Egyptian Culture Minister Alaa Abdel-Aziz on Sunday sacked Salah El-Meligy, head of Egypt's Central Administration of Museums and Exhibitions and head of Egypt's Fine Arts Sector.
The minister provided no reasons for the decision, while the minister's media office remained silent on the issue.
The move came only hours after El-Meligy inaugurated the 35th annual General Art Exhibition on Sunday night – in the minister's absence – at Cairo's Arts Palace.
Abdel-Aziz had been forced to reverse an earlier decision to postpone the inauguration ceremony, owing to pressure exerted by visual artists – especially after the ministry's security administration had told him that it would be difficult to prevent artists from holding the event.
The minister had hoped to eliminate around 30 pieces of artwork, which, he asserted, had been submitted after the deadline set by the exhibition's organising committee.
The exhibition's curatorial committee, headed by Mohamed El-Tarawy, was outraged by the move, arguing that such decisions fall under the jurisdiction of the exhibition's curator. It is the curator, they argue, who – together with the curatorial committee – sets the exhibition's criteria based on a specific artistic vision.
El-Meligy told Ahram Online that the minister's decision to sack him had "been expected." El-Meligy said he was "satisfied" with the current state of affairs, however, since it was "impossible" for him to work with a culture minister "who doesn't appreciate art."
Visual artists, meanwhile, have condemned El-Meligy's dismissal. They plan to hold a press conference on Tuesday at 10am to voice their rejection of the recently-appointed minister and his decisions.
Visual artist Mohamed Talaat has said that Egyptian artists plan to escalate their opposition to the minister and his policies by "any means necessary," including protest marches and sit-ins.