Moroccan Trilogy


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

The first period of the show, following forty years of colonial rule, centres on a period of extreme agitation, stretching from the years before independence to 1969. In the art world there were still divergences caused by the appearance of a nationalist movement vehemently opposed to international trends, giving rise to a clash between art in pursuit of Moroccan identities and art that was freed from these references and formal systems. Against the backdrop of this debate, the exhibition presents the work of salient figures from the cultural change driven by a new political situation in cities such as Tétouan, where the Preparatory School of Fine Arts still offered markedly academic teaching, and Casablanca, which would soon fly the flag for an opening-up to modernity with projects in which crafts and innovative forms from international art coexisted. Equally, Tangiers became a cosmopolitan centre and place of encounter for the Beat Generation, whose support of Mohamed Choukri granted exposure to one of the rawest autobiographies ever written. Running in parallel was the magazine Souffles, edited by poet Abdellatif Laâbi, which fostered an overture to debate on history and new social realities and was a publication which, surfacing from a reaction to the armed repression of the 1965 student riots, would soon become a sounding board for critical discourse and political action.     

The second period, known as the Years of Lead, stretches from 1970 to 1999, the year of Hassan II’s death. This phase, among the most violent in Morocco’s recent history, is characterised by a gradual Arabisation of cultural life, greater State control, the repression of Marxist and Islamist opposition movements and the exile of scores of artists. The voice of dissent, highly active in literature, poetry and theatre, was channelled by Souffles until it was banned by the Regime in 1972. It was at that point that a constellation of alternative publications emerged — for instance, Intégral and Lamalif — while cultural activities gained momentum through independent festivals and biennials that would ultimately become compromised by the ruling power. Visual and literary language combined popular heritage with modernity, the ailing body and abstraction, movements of protest with arrests and disappearances.

In the late 1990s, Morocco underwent a democratic transition, during which time there were signs of openness to the media. The last stage of the show, therefore, extends over the period from 2000 to 2020, displaying the work of a generation of young artists and activists who radically break away from the past in formal, technical, symbolic and political artistic planes; a generation that has gained visibility in alternatives spaces, where creators interact outside officialdom. In Morocco a context that reconsidered relations with the rest of Africa and Europe also rose to the fore, with investigations into repression during the Years of Lead, the rise of populist and Islamist parties, the Casablanca terrorist attacks in 2003 and the Arab Spring marking such a time of radical change, mass uprisings and technological development.    

Exhibition´s details

Organized by: 
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, in collaboration with Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art – Qatar Museums and Qatar Foundation
Manuel Borja-Villel and Abdellah Karroum