with no surprise. In 2012, the artist presented twenty of his most important works at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, amongst which Judiciary Justice, Tushka, Palm Sunday, Son of the Nile and Friendship. Through this permanent exhibition, visitors of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina are invited to contemplate on the features of a unique artistic experience that captures the essence of the Egyptian spirit.

Christie's is proud to present this monumental sculpture by Ahmed Abdel Wahab, Key of Life, which is a second edition of the same sculpture that currently stands in one of the halls of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina. Its elegance and refined style is fused together with visual and symbolic hints to Ancient Egyptian art, making it a beautiful emblem of Modern Egyptian Art.
(translated from Arabic by Suzy Beltagy, Alexandria).

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