New Waves: Mohamed Melehi and the Casablanca Art School Archives opens in Concrete, Alserkal Avenue
New Waves: Mohamed Melehi and the Casablanca Art School Archives opens in Concrete, Alserkal Avenue
Curated by Zamân Books & Curating, the exhibition showcases never-before-seen artworks and archive material documenting an influential moment in the MEASA region’s art history
In the spirit of Mohamed Melehi’s Asilah Festival of public art, world-renowned artist eL Seed painted a Melehi-inspired mural with the public in Alserkal Avenue
Photography by Angelo Jandri. Courtesy Alserkal.
The Alserkal Arts Foundation exhibition New Waves: Mohamed Melehi and the Casablanca Art School Archives opened in Alserkal Avenue on 19 September, retracing the pioneering Moroccan artist’s career chronologically, and telling the story of the radical Casablanca Art School. Curated by Zamân Books & Curating, New Waves runs in the OMA-designed Concrete until 21 November.
Melehi is widely regarded as a major figure of post-colonial Moroccan art and of transnational modernism. Previously unseen works and archives present Melehi as a painter, photographer, muralist, graphic and urban designer, art teacher, and cultural activist.
This retrospective exhibition brings a pioneering artist’s multi-faceted career to life, giving UAE audiences a unique insight into a practice that feels critical and relevant for contemporary concerns in this region. The Dubai chapter of the exhibition, which opened during Alserkal Lates, presents Melehi’s documentary photography - through his travels, and activism - as well as highlights from his graphic design studio SHOOF, and the remarkable murals of the Asilah festival.
This expanded research allows new insight into the experimental spirit of the Casablanca Art School as they challenged convention, and collaborated to produce radical forms of pedagogy and exhibition-making, bringing the artist out from the studio into the streets and public squares of Morocco. It also explores Melehi’s in-depth engagement with Afro-Berber art and craft through the collection of Bert Flint, from which he drew artistic inspiration.
Abdelmonem Bin Eisa Alserkal, Founder of Alserkal and of Alserkal Arts Foundation, says: “New Waves is an expression of an ‘invisible history’ that has shaped the MEASA region both intellectually and aesthetically. This presentation to international audiences in Dubai furthers our commitment as a Foundation, and as a family, to keep such artistic legacies alive.”
The Dubai presentation of New Waves in Concrete includes a recently archived collection of Melehi’s documentary photography—over 30 years of artistic travel and visual activism journeys—as well as highlights from the golden age of the Asilah festival. The Festival, co-founded by Melehi in 1978, gathered avant-garde artists from Africa, Asia, and Arab countries.
In the spirit of Melehi’s impulse to free visual art from the gallery and bring painting into the public realm, the exhibition extends into Alserkal Avenue. Inspired by the Asilah Festival, world-renowned artist eL Seed invited the public to paint a mural with him in Alserkal Avenue, where his studio is based, that pays tribute to Melehi’s work. The artwork is a quote from Mohamed Melehi that reads: “Any type of art you see, if you used it as a way of communication, a way of awakening attitudes, it could help broaden minds.”
In Alserkal Avenue’s The Yard, an adapted re-creation of a mural from the first Asilah Moussem Festival of the Arts in 1978 was painted by students from Zayed University, in collaboration with Jotun paints.
The exhibition also reveals Melehi’s key role in the development of art pedagogy and experimental practices in Morocco, as well as his significant work in graphic design and mural painting, which has contributed heavily in shaping the aesthetics of significant artistic networks and political causes throughout the Maghreb and the Pan-Arab alliances.
The travelling exhibition and the Dubai iteration marks the first time that the full period of Melehi’s works has been shown on a global stage.
A full ‘catalogue’ and guide are available virtually, allowing visitors to explore the exhibition through texts, videos, and audio, and engage in its accompanying public programme. To see a 360° virtual exhibition, and interviews with the curator and artist, visit alserkal.online.
Alserkal Arts Foundation is hosting a public programme in line with the exhibition, including a workshop entitled “Ripple Effects: Legacies of Radical Pedagogy in the Art School”, taking place on 26 September on alserkal.online; and a screening of the documentary film MELEHI in Alserkal Avenue, with a simultaneous online broadcast on 7 October, followed by a conversation between Melehi and documentary film-maker Shalom Gorewitz with curator Morad Montazami on alserkal.online.
New Waves is open to all, with audiences able to book their visit in line with social-distancing guidelines. New Waves was originally scheduled to open on 23 March 2020, but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
New Waves: Mohamed Melehi and the Casablanca Art School Archives is presented by Alserkal Arts Foundation. Curated by Zamân Books & Curating, the original exhibition was produced by The Mosaic Rooms, A.M. Qattan Foundation. This exhibition was organised in collaboration with the Museum of Contemporary African Art Al Maaden (MACAAL).
With additional thanks to JOTUN, and our logistics partner Crown Fine Art.
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Founded by Emirati businessman and patron, Abdelmonem Bin Eisa Alserkal, in 2007, Alserkal is a socially responsible cultural enterprise, which is deeply engaged with the arts locally, regionally and internationally. Through Alserkal Avenue, its renowned cultural district of contemporary art galleries, non-profit organisations and homegrown businesses, Alserkal has cultivated a creative economy in Dubai, supporting cultural production and spearheading disruptive business models, including the OMA-designed Concrete, a state-of-the-art exhibitions and alternative space. In addition, Alserkal supports public art commissions, residencies, research grants and educational programmes through its non-profit, Alserkal Arts Foundation.
About Alserkal Arts Foundation
The Alserkal Arts Foundation supports socially engaged, multi-disciplinary practices and facilitates cross-cultural exchange through its four core initiatives: public art commissions, residencies, research grants and educational programmes. The Foundation offers cultural practitioners – either based in Dubai, or whose practice critically investigates themes pertinent to the region's artistic community – opportunities for research, scholarship, and artistic production. All of Alserkal Arts Foundation’s activities are supported by Alserkal, an Emirati family business spearheaded by Abdelmonem Bin Eisa Alserkal.
About Alserkal Avenue
Established in 2008 by Alserkal, Alserkal Avenue is a renowned cultural district of contemporary art galleries, non-profit organisations and homegrown businesses in the Al Quoz industrial area of Dubai. Alserkal Avenue is a vibrant community of visual and performing arts organisations, designers, and artisanal spaces that have become an essential platform for the development of the creative industries in the United Arab Emirates. As one of the region’s foremost platforms for contemporary art, Alserkal Avenue provides cultural experiences for local, regional and international audiences. Alserkal Avenue features Concrete, a multi-disciplinary space conceptualised and programmed by Alserkal.
Concrete was inaugurated in 2017 as the first building in the UAE to be completed by the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), founded by Rem Koolhaas, and is an adaptable venue whose ability to metamorphose to bring creative visions to life makes it suitable for international, museum-grade exhibitions as well as events across art, design, fashion and the performing arts. Concrete was shortlisted for the 2019 Aga Khan Award for Architecture.
About Mohamed Melehi
Melehi’s work has featured in numerous solo exhibitions including a retrospective at the Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris, 1995, and the Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York, 1984. He has participated in group shows in Casablanca, Tangiers, Rabat, Marrakech, Baghdad, Algiers, London, Paris, Rome, Zurich, New York, Chicago and Montreal. His work is held in international museum collections such as Centre Georges Pompidou, Beaubourg, Paris, Tate Modern, London, Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris, and MoMA, New York.
About Morad Montazami | Zamân Books & Curating
Morad Montazami is an art historian and curator. His research interests are cosmopolitan modernisms and histories of the avant-garde throughout West Asia, North Africa, and the Mediterranean. He was previously Adjunct Research Curator at the Tate Modern. He has published essays on Farid Belkahia, Bahman Mohassess, Behjat Sadr, Hamed Abdalla, Latif Al Ani, among others. He curated the exhibitions ARABÉCÉDAIRE Hamed Abdalla and Behjat Sadr: Dusted Waters in 2018 at The Mosaic Rooms. He also curated Bagdad Mon Amour at Institut des cultures d’Islam, Paris (2018). Fugitive Volumes and Faouzi Laatiris: Catalogue déraisonné at the Mohammed VI Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Rabat (2016) and co-curated the exhibition Unedited History: Iran 1960-2014 at Musée d’art moderne de la ville de Paris and MAXXI, Rome (2014). He is the director of Zaman Books & Curating and its related journal Zamân.
About Madeleine de Colnet | Zamân Books & Curating
Artistic and cultural project manager Madeleine de Colnet has been instrumental in the creation of various cultural institutions in Morocco and France. From 2007 to 2012, she developed and brought to life La Fabrique du Regard, the pedagogical platform of the Paris-based LE BAL, a not-for-profit independent platform for exhibitions, publications, ideas and education. From 2013 to 2016, she was a project manager for the launch of the art space Kulte Gallery & Edition, in Rabat. Since 2017, she has been involved in the development of the platform Zamân Books & Curating.
About The Mosaic Rooms
The Mosaic Rooms commissioned the exhibition of Mohamed Melehi’s work, entitled New Waves: Mohamed Melehi and the Casablanca Art School Archives, as part of a series of exhibitions marking the tenth anniversary of The Mosaic Rooms. The series highlighted modernists and contemporary artists from Morocco, Egypt and Iran.
The Mosaic Rooms are a non-profit art gallery dedicated to supporting and promoting contemporary culture from the Arab world and beyond in London. They do this through free contemporary art exhibitions, multidisciplinary events and their learning programme. They believe in the importance of creating a cultural space that presents new thinking and daring creativity, illuminates ideas, inspires understanding, and interrogates contemporary issues. Their vision is for a London audience with a more informed, engaged and critical understanding of Arab culture and society. The Mosaic Rooms are a project of the A.M. Qattan Foundation, a registered charity number 1029450.