The collection is eclectic and disorganized but the fun lies in the search
CAIRO: From the musty smell and the dim lighting to the way the paintings are stacked and stuffed in corners like old hoarded treasures, you might think you’re a 12-year-old again and sneaking around your grandmother’s attic. Soly Art Gallery is a place for those who fancy themselves art adventurers, not sophisticated connoisseurs. The place has a worn feel, and the owners should do something to get rid of that museum warehouse feel.
Less is not more here – every usable space is plastered with artwork. But despite the initial first impression, this gallery has its share of beauties. The impressionist and expressionist paintings hanging in the back corner (next to the Victorianesque porcelain portraits in gaudy, gilded frames) are delightful, and the collection of starkly painted desert wanderers is excellent. But discovering some of the real finds requires hunting through the massive array of stacked paintings.
The prices are good, with most paintings falling in the LE 100-350 range. The gallery will frame your pictures, from the most modest, thin, colored frames, to heavy 5-inch ornate ones.
The store owner, who speaks English, is often not available, so if your Arabic is shaky and you want any help beyond an encouraging smile and warm gestures, be sure to come in the daytime, when he is most likely to be around (though your freedom to be nosy and poke around freely might also be curtailed). And even if your Arabic is good, you still might want to wait, as the other employees don’t know much about the art.
As this review has suggested so far, the collection of artwork is rather random, with no rhyme or reason. There are as many European style landscapes and portraits as there are pieces with oriental influence, as well as an inexplicably large selection of antique looking mirrors.
There are large quantities, of varying quality, of Arabic calligraphy – some framed as artwork, others made of glazed colorful clay to adorn a doorframe.
Easy to overlook, but a shame if missed for the pure amusement factor, is the corner of the bizarre dioramas of kitchen scenes available (LE 50-100), framed as artwork to hang on the wall. They’re straight ahead as you walk in the door, but the lighting is so subdued you might walk passed them. But that’s the fun of this gallery – a second pass will always draw your eye to something quirky, ridiculously gaudy, or downright beautiful.
Be sure to take your time browsing, and happy hunting.
Soly Art Gallery is open from 9 a.m -2 p.m., 5 p.m.-11 p.m. daily. It is located off Lebanon Square, on Yemen Street.