Film director Ahmed Youssef was arrested earlier this week over the theft of five paintings from the Museum of Egyptian Modern Art in the Cairo Opera House grounds.
Mohamed Al-Tawil, media advisor at the Fine Arts Department of the Ministry of Culture, told Al-Ahram Weekly that Youssef approached the museum director and submitted a forged permit allowing him to enter the museum’s store rooms and photograph paintings two weeks ago. Once in the store rooms Youssef replaced five paintings by popular 20th century Egyptian painter Mahmoud Said with forgeries.
Two days later, during an inspection tour of the storerooms, the director of the museum felt suspicious of the five canvases and on closer inspection realised they were fakes. She then reported her suspicions to Khaled Sorour, head of the Fine Arts Department, who in turn told the police.
It turned out that Youssef had been caught on security cameras committing the crime. His house was searched, the originals found, and Youssef confessed to the theft and forgeries.
The five paintings discovered in Youssef’s possession are “Al-Hegra” (Immigration), “Bent Al-Balad” (Daughter of the Country), “Al-Makaber” (Graves), “Al-Nuba” and “Al-Moussaliyn” (Worshippers).
Both the director of the museum and the head of the museum’s security system have now been dismissed, says Sorour.
Sorour has assigned a technical committee to examine the condition of the five stolen paintings and ordered an inventory to be taken of all the Museum of Modern Egyptian Art’s holdings.
The museum, currently partly closed for restoration, contains more than 10,000 paintings and sculptures that trace the development of visual art in Egypt from the early 20th century till today. The permanent collection includes works by leading Egyptian painters Mahmoud Said, Ragheb Ayad, Mohamed Nagui, Gazebia Sirri, Inji Aflatoun, Tahia Halim, Abdel-Hadi Al-Gazzar and Ahmed Morsi.