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Museum news: Hassan Heshmat Museum in grave danger

If you look behind the green iron fence surrounding the villa across from the Ain Shams Metro station, you will notice there are a number of statues next to a small security booth. According to the brass sign next to the gate, this is the Hassan Heshmat Museum.

Four years ago, this neglected yard, which is now packed with sand, gravel and construction steel was a beautiful garden, full of life. The neglect of this museum began in 2006, after part of its outer fence was removed in order to expand the adjacent street. Since then, the Ministry of Culture's arts and cultural sector began renovating the museum.

The buildings behind the museum being used as art workshops were demolished with the aim of building administrative buildings in their place. Large amounts of sand, gravel and construction steel were brought in to begin work. However, the construction work stopped and the statues and art work were left out in the yard surrounded by the sand and steel.

It was not until the family of Heshmat requested the artwork be protected that a number of them were covered with plastic. The family called on Culture Minister Farouk Hosni to save the museum and its collection, but to no avail. Their last attempt to save the museum was last July, in a letter addressed to the minister on the 4th anniversary of the death of Heshmat.

"Over 10 years ago, Heshmat wished the place would be turned into a museum and a sculpting school. It is now difficult to call this place a museum," said the letter.

According to a copy of the letter obtained by Al-Masry Al-Youm, "The yard has been turned into a depository for construction steel which has become rusty and unsuitable for use."

The letter went on to demand the minister visit the museum to see for himself. It also said that head of the Fine Arts Sector Mohsen Shaalan, currently being held on charges related to the theft of the Van Gogh painting from the Mohamed Mahmoud Khalil Museum in Giza, had made a visit to the museum in October 2009 and was shocked by its condition. The note said Shaalan issued orders that construction  work be completed quickly, the steel and gravel be taken elsewhere, and that the classification of all artwork in the hall be completed within a period of two months. The family said that to this date none of these orders have been realized.    

In the note, the family said it sent a plea to President Mubarak's wife, Suzanne Mubarak, to save the museum. They also said a mural that had been placed in the yard had been broken and damaged and that several certificates and paintings have been damaged by moisture. They said a number of other pieces have also been broken due to the construction work on the adjacent buildings. The family demanded the statues be covered and transferred from the yard to protect them from further damage.

Artist Hassan Heshmat was a prominent Egyptian sculptor and potter. His works are greatly influenced by the local environment. He was a pioneer and founder of an individual school of sculpture and the first Egyptian sculptor to cast mini porcelain statues for the home.

Translated from the Arabic Edition.

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