Moroccan Trilogy


31 March – 27 September 2021 /
Sabatini Building, Floor 3

Moroccan Trilogy 1950-2020 articulates a visual dialogue that reflects artistic production at three historical moments from independence to the present day. It does so through a significant selection of artworks that show the diversity of initiatives, the vitality of artistic debate and the interdisciplinary exchanges to be found in Morocco.

This exhibition falls within the area of decolonial research, one of the central focuses of the Museum’s programming. It is a first attempt to broaden the focus of these analyses by turning the gaze onto the southern shore of the Mediterranean, the cradle of western civilization, and more specifically onto Morocco, an ancient country just 14 kilometers away from Spain.

The show has been organized within the framework of the program for cultural cooperation between Spain and Morocco in the field of Museums, an initiative fostered by the National Foundation of Museums of the Kingdom of Morocco and the Ministry of Culture and Sport of the Government of Spain, in collaboration with Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art in Qatar. Moroccan Trilogy 1950-2020 offers an account of artistic experiences in Morocco from the mid-20th century onwards, focusing particularly on the three urban centers of Tétouan, Casablanca and Tangier. The works on show, produced between 1950 and 2020, combine with archive documents to illustrate a history of profuse cultural effervescence.

The exhibition shows the diversity of artistic expression in modern Morocco, highlighting the key figures of each period from the transition to independence (1950-1969) to the so-called ‘Years of Lead’ (1970-1999), and from then to the present day (2000-2020).

After forty years under the French and Spanish protectorate, the first period covers an extremely agitated phase that extends from the years of independence until 1969. During that time, the artistic field was articulated around the debates aroused by the appearance of the nationalist movement and the imperious need to construct a discourse of identity. These two aspects made up the conceptual background to modern Moroccan art in the 1960s and 1970s, when artists started to question the traditional artistic academicism transmitted through art teaching in Morocco.

After studying and training in the world’s principal artistic capitals, the first generation of Moroccan artists became impregnated with the theoretical debates then in vogue internationally. They later adopted abstraction as a means of expression suited to their national vindications and anxieties over their identity.

In this way, many artists who had started by studying at local art schools broke radically with the academic knowledge they had acquired during their training in Morocco and went to continue their studies in Europe and the United States. After their return to Morocco, artists like Mohamed Melehi, Mohamed Chabâa with Farid Belkahia, Mohamed Hamidi, Mohamed Ataallah and Mustapha Hafid profoundly transformed Moroccan artistic education at the School of Fine Arts in Casablanca, which soon helped to open up the country’s art to modernity with projects that combined craftsmanship with innovative artistic forms.

At the same time, the city of Tangier became a cosmopolitan center and a meeting place for the beat generation. From Mohamed Choukri’s relationship with that environment came one of the starkest autobiographical narratives in Moroccan literature. During the same period, the magazine Souffles, edited by the poet Abdellatif Laâbi, opened the debate on history and the new social realities. This publication, which was born in reaction to the armed repression of the student revolt of 1965, very soon became a sounding box for critical discourse and political action.

In the second phase, years of great internal conflict, there emerged a constellation of alternative publications, festivals and biennials, often independent. The voice of dissidence, especially active in literature, poetry and theatre, was spread through the magazine Souffles until it was banned in 1972, and after that through Intégral and Lamalif. Also appearing in that period is a non-academic and non-intellectualized art represented by self-taught men and women with links to a living artistic dynamism, as in the case of Chaïbia Talal and Fatima Hassan.

In the late 1980s, a new contemporary trend began to establish itself on the Moroccan art scene. Adopting new artistic approaches, it crystallized in the 1990s with artists like Mohamed El Baz, Mounir Fatmi and Yto Barrada.

In the last years of the 1990s, Morocco went through its transition to democracy, when some signs of openness in the media started to appear.

The last section of the exhibition, which covers the years 2000 to 2020, shows the work of a generation of young artists who broke off from the past on the formal, technical, symbolic and political planes of art. This generation frequented alternative venues where artists made contact on the fringes of the conventional circuits. It moreover included a large number of woman artists whose works often arouse critical reflection on feminine identity in the specific context of Moroccan society.

Each of these periods, with its formal tendencies, its ideological issues and its historical accidents, has led to gestures of significance for the next generations. The exhibition Moroccan Trilogy 1950-2020 is a study of the artistic heritage of Morocco since the post-independence period and an analysis of its contemporary production. Through its diversity of representational forms, the active role of art in its multiple manifestations is reaffirmed with respect to the individual and society, beyond any notion of moral or ideological centrality. What art teaches us is the possibility of giving sense, imagining justice and seeking cultural, social and human progress. This segment of Morocco’s history can help us understand its present and reflect on its future.

The show includes works by the following artists and film-makers: Mohamed Abouelouakar, Etel Adnan, Mohamed Afifi, Malika Agueznay, Mustapha Akrim, Ahmed Amrani, Mohamed Ataallah, Yassine Balbzioui, Yto Barrada, Farid Belkahia, Fouad Bellamine, Baghdad Benas, Hicham Benohoud, Ahmed Bouanani, Mustapha Boujemaoui, Mohamed Chabâa, Ahmed Cherkaoui, Mohamed Choukri, Hassan Darsi, Bachir Demnati, Mostafa Derkaoui, Mohamed Drissi, Moulay Ahmed Drissi, André Elbaz, Mohamed El Baz, Khalil El Ghrib, Badr El Hammami, Touhami Ennadre, Safaa Erruas, Ali Essafi, Ymane Fakhir, Mounir Fatmi, Jilali Gharbaoui, Souad Guennoun, Mustapha Hafid, Mohamed Hamidi, Mohssin Harraki, Fatima Hassan, Soukaina Joual, Mohamed Kacimi, Maria Karim, Leila Kilani, Faouzi Laatiris, Miloud Labied, Mohammed Laouli, Randa Maroufi, Najia Mehadji, Mohamed Melehi, Abderrahman Meliani, Houssein Miloudi, Mohamed Mrabet, Sara Ouhaddou, Rachid Ouettassi, Bernard Plossu, Karim Rafi, Mohamed Larbi Rahhali, Younes Rahmoun, Abbas Saladi, Tayeb Saddiki, Chaïbia Talal, Latifa Toujani.

An initiative of:    Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía             Ministerio de Cultura y Deporte del Gobierno de España                     

With the collaboration of:       Arab Museum of Modern Art             Qatar Museums y Qatar Foundation       

Exhibition´s details

Organized by: 

An initiative of: Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Ministry of Culture and Sport of the Government of Spain, and National Foundation of Museums of the Kingdom of Morocco

With the collaboration of: Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art – Qatar Museums and Qatar Foundation

Curators: Manuel Borja-Villel and Abdellah Karroum

With the support of: Almayuda Foundation