Current Press Release

Niels Nedergaard.
Photographs from Cairo

March 11 to September 4, 2022

Cairo lights. 1980s. Belonged to Niels Nedergaard. Private collectionCairo lights. 1980s. Belonged to Niels Nedergaard. Private collection

New special exhibition

Once again, The David Collection presents a new and original photo exhibition. This time, we showcase photographs supplemented by a small selection of artworks from artist Niels Nedergaard’s time in Cairo in the 1980s. Nedergaard was known for his painting rather than for his photography. Nevertheless, the photographs on display here offer excellent insight into the artist’s extremely original work, influenced as it was by Middle Eastern aesthetics and culture.

In 1979, Nedergaard (1944–1987) set out for Cairo and settled there. For the next seven years, the Egyptian capital was his permanent base, and his direct access to the pulse of Cairo life and the city’s Arab architecture and ornamentation prompted him to develop a geometric, colourful style of painting unparalleled in Danish art. The photographs in the exhibition testify to the inspiration Nedergaard drew from the megacity’s past as well as the present, and from its daytime and night-time faces.

The stark contrasts of Cairo, its richly diverse lifestyles, the spiritual life of the Sufis, and not least men and the brightly coloured lights of the night streets are among the themes appearing in the relatively few, but strongly personal photographs. The photographic material is accompanied by specially selected drawings and paintings by the artist, most of which are exhibited here for the first time. Nedergaard’s own voice can also be heard: the last room of the exhibition presents a TV broadcast focusing entirely on Nedergaard, shown on Danish national TV (DR) in 1985.

The photographs in the exhibition are all sourced from Nedergaard’s family, friends and acquaintances. Some of the photographs are presented as original prints, while others are new prints from more or less battered negatives also found among the surviving archive materials. It is not always clear whether Nedergaard himself pressed the camera button, or whether it was operated by friends. It is certain, however, that he deliberately used and preserved the prints chosen for display.

Nedergaard returned to Denmark in 1986. He died the following year due to an AIDS-related illness at Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen. To this day, he remains one of the most prominent visual artists of his generation and a rare representative of artistic work carried out in the field where Eastern and Western traditions intersect.

The exhibition is curated by art historian Johan Zimsen Kristiansen. A book about Niels Nedergaard’s time in Cairo (ed. Peter Wandel) is published to coincide with the show, featuring articles by Johan Zimsen Kristiansen, Jakob Skovgaard-Petersen, May el-Toukhy and Peter Wandel. To receive a copy of the book, please contact Strandberg Publishing, Sidsel Kjærulff Rasmussen, at sidsel@strandbergpublishing.dk.

A press conference will be held at the museum on Thursday 10 March at 10.15. Advance registration is very welcome; please confirm your attendance no later than 9 March with Sonja Wiesener at s.wiesener@davidmus.dk.


Photo taken in the area around the Talaat Harb square in downtown
Cairo. 1980s. Photographer: Niels Nedergaard. Private collection.


Two generations of men whose garment can be seen as representing
two different lifestyles in Cairo: traditional or Western in outlook.
1980s. Photographer: Niels Nedergaard. Private collection.


Photo from Nedergaard’s room at the Family Hotel, where he lived
for many years during his stay in Cairo. 1980s.
Photographer: Niels Nedergaard. Private collection.


Cairo lights. 1980s. Belonged to Niels Nedergaard. Private collection.


Painting by Niels Nedergaard. Untitled. Acrylic on canvas. 1984. Photographer: Pernille Klemp. Private collection.