Cairo’s Townhouse Gallery remains shut contrary to reports

Gallery’s director says contemporary art space awaiting official permission to reopen

The Townhouse Gallery in Cairo, which was closed by Egyptian administrative authorities late December, is still not open to the public although staff at the venue are currently working on the future programme, says the director William Wells. Local press reports say that the gallery, a non-profit contemporary art venue founded in 1998, is due to re-open this week.

Wells tells us that “none of the [gallery] spaces are open to the public at the moment… Staff are currently working on future programming but will not be able to open doors officially until permission is granted by the appropriate authorities.”

The gallery was shut down after representatives from the censorship authority and the tax authority carried out an inspection, which “showed administrative irregularities”. Paperwork and archival material was seized from the gallery and its affiliated building, the Rawabet Theatre.

Arts professionals raised fears that the closure was part of a wider political crackdown in the capital on the eve of the fifth anniversary of the Arab Spring last month.

Shiva Balaghi, a visiting scholar at Brown University, Rhode Island, told The Art Newspaper last December: “Townhouse matters. It is a truly independent art space in Cairo with deep outreach to the local community through workshops, seminars, exhibitions and an art library. The raid and its closure is alarming, signaling a broader closure of political freedoms in Egypt.”