From Miami to New York, via London, Berlin and Milan. The Italian-Egyptian artist exhibits his artwork for the first time in Palermo in collaboration with the Fondazione Federico II.

Omar Hassan was raised, by his Italian Christian-Catholic mother and Egyptian Muslim father, in a family used to cultural differences, tolerance and the new. Thus, there is no better venue than the Royal Palace, a laboratory of ideas dating back to Frederick II’s reign, which encloses the marvellous Palatine Chapel, symbol par excellence of integration between cultures.

Concept and action underpin everything he does as an artist. Obsessed by time, Omar Hassan bases his research on synthesising it in his art, fascinated by the great masters such as Fontana, Pollock and Manzoni, who in the very energy of their strokes have embedded a new philosophy or concept.

Omar Hassan’s areas of expression become true ‘themes’ marked by his experimentalism on colour and action: the fist in the Breaking Through series, which made him world-famous as an artist-boxer, the use of spray paint in the series Injections and Lights.

Omar Hassan’s 36 years old artistic journey is constantly evolving: after exhibiting in Miami and New York, passing through London, Berlin and Milan, he lands in Palermo with PUNCTUM, an exhibition created and designed in collaboration with the Fondazione Federico II, to be held from the 24th of March to the 1st of October at the Royal Palace.

PUNCTUM represents the artist’s vital energy making each work of art unique. An exhibition exploring the interstitial space between classicism and contemporaneity, connecting past and future. A tribute to the “value of the individual as part of a serene and harmonious whole”. The ‘Map of Palermo’, a work created ad hoc by the artist, made up of thousands of ‘single’ pieces, was conceived along these lines: there are 8928 spray can caps, hand-painted one by one. With an anti-hierarchical approach, Omar Hassan has developed a particular focus on the theme of places, to be understood as genuine aggregation and socialisation hubs.

“Through a dialogue between the complexity of places and the work of art, – says Gaetano Galvagno, president of the Fondazione Federico II, – we put forward a new narrative and welcome one of the art personalities characterising our artistic scene today. It is the Fondazione Federico II’s precise intention to support this cultural project in order to initiate a dialogue between a space of memory and contemporary art. It is also an opportunity to promote the works of an artist dedicated to producing works marked by a strong energy, vitality and action, capable of embracing the tradition of classical art, in order to reinterpret it and reshape it”.

“PUNCTUM at the Palazzo Reale, – says Patrizia Monterosso, Director General of the Fondazione Federico II, – is intended to be the expression of art on the move. The extra sustenance of that energy which makes the artist like life itself. The exhibition is the result of an authentic dialogue between Omar and the Fondazione Federico II, which once again rejects ready-made formats. Omar Hassan is an example of tolerance and representation of art in the true sense of the word, and as such integrates perfectly with the soul of this palace, a successful workshop of history, creating a connection between the past and the future”. 

“Palermo” is one of six “site-specific” works created by Omar Hassan for PUNCTUM, such as “Pax”, a sculpture depicting a bold reinterpretation of the Nike of Samothrace, the bearer of peace.

Born and raised on the outskirts of Milan, he himself recalls how he managed to get up from one of those benches on which other potential talents, instead, remained idle, generating nothing but “sitting dreams”. Yet, “at home, failing to bring results was equivalent to being a loser”, this is what Omar claimed in an interview with the Fondazione Federico II included in the exhibition catalogue. As is well known, Omar’s artistic interests were for years flanked by boxing, a sport he was forced to abandon for health reasons. The exhibition also features two works from the “Breaking Through” series, recalling the synthesis of his concept of action, where every punch is charged with all the values of a discipline in a single sign: “I’m not punching to destroy, I’m creating”.

This flow of art and life transits with original and multi-layered results in his production, which includes a marked autobiographical component, from the content choices of the works to his gradually elaborated technique.

Omar Hassan uses colour to capture the viewer’s attention, but behind the colour lies the true meaning of his work. The use of canvas is perfectly in tune with the phenomenon of the crisis in easel painting. Moreover, the lexical stratification and the overcoming of hierarchies between painting and sculpture represent the stylistic signature of his production, which is firmly rooted in ancient art and in the history of art tradition, yet leaning towards the future and the search for the new. Omar Hassan likes to explore, with a deliberate disparity, the artistic languages encountered in his site-specific installation, painting and sculpture, often in dialogue with each other by means of meaningful cross-references. At the Royal Palace, the Hall of the Duke of Montalto is being prepared to confront Omar Hassan’s artistic energy (and vice versa).