Since the 1920s, Marrakech has been an enigma, attracting artists, writers, and designers from around the world. Inspired by the city’s eclectic vibe, majestic gardens and landscapes, multifaceted history, and exotic food, legends like Jacques Majorelle, Andrée Longueville, Pierre Bergé, Yves Saint Laurent, Talitha Getty, and the Rolling Stones decided to vacation or make Marrakech, Morocco their home.
In recent years, the children of some of Morocco’s leading artists have garnered a newfound enthusiasm for their culture and from this, an artistic renaissance has arisen. These native Moroccans have grown up inspired by their land, culture, and childhood, which was influenced by art. Names like Touria El Glaoui, the daughter of Morocco’s legendary Fantasia horsemen painter Hassan El Glaoui; and Othman Lazraq, the heir to the Lazraq Real estate have teamed up with local artists like Hassan Hajjaj, “Morocco’s Andy Warhol” to help position Marrakech as Africa’s cultural center and art hub. Father-and-son duo Alami Lazraq and Othman Lazraq lead this movement with the creation of MACAAL, Marrakech’s first Museum for African Contemporary Art. Morocco, as well as the African continent, is undergoing rapid changes. McKinsey & Company predicted that GDP will reach $2.6 trillion by 2020 in Africa. There is no better time to highlight Marrakech’s art scene.
In February 2018, El Glaoui was the mastermind behind Marrakech’s second edition of the 1-54 Contemporary African Fair. The show hosted 18 leading galleries from eleven countries and 65 artists from Africa and the diaspora. During both editions, El Glaoui collaborated with Marrakech’s galleries and museums, including the MACAAL, Marrakech’s first Contemporary African Art Museum, launched in 2016 by Othman Lazraq. MACAAL hosted two grand closing parties for the 1-54 event.
With events like the 1-54 as well as the 2018 Triennial Africities Summit, many eyes have turned to MACAAL. The museum is quickly becoming one of the most important contemporary art destinations in Africa. MACAAL is an essential destination for travelers of art who visit Marrakech and both their permanent and rotating exhibitions are should not be missed.
Located 20 minutes from the city center of Marrakech on Boulevard Yacoub El Mansour, MACAAL resides as an independent non-profit cultural organization and contemporary art museum. MACAAL showcases emerging and established artists from Africa and it’s diaspora. The museum showcases a wide range of multimedia exhibitions including photography, sound installation, documentaries, musical performances, paintings, digital art, sculpture, and video. The cultural institution is a philanthropic endeavor undertaken by Othman Lazraq and his father Alami Lazraq.
“I am convinced that culture is an important vector for the development of a country and I really want to make Morocco a cultural hub. Without a curator and an artist to create it, an institution is meaningless. Everyone in the art ecosystem has a role to play and that’s what makes it an ecosystem” – Othman Lazraq.
The MACAAL building was designed by LAZRAQBRET architecture firm. Also involved in its construction were French architects Didier Lefort and Jean-François Bodin; Bodin worked on the Picasso Museum in Paris and Mathaf Arab Museum of Modern Art in Qatar. MACAAL boasts 900 square meters, two floors, and a sculpture garden encompassing 1040 square meters; it hosts workshops, parties, and open-air cinema nights.
MACAAL began its collection by introducing the forty-year-old private Lazraq family collection. Since opening its doors in 2016, the Marrakech museum has amassed over 2,000 Moroccan and international works that fall into a variety of mediums. The works are sought after by Lazraq and his team; they source the best local and international talent.
MACAAL’s exhibition program links Lazraq pieces with the work of artists they hand select. In an interview with Harper’s Bazaar Arabia, Lazraq explained “Essential Paysage, our first exhibition at the end of November 2016, brought together African artists, who relayed through their art the interdependence of humans, animals, and plants. Others provided a critical perspective on the utilization of natural resources in Africa and denounce their harmful effects.” The exhibit was complemented with Lazraq pieces.
Each year, MACAAL introduces two exhibitions – new commissions and curatorial projects – whereby the artists are encouraged to create a dialogue between the exhibition and MACAAL space.
Material Insanity, The Reimagination Of Waste, is the current exhibition featured until August 15th, 2019. The exhibition was curated by MACAAL’s artistic director Meriem Berrada and Janine Gaëlle Dieudji, the museum’s Exhibitions Director. Material Insanity uses agro-food industry scraps and waste plastics to tell powerful visual metaphors. Artist M’barek Bouhchichi brings to light the topic of social domination and Amina Agueznay reinterprets ancestral crafts.
Past exhibitions have collaborated with city-wide events like the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 22), which took place in Marrakech in 2017.
Farid Belkahia – former director of the Casablanca School of Fine Arts, Belkahia was an important contemporary artist. He is known for his works painted on leathers with natural materials.
Ahmed Cherkaoui – a Casablanca native, Cherkaoui is considered a precursor of modern painting in Morocco. He is associated with painters from the School of Paris and merges traditional Moroccan art with European modernity. Cherkaoui’s first exhibition took place at the Salon de la Jeune Peinture in Rabat which showcased his keen combination of symbolism, tattoos, and pottery, integrated into figurative allusion.
Mounir Fatmi – hailing from the city of Tangier, Fatmi uses video, installation, drawing, painting, and sculpture to criticize the dependence of humans on technology. He studied at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam and lives in Paris.
Jilali Gharbaoui – originally from Fes, Gharbaoui grew up in an orphanage and is considered Morocco’s first non-figurative painter.
Chaïbia Talal – born in Chtouka, a small village near El Jadida, Talal was moved to become a painter amidst her challenging circumstances. She was married, had a son, and became a widow all before the age of 15. Talal taught herself to paint and used the CoBra painting movement as inspiration. Her work is considered naïve art. Inspired by her story, Youssef Britel and David Villemin collaborated to write and direct the 2015 biographical movie Chaïbia Talal.
MACAAL has also recently acquired works from Frédéric Bruly Bouabré, Maïmouna Guerresi, Chéri Samba, Romuald Hazoumè, Joël Andrianomearisoa, Serge Attukwei Clottey, and Malick Sidibé, Meriem Bouderbala, Rafik El Kamel, Moataz Nasr, Adel El Siwi and Djamel Tatah.
February 23rd – September 22nd, 2019 – Pop Up Shop – Limiditi – Temporary Art Projects – Marrakech
To celebrate the Material Insanity exhibition, Limiditi – Temporary Art Projects Association has collected and reshaped art and objects in a for sustainability. The recycled products are in alignment with the current exhibit. Artists involved in the pop-up shop include Amina Agueznay, Mohamed Arejdal, Mo Baala, Younes Baba Ali, Louisa Babari, Marc Belli, M’Barek Bouchichi, Hosein Jaddad, Hamedine Kane, Amal Laala, Simohammed Fettaka, Aude Tournaye, and Yume.
MACAAL has undertaken several initiatives like the MACAAL Lab to ensure they are integrating the Moroccan public and engaging youth. The education project collaborates with local schools and universities, offering students access to the museum, artistic workshops, talks, and screenings. Past workshops have included Youness Atbane, a Casablanca based artist who uses live performances, installations, photography, and drawings to explore abstract concepts about time, space, public spaces and our perception of objects.
MACAAL Lab projects have also involved the School of Visual Arts Marrakech (ESAV) and a workshop with Moroccan artist Mo Baala for children from the Marrakech based Benabdallah. Casablanca born Baala combines drawing, painting, graffiti, collages to perform poetry and musical performances. He is also known for his photography, street art, frescoes, recycling of materials. Mo Baala lives between Marrakech and Taroudant; his works can be seen at the Comptoir des Mines Galerie, located in the French neighborhood Gueliz.
Address: MACAAL, Al Maaden, Sidi Youssef Ben Ali, Regular Entrance Price: 40 MAD; Phone: +212 6 76 92 44 92