A Conversation with Anna Boghiguian and Robert Shapazian, Bidoun Magazine (2006)

‘Anna Boghiguian and Robert Shapazian first met in 2003 on Anna’s rooftop, brought together by a mutual friend who thought something might resonate between the two, at the very least a bit of mutual Armenian love. They clicked, one might say, in an unlikely fashion, and thus began Robert’s more than occasional trips from Beverly Hills to Cairo, as well as a correspondence that spans phone lines, email, and encounters such as this one.

Boghiguian is an artist. Born in Cairo in 1946, she studied political science at the American University in Cairo, and later received a BFA in visual arts and music from Concordia University, Montreal. She has illustrated many books, including editions of poems by Constantine Cavafy and Carnet Egyptien by Giuseppe Ungaretti for Fata Morgana, which also published her own book, Images of the Nile (2000). Most recently, she showed her drawings as part of Catherine David’s “Contemporary Arab Representations” program. In 2003, the American University in Cairo Press published Anna’s Egypt, a compilation of her drawings, paintings, and writings.

Shapazian was the founding director of the Gagosian Gallery in Los Angeles, where he worked for ten years. Prior to Gagosian, he was the director of the Lapis Press for eight years, a prize-winning book publishing company owned by the artist Sam Francis. He serves on the Photographic Committee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and studied English literature at Harvard.

Robert Shapazian: Well, Anna, here we are at your studio in Cairo, on the roof of an old building on an island in the middle of the Nile, with Cairo old and new spread 360 degrees around us. It’s a dazzling and dizzying site. And it feels like the density and vertigo in your very great drawings and paintings of the city.

Anna Boghiguian: To me, it’s not just a place on top of the building, but it becomes a place that floats in the air. I suppose it’s very good to breathe the air of Cairo, to view Cairo from the top, and to listen to the sounds. You see certain episodes of situations that you do not normally see, like camels moving early in the morning, buffaloes, couples kissing each other, boys swimming naked in the river, young boys polishing their Reeboks, or I don’t know what expensive tennis shoes, in the river while they are dressed in rags. And they polish and they polish and they polish like a Greek god. It’s extraordinary to see Cairo at five, six, seven o’clock in the morning. The way I paint, sometimes I feel that my vision or what I put on my canvas doesn’t convey all the experiences I have lived through in this city…’

Full text as part of Issue 8 of Bidoun Magazine here.