Adam Henein was born into a conservative Egyptian family, in an old neighborhood in Cairo known for its centuries-old handcrafting skills of silver and gold which was passed down to his father and his brothers who were all metalworkers. He grew up at the time when Egypt was a cosmopolitan city hosting people of various nationalities, ideologies and religions who coexisted in a vibrant atmosphere of cultural exchange and human communication.

Henein’s early development showed that he preserved the values of his family and his country but at the same time embraced multiple and diverse cultures. This is how he matured both as an artist and as a human being and his art is evidence of all these formative elements that were portrayed in his works. His affluent artistic talent and creativity combined his speculations on Ancient Egyptian art with its implicit symbolism together with its solid expression of the exalted and the sublime. His sculptures demonstrate his smooth transition between various layers charged with energy and other ethereal presences showing absolute serenity and stillness with the harmonious marriage of three-dimensional forms and relief.

Adam Henein discovered the wisdom of Ancient Egyptian art, its set of laws and standards of judgement and its absorption of the various social, environmental, economic and spiritual influences of the world around it. Destiny then led him to experience all these effects and to re-appropriate this ancient Egyptian legacy, which was diffused and transmitted into his own existence when he resided in the West Bank in Luxor, in Nubia and in Philae in the heart of the Nile. This dialogue between the ancient and the modern presided over his work again when he moved to his country house in Harraniyya amidst the green fields and the spectacular view of the Giza Pyramids where he gazed at the superb view of sunrise and sunset in the horizon.

Henein then had the opportunity to study modern art in the West at the end of the 1950s in the Munich Academy of Arts. Later, in the 1970s he moved to Paris where he worked and lived for a quarter of a century. His deeply rooted legacy and artistic inspiration interacted with Western modernity, and he was inspired by the freedom of interpretation and ventured on experimenting with new materials and formations moving freely between representation and conceptualization and crossing over time boundaries and restrictions. He firmly rejected the idea of conforming to a specific style in artistic creation because he asserted that “the artist who adopts a definite style is a dead artist”.

His sculptors and paintings witnessed successive transformations shifting between realism, to almost abstraction and beyond. He renewed ancient techniques such as painting on papyrus sheets with natural pigments mixed with gum Arabic thus introducing a special style in contemporary Egyptian and Arab painting in which he integrated ancient techniques with modern ones.

Adam Henein's art is a testimony of his great cultural heritage, and his wide knowledge of modern art which together formed an exquisite and sublime combination of the traditional and the liberal making him an icon of sculptor and painting in Egypt.

Henein has contributed to seminal national and international projects since his return to Egypt, amongst which is his supervision of the restoration of the Great Sphinx, the founding of the International Sculpture Symposium in Aswan, an ongoing annual event in the Egyptian cultural calendar, and the ‘open air museum’ of International Sculpture in Aswan on a hill overlooking the Nile.

Dr. Mostafa El Razzaz

November 2021

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