Modernism in Marrakech

symbioses of two worlds, Marrakesh

Palais Namaskar, one of Marrakech’s more opulent five-star hotels, is not the first place you might think of when considering modern art, however this month sees the hotel host a fascinating exhibition to mark the centenary of a journey to North Africa made by Paul Klee, August Macke and Louis Moilliet.

The adventure that these three seminal artists undertook to North Africa (primarily to Tunis) not only shaped their own work but also Modernism in the west on the whole. It is well documented that for many Europeans, North Africa was a source of inspiration. Claude Monet and Auguste Renoir visited Algeria, and Henri Matisse of course lived in Morocco for some time (1912-1913), where he painted some of his famous ‘orientalist’ style works.

It was during Klee’s journey to Tunis that he explored abstract and Modernist ideas and returned with the motto: “Art does not reproduce the visible; rather, it makes visible.”

Partnering with the Written Art Foundation, a German cultural institution, the exhibition Symbiosis of Two Worlds brings together 40 important American, European and Arabic artists which highlight the ongoing connections between European and North African artists. Among them are Gerhard Richter, Cy Twombly, Georg Baselitz, Shafic Abboud, Mehdi Qotbi, Rachid Koraichi, Nja Mahdaoui and El Houssaine Mimouni. The exhibition runs from November 9 to December 8.

Read more here:

Moroccan Hip-Hop artist–chic-riads-marrakech art scene

sisimo rap star, marrakech

Moroccan hip-hop artist

Famous in Morocco, SiSimo is one of the country’s best-loved hip-hop stars. He can be heard on the radio, seen on the TV and watched at festivals and concerts.  We heard about him from the excellent website They reported on his latest album ‘Bach Jay Bach Dayr’, which is now available worldwide via iTunes, Amazon, and Spotify. The album is split into two, on the first side it is modern rap-rock, and on the second, there’s more of an old-school vibe.

What is refreshing about SiSimo is that he doesn’t rap about the usual topics – it’s not all jewellery and fast cars – instead he raps about Moroccan society and tries to pass on positive messages. He may only be 28 years old but he understands social injustices poverty, illiteracy, crime and the high cost of living and he’s not afraid to sing about them. In fact, his most famous song, “Kilimini” speaks directly of the wealth gap in Moroccan society.

His website is here and you can hear some of his best songs, here on his FaceBook fan page:


Hicham Gardaf – Marrakesh artist

Hicham Gardaf, Marrakech artist

This week sees the opening of Hicham Gardaf’s exhibition ‘Extimacy’ at Gallery 127. The show will run from 1-23 November. Extimacy includes two series, Tangier Diaries and Cafes. This body of work dates back to 2010 and primarily shows intimate portraits of the legendary cafes of Tangier.

The works aim to be intimate without falling into the trap of exhibitionism. Essentially, the show is an exploration of limits while the images are simple. One photograph may be of two chairs and a table in front of a peeling wall, another might be of a man watching a television in a cafe. It is the composition that is most striking as well as the light and colours.

Marrakech is certainly gearing up to be preeminent centre for photography in Africa. The city is currently hosting the first in a series of exhibitions in the lead up to the opening of a permanent home for the new Marrakech Museum for Photography and Visual Art (MMPVA), which is due to open in 2016, designed by British architect Sir David Chipperfield. Currently, the museum is using the city’s El Badi Palace as a temporary space.


Marrakech Film Festival begins this month

marrakech film festival 2013

Marrakech is readying itself for its 13th annual Film Festival, which will run from 29 November – 7 December. The latest celebrity news is that Oscar Winner Marion Cotillard will join American director Martin Scorsese (President on this year’s jury) on the judging panel. She joins an ever-increasing number of big-star international names who will sit on the jury this year, including  Oscar nominee Patricia Clarkson, Amat Escalante, Paolo Sorrentino, Korean director Park Chan-wook, Indian filmmaker Anurag Kashyap and Turkish director Fatih Akin. The jury votes on the festival’s top prize, the Golden Star, as well as many other prizes like best film, best actor and best actress.

The festival will open with the Indian film Ram-leela, the latest by director Sanjay Leela Bhansali, who will be in attendance with leading actress Deepika Padukone. The film is a modern version of Romeo and Juliet and it harks back to 2012 when the Marrakech International Film Festival was dedicated to Indian cinema in 2012. True to its international focus, the festival will pay tribute to Scandinavian cinema on 5 December.

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David Bloch Gallery Marrakech

McMurry photographer exhibition Marrakech

There are heaps of good galleries to visit in Marrakech. In fact, visitors could come with the aim of visiting only art spaces and museums in Marrakech – perhaps with a little eating and shopping squeezed in – and they would not leave disappointed.

One gallery that really stands out is David Bloch. There are two great shows coming up this winter that we’re keen to tell you about and the first is Larbi Cherkaoui who will present his recent work from November 8 to December 3, 2013.

A young Moroccan artist (born in 1972), he is a particularly talented and creative calligrapher. Arabic letters are designed to become abstract and lyrical through the warm colours and the pigments used. Words used to describe his work include ‘symbolic’, ‘heritage’ and ‘cultural.’ This will be a must-see show and we’re looking forward to it.

When this exhibition finishes, the gallery will present the work of world-famous photographer Steve McCurry (5th December-4th January). Born in Pennsylvania, McCurry made many trips to India and for the next 30 years he became one of the world’s best known contemporary photographers.

McCurry Afghani girl

He has won the Robert Capa Gold Medal, National Press Photographers Award, and a record four first prize World Press Photo awards. Don’t miss the chance to see some of his earliest works here in Marrakech!


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Hamid Khantour artist in Marrakech

Hamid Khantour foundouk Marrakech artist

We discovered some time ago that often you don’t have to go very far at all to discover great art, in fact, sometimes it is right on your doorstep, or next door, especially in Marrakech.

So, with this in mind we were delighted recently to discover that one of our guests had stumbled upon the work of Hamid Khantour, right by the well-known bar and restaurant Café Arabe. Khantour has a workshop (located at 1954 rue el Mouassine) housed in a traditional foundouk. ‘Foundouk’ means ‘hotel’ in Arabic, but specifically these are old hotels used by travelling merchants. Many were built large enough to hold animals – hence some of enormous doors in the medina. ‘Caravanserai’ is another word for this type of place and they can be found all along the Silk Road, especially in Central Asia in the cities of Samarkand and Bukhara. These days the foundouks are used to house craftsmen and artists.

Khantour was born in Marrakech and his work often depicts busy market scenes, or crowds of people, which from a distance look like patterns. He uses thick and colourful brush-strokes and his work is distinctly Moroccan. You can view Khantour’s work on his FaceBook page: or you can email him at



Al Maqam – near Marrakech

Al Maqam near Marrakech artists

An artist’s retreat with a difference, Al Maqam is located in the village of Tahanaout in the lower reaches of the snow-capped Atlas Mountains. Al Maqam means ‘The Place’ in Arabic and it serves not only as an artist’s colony but also as gallery, library and a place to stay. There is nothing else quite like it in Morocco.

The painter Mohamed Mourabiti has been setting up Al Maqam for over a decade and now, carefully installing traditional home-wares and local paintings and now photographers, writers and artists flock to the centre to share ideas and inspiration. It is a supportive environment, and for those who struggle to pay the €50 for nightly accommodation, they have the option to pay with paintings or poems instead.

This unique, quiet place hosts workshops and also has paint materials for sale and a conference room – everything in fact that the artist needs. On average 100 international artists are hosted a year, and there are regular guests like the painter Abderrahim Yamou ( and the French writer Michel Butor.

You can find out more here:


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Ministry of Taste

Ministero del Gusto Marrakech Design riad Italian Modern Art Former style editor, Alessandra Lippini of Italian Vogue and her partner, Fabrizio Bizzarri, have to be one of the most stylish couples in Marrakech. It’s true that there are quite a few concept shops now in the city, but this fabulously fashionable pair kick-started the trend several years ago and their emporium-cum-gallery, Ministero Del Gusto, is an inspirational and good looking space.

Racks of carefully chosen vintage couture clothes stand alongside designer wooden furniture, bas reliefs and trinkets that have been sourced from all around the world. The space is also a hive of creativity and a few times a year the couple put on an art exhibition or a musical gathering, a taster of their art and design school which they have created along with Italian architect Sergio Calatroni located out in Tahanaoute (20km or so away). Make an appointment if you can, but impromptu visits are also welcomed.

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Save the date: 5th Edition of the Marrakech Biennale

Biennale emblem, Marrakech
There’s no better way to get a handle on visual art, cinema and video, literature, performing art and architecture than to get involved with the Marrakech Biennale. Under the High Patronage of His Majesty King Mohammed VI, and attracting an international and local audience, the fifth edition of Marrakech’s Biennale asks “Where are we now?” This theme explores where Marrakech finds itself in relation to Morocco and Africa; as well as looking at its deep connections – via history, economy, culture and the media – with the Middle East, Europe, Americas and Asia.

Set to launch on February 26th, 2014, the event promises to bring together local, regional and international audiences in order to examine this key question.

As well as several curated projects, smaller, fringe projects will pop up across the city during the event. Past participants have included musicians like Coco Rosie, writers like Ben Okri and prize-winning director Faouzi Bensaidi. All in all, we think it’s a particularly great time to be in Marrakech.

To buy tickets: VIP tickets, the Friends of the Biennale and the MB Patrons Packages, are now online. Tickets are limited.

Day passes and week passes will be available from the box office beginning February 1st, 2014.

More information here:

‘Fantastiques Spirales’ Exhibition – Gallery Re in Marrakesh

Galerie Re Art gallery Marrakech

Just being in Marrakech – with all the bright sunshine and colour – provides artistic stimulus, but there are plenty of wonderful art galleries to admire too while you are here.

One of the galleries we like is Gallery Re and at the moment, until September 30th 2013, there is a wonderful exhibition on called ‘Fantastiques Spirales’ which bold and colourful in its approach, explores abstract themes. This show brings together four talented artists – Bilal Chrif, Raphael Durans, Imad Mansour and Yasmina Ziyat. Definitely worth a look!

More information on the gallery here: