The 2011 Egyptian revolution—part of the “Arab Spring” of uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa—was a major inspiration for this four-part painting and Cairo, installed in the outer gallery. Mogamma is named after an Egyptian government administrative building on Tahrir Square, which was seen as a symbol of modernism and the country’s liberation from colonial occupation when it was first built in 1949, but was later associated with government corruption and bureaucracy before eventually serving as the backdrop to a revolutionary site.
Mehretu began work on these four vertical canvases by exploring the densely layered environment of Tahrir Square, where a dizzying array of architectures—including structures built in Mamluk, Islamic, European, and Cold War styles—coexist. She created a web of drawings that conflate the Brutalist architectural style of the Mogamma with details from other public squares associated with the revolutionary fervor of the Arab Spring, such as the amphitheater stairs and spiraling lights of Meskel Square in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and the mid-century high-rise buildings surrounding Zuccotti Park in New York. She also integrated drawings of globally iconic sites of public protest and change, such as Red Square in Moscow, Tiananmen Square in Beijing, the Plaza de la Revolución in Havana, and Firdos Square in Baghdad.
Ink and acrylic on canvas
Part 1 of 4: Guggenheim Abu Dhabi
Part 2 of 4: High Museum of Art, Atlanta, purchase with funds from Alfred Austell Thornton in memory of Leila Austell Thornton and Albert Edward Thornton, Sr., and Sarah Miller Venable and William Hoyt Venable, David C. Driskell African American Art Acquisition Fund, Dr. Lurton Massee Jr. Endowment for Contemporary Art, the Blonder Family Acquisition Endowment Fund, Robert O. Breitling, Jr. Acquisition Endowment Fund, WISH Foundation Fund of the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta and through prior acquisition from Mr. and Mrs. Alexander Liberman, Anne and William J. Hokin through the 20th Century Art Acquisition Fund, Henry B. Scott Fund, Jean Cloupsy, Mrs. Elizabeth Fisher, Charles Green Shaw, Jean Gorin Estate, David Kenney, 20th Century Art Acquisition Fund, Judith Alexander, Dr. Milton Mazo to mark the retirement of Gudmund Vigtel, Sidney Singer, Mr. and Mrs. L. Slann, Southeastern Annual Exhibition Purchase Award, Patricia N. Whitlow, Doris Caesar, Mrs. Edith Flynn, Mr. and Mrs. Gerald D. Kohs, J. J. Haverty Memorial Fund for the J. J. Haverty Collection, Scientific-Atlanta, Inc., through the 20th Century Art Acquisition Fund, William Quinn, Mr. and Mrs. Richard A. Allison, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Amisano, Mr. and Mrs. Overton A. Currie, Mr. & Mrs. Robert L. Steed, and Mr. and Mrs. G. Kimbrough Taylor, Jr., Dr. and Mrs. Gilbert J. Rose, Mr. and Mrs. Maurice Hahn, Friends of Jon Carsman, Mr. Andrew J. Crispo, Dean Gardens, Wellington Management/Thorndike Doran, Paine and Lewis Collection, Friends of Con- temporary Art, Bruce and Lisa Stein, Rich’s, Andres J. Escoruela, Lawrence Fox for the Ralph K. Uhry Collection, Friends of W. Dean Gillette, Benjamin Elsas, Glenys and Kermit Birchfield, Friends of Henry Toombs, Atlanta Watercolor Club Annual Purchase Award, Jose Pinal, Estate of Theresa B. Oppenheimer, Chester and Claudia Carter, Shirley and Victor Kramer through the 20th Century Art Acquisition Fund, James Twitty, through prior acquisition from Lewis Beck, funds from Kidder, Peabody & Co., Inc./GE Capital Corporate Finance Group through the Kidder, Peabody & Co., Inc. Regional Purchase Program, Dr. Lawrence Rivkin, Jova/Daniels/Busby in celebration of their 20th anniversary, and Joseph Felice Brivio 2013.31
Part 3 of 4: Tate, purchased with funds provided by Tiqui Atencio Demirdjian and Ago Demirdjian, Andreas Kurtz and the Tate Americas Foundation 2014
Part 4 of 4: The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, museum purchase funded by the Caroline Wiess Law Accessions Endowment Fund 2013.458
© Julie Mehretu, photo: Ryszard Kasiewicz