Morocco boasts an extraordinary history and the art displayed in the country ranges from Islamic and Berber to elements of Roman design and modern, contemporary creations. Much of the art scene is centred in Marrakech, though there are excellent galleries in both Casablanca and Fez. Here are ten of the best galleries to check out – building on our previous guide.
L’Atelier 21 is the leading contemporary gallery in the city of Casablanca. The gallery showcases leading Moroccan talent and both exhibits and sells the most exciting and innovative work available in the whole of Morocco. The co-owner of the gallery is art historian Aziz Daki, who believes that the emergence of an intriguing new art scene in Morocco reflects the cultural curiosity of King Mohammed VI , inspiring a new and burgeoning group of patrons and collectors. The gallery represents a collective of Moroccan artists that includes Hassan El Giaoui, Saad Ben Cheffaj, Fouad Bellamine, Mohammad Melehi and Miloud Labied.
Galerie Rê was opened by Lucien Viola in October 2006 for the promotion of contemporary Moroccan, North African and international artists working in sculpture, paint, photography and installation art. The most recent exhibition featured the works of the Moroccan painter, photographer and installation artist Abdellatif Ilkem and American artist Lori Park, who works in sculpture, collage and installations. Amongst the Moroccan and international artists that Galerie Rê has represented are Said Afifi, Gilles de Kerversau, Imad Mansour, Antonio Finelli, and Sebastien Pignon.
The Jardin Majorelle is more than just a gallery – both the garden and the building are works of art in themselves, not to mention the Museum of Berber Culture also housed on site. The French painter Jacques Majorelle came to Marrakech in 1917 and began building a house with landscape gardens in 1923. With the help of botanists and architects, he developed an extraordinary garden full of exotic flowers and constructed a magnificent villa in the midst of it, inspired by a blend of Art Deco and Moorish influence, standing boldly in bright blue. The site now covers 12 acres and in 1980 became the home of Yves Saint-Laurent – his ashes were scattered at Majorelle in 2008. You will find fountains, pools, sculptures, a gallery of posters by Saint-Laurent and the Museum of Berber Culture within the extensive grounds.
Situated in the old centre of Marrakech, the Museum is one of the premier cultural attractions in Morocco. The building itself is worthy of note: the Museum is housed in the Dar Menebhi Palace –built in the 19th century by the Minister of War, Mehdi el Menebhi – and remains a superb example of Andalusian-Moorish architecture with courtyards, porticos, tile-work mosaics, and atria. The building was restored in 1997 when it became the Marrakech Museum and the home to an extensive collection of traditional Islamic, Berber and Jewish works of art. You can explore collections of coins, manuscripts, pottery, and fabrics at the Museum, ranging from the colonial and pre-colonial eras to modern day.
Dar Si Said Museum
Building, Museum, Natural Feature
The Dar Si Said Palace in Marrakech houses the Museum of Moroccan Arts. The building itself is a 19th century palace, now containing a collection of artworks celebrating the skill of the master artisans of Marrakech. The collection includes the oldest object in Marrakech – a chest that once belonged to one of the chamberlains of the Umayyad Caliphs in Spain and dates back to the 11th century. Alongside such artefacts, are carpets from the Atlas Mountains; ornate carvings; embossed jewellery; musical instruments and extraordinary examples of calligraphy. Arabesque, floral and geometric patterns adorn many of the items in the collection including pillars, balustrades and moucharabiehs – the trademark window decoration made of intricate latticework found in classical Islamic architecture.
Maison de la Photographie
The Maison de la Photographie was established in 2009. Housed in a wonderful, centuries old fondouk – an inn traditionally used by traders and merchants as they passed through Marrakech – the Maison de la Photographie is home to an impressive archive of over 8000 photographs documenting the visual history of Morocco. The collection is privately owned, focusing on photography of the 19th and early 20th centuries and particularly prioritizing the period from the 1870s onwards, when the number of Europeans coming to explore and observe Morocco began to increase. The Maison de la Photographie also runs and hosts a photography festival centring on beautiful pictures of historical value.
Marrakech Museum for Photography and Visual Arts
Historical Landmark, Building, Museum
The Marrakech Museum for Photography and Visual Arts is one of the newest galleries in Morocco, having opened in November 2013 to excellent acclaim in the British and American press. Currently, the gallery is housed in the El Badii palace, though there are plans to move the collection to a new building on the outskirts of the city, built in the modern rectilinear style. The gallery boasts contemporary works by North African and international photographers and also offers free workshops. One of the driving forces behind the opening of the Museum was the Palm Springs Art Museum and Design Pavilion. The current exhibition will feature work by and discussion with leading figures from the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, the Whitechapel Gallery in London, and the Pompidou Centre in Paris.
Matisse Art Gallery
Art Gallery, Building, Library
The famous French painter Henri Matisse came to Morocco in 1912 and stayed for many months, working on over 20 canvases during his visit. The Matisse Art Gallery was opened in Marrakech in 1999 and is housed in a superb old villa, accessed via a small alleyway. The gallery provides an ideal platform for leading Moroccan artists and international figures working in various artistic mediums. The Gallery has played host to both new talent and established figures, memorably featuring practitioners of the ancient art of calligraphy including Nouredine Chater and Daifallah. The Gallery is also responsible for maintaining and creating monographs and catalogues that further publicize the Moroccan art scene.
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