Xerjoff Magazine

Youssef Nabil: life is a dream


Palazzo Grassi in Venice hosts “Once Upon a Dream”, a monographic exhibition dedicated to Youssef Nabil, an Egyptian artist author of dream-like images with a melancholic feel.

Palazzo Grassi (Campo San Samuele 3231) will also host a monographic exhibition dedicated to the Egyptian artist Youssef Nabil, whose work encompasses photography, painting, video and installation art. This project entitled ‘Once upon a Dream’, is curated by Matthieu Humery and Jean-Jacques Aillagon and it gathers together more than 120 works with a vaguely nostalgic and dreamlike feel that carry the visitor to a distant reality. These photographs depict the Egypt of legend that is fading while evoking the troubles affecting the Middle East today. Fascinated by the cinema, Youssef Nabil had a strong passion for the great stars of Egypt, and later for those of the international cinema hence, he uses photography as a mean to immortalize the stars of his ideal pantheon, using a particular photographic procedure.

His black and white photographs are hand-coloured with a traditional technique widely used for family portraits and for the movie posters that adorned the streets of Cairo. Youssef Nabil would perfect this technique, which was still practised in Egypt in the 1970s and 1980s, at the last of the retouchers’ studios in Cairo and Alexandria. Proposed as a narrative, “Once Upon a Dream” is an initiatory story, between fiction and reality, where each theme has both a universal bearing and personal resonance. The search for one’s own identity, current ideological, social and political problems, the melancholy of a distant past: there are many issues that affect us in different ways and that Youssef Nabil highlights in his photographs. Open until March 20th, 2021, the exhibition also screens the artist’s film production which includes three works: “Arabian Happy Ending”, “I Saved My Belly Dancer” and “You Never Left”.

Above: Youssef-Nabil, Self-Portrait, “Hawaii”, 2013. Hand-colored gelatin silver-print. Courtesy of the Artist.Pinault-Collection.