William Wells & Yasser Gerab

Directors of Townhouse Gallery in Egypt

‘The community is an important component of the gallery’s fabric’, says William Wells, co-owner, with Yasser Gerab, of Cairo’s Townhouse Gallery. Accordingly, the gallery, a hub of four buildings located on a downtown backstreet, is home not only to one of the biggest private exhibition spaces in the Middle East but also a public library, studios and spaces to accommodate a varied programme of performances, workshops and community projects.

Working with a mix of Arab and international artists, and making up its own rules for what an institution should be, Townhouse has created opportunities for artists from the Arab region to exhibit abroad (in September they collaborated with the Serpentine Gallery in London to present Susan Hefuna’s ‘I Love Egypt’, Speak Out!, a temporary learning camp in Hyde Park), stepped up to become a teaching institution and set about picking apart the idea of art as the object-based product of a privileged author by throwing open the gallery walls to a wide public: in the wake of the Egyptian revolution, Townhouse opened The Popular Show, for which anyone could submit ‘works of art or objects of any medium, nature, quantity, duration or scale’ in response to the ‘exclusivity that is practiced within contemporary art institutions’.