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Artists' Index
Encyclopedia of Modern Art and Arab World
موســــوعة الفـن الحديـــث والعالــم العربـــي
Artists' Index

Adam Henein

آدم حنين
Adam Henein
Born on 31 March 1929 in Cairo, Egypt; died on 22 May 2020 in Cairo, Egypt.​​
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Adam Henein


Adam Henein was born in Cairo into a family of silversmiths from Asyut and grew up in the neighborhood of Bab al-Shaariyya. He was eight years old when he discovered the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities during a class visit, which he would later recall as a turning point in his life. At the age of twenty, he decided to become a sculptor and joined the School of Fine Arts in Cairo. After he graduated in 1953, he traveled to Upper Egypt and spent several months at the Luxor Atelier established in 1941 by the Alexandrian painter and diplomat Mohammed Naghi (1888 - 1956) to promote the study of ancient Egyptian art as part of the curriculum of art schools in Egypt.

In 1957, he received a scholarship for two years to pursue his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. During one of his exhibitions in 1960, he met the anthropologist Afaf al-Dib, who became his wife and supporter as both manager and critic at the beginning of his career. Henein established his home and studio in 1968 in a mud brick house built by architect Ramsis Wissa Wassef (1911 - 1974) in the village of Harraniyya. In 1971, Henein and his wife moved to Paris, where they stayed for twenty-five years. During that period, he dedicated himself to his art in his studio in the fifteenth arrondissement near Porte de Sèvres. By the time he returned to Egypt in 1996, Henein was an internationally recognized artist. From 1989 to 1998, he worked with the Ministry of Culture in restoring the Sphinx in Giza. In 1996, he founded the Aswan International Sculpture Symposium, an annual workshop and exhibition inviting sculptors from around the world to experiment and create works from the local granite.

Adam Henein is one of the most prominent contemporary sculptors of the Arab World. Throughout his career, he produced a considerable number of large and small-scale pieces, using a variety of materials, such as granite, bronze, plaster, limestone and terracotta. His early works embody the graceful solidity of ancient Egyptian statuary and express a sense of simplicity in the treatment of mass and volumes. They recall ancient sculptures, such as the scribe commonly known as the "Sheikh el-Balad," now at the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities, as well as the works of Mahmoud Mokhtar (1891 - 1934). During the 1960's, Henein sculpted a series of animals, such as birds, cats, dogs, owls, goats, horses and donkeys, expressing just their minimal and essential lines and features.
The beginning of the 1970's marked an important evolution in his art, as a result of being exposed to the work of modern sculptors in Paris, such as Brancusi. Even though Henein never belonged to a specific movement, he was inspired by their freedom of interpretation. During the 1980's, abstract forms, pure volumes and the dynamic of movement characterize his sculptures, centered on the themes of sun and moon disks, as well as vertical ascension. In the 1990's, he worked on several outdoor large-scale sculptures, including The Ship, conceived as a metaphorical alternative to the museum space. Overall, his work embodies a sense of simple monumentality and timelessness.

Henein is also a talented painter who has never used oil painting on canvas but instead renews ancient techniques such as painting on papyrus sheets with natural pigments mixed with gum Arabic or the traditional technique of fresco on plaster. In 1960, he illustrated the work of his friend, the poet Salah Jahine (1930 - 1986), Quatrains of Salah Jahine, with India ink on paper. His paintings, whether they represent figurative or abstract geometric subjects, are characterized by purity of form and warm tones, emphasized with a sculptural depth.​

Henein has held many individual exhibitions in Cairo, Alexandria, Amsterdam, London, Paris, and Rome, and participated in numerous group exhibitions around the world. His works can be seen at his Museum in Harraniyya inaugurated in January 2014, the Museum of Egyptian Modern Art in Cairo, as well as at Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha, which includes his monumental sculpture of The Ship located in front of its entrance.


Selected Exhibitions​​

​1999 - 2000​

​​Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, New York, United States of America​


​Institut du Monde Arabe, ​​​Paris, France​​

​1988  ​

​ASB Gallery, Munich, ​Germany ​


​Egyptian Cultural Center, Paris, France​​

​1983 ​

​Sultan Gallery, Kuwait​

​1980 ​​

​Egyptian Academy, Rome, Italy​​​

Awards and Honors

1998  Egyptian State Merit Award​


Contemporary Egyptian art, sculpture, granite, Aswan International Sculpture Symposium, ancient Egyptian art, abstraction, Harraniyya.


Henein, Adam, Hosny Farouk and Winegar, Jessica (eds.). Farouk Hosny, Adam Henein: Contemporary Egyptian Artists and Heirs to an Ancient Tradition. Exhibition catalogue. New-York: Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, 1999. 

Khazindar, Mona (ed.). Adam Henein. Milano: Skira, 2005. Co-publication, Jeddah: Institution al-Mansouriyyah and Cairo: Dar al-Shorouk Publishing, 2006. 

Further Reading

Adam Henein Museum videos. [n.d.]. Interviews-Video clips. Accessed May 21, 2009. ​YouTube., ​

Zehrfuss, Bernard, Arabis, A. et Gaudibert, Pierre. Trois Sculpteurs Contemporains: Nada Raad, Chaouki Choukini, Adam Henein. Exhibition catalogue, Paris: Institut du Monde Arabe, 1991.