The Sunderland Collection: Fathi Hassan 'Shifting Sands'

31 May-15 Jun 2024

Frieze No. 9 Cork Street
London W1S 3LL


The Sunderland Collection, a private collection of rare antique world and celestial maps, is pleased to announce the inaugural exhibition of its newly launched Art Programme: Fathi Hassan: Shifting Sands.

Born in Cairo in 1957 to Egyptian and Nubian parents, Fathi Hassan gained prominence in the 1980s. In 1988, he became one of the first artists of African heritage to be included in the Venice Art Biennale. Having moved from Egypt in his early twenties to study at the Naples Art School, Hassan spent decades living and working in Italy. Now based in Edinburgh, he works across photography, painting, drawing, and installation. Hassan graduated from the Naples Art School in 1984 and became an active participant in an avant-garde art scene which attracted international figures including Joseph Beuys, Andy Warhol and Hermann Nitsch. It was a time of political upheaval and artistic experimentation, with a thriving dance music scene, in which Hassan’s practice developed and was influenced by his work as a screen and stage actor and set designer.

During his immersion in The Sunderland Collection, Hassan contemplated the global confluence of ideas and peoples, the tides of cultural encounters, and his own personal history. Moving back and forth in time, the body of work that he has produced comprises a visually arresting, richly coloured tapestry of memories, concepts, historical figures, and Hassan’s distinctive artistic expression.

Hassan pictures an imagined realm where musicians, writers, entertainers and scientists converge, whose lives and work have not only inspired him, but have had a profound, transnational influence on global thought and culture. This series, entitled Trail Blazers, features revolutionaries and Modernists Virginia Woolf and Charlie Chaplin, alongside activists who changed the course of history, such as Muhammad Ali. Among the ancient cultural figures who inspired Hassan are Muhammad al-Idrisi and Averroes. Timelines and borders collapse and intertwine, with the selected cast of characters forming a bridge between geographies, eras and identities. The series uses objects from The Sunderland Collection as a backdrop or mirror for these historic cultural figures, whom Hassan envisions coming together in an imagined space.

While exploring The Sunderland Collection, Hassan also drew heavily on his personal history and the journeys on which his life has taken him. The exhibition will present mixed-media works combining collage, print, pencil, and gouache that depict autobiographical components of Hassan’s lived and artistic journeys, Italian landscapes, and motifs that the artist has consistently incorporated into his practice, such as animals from his childhood, a crescent moon and Nubian warriors. The pieces reflect on the flooding of Nubia in 1952 which displaced the artist’s family five years before his birth, with symbols including the traditional boats (felucca) which were used to navigate the Nile, and which have come to represent the displacement of people by the flood.

Alongside the new works being presented, the artist has selected a range of works on paper and two photographs from different stages of his career, which speak to his personal journey and identity, and which add to the conversation that he begins with the map-based works.