Alserkal Arts Foundation will bring New Waves: Mohamed Melehi and the Casablanca Art School Archives to Alserkal Avenue, Dubai

5 October 2019

Alserkal Arts Foundation will present New Waves: Mohamed Melehi and the Casablanca Art School Archives in Concrete, Alserkal Avenue in Dubai, from 14 March – 4 April 2020.


New Waves: Mohamed Melehi and the Casablanca Art School Archives
14 March – 4 April 2020
Concrete, Alserkal Avenue

Alserkal Arts Foundation will present New Waves: Mohamed Melehi and the Casablanca Art School Archives in Concrete, Alserkal Avenue in Dubai, from 14 March – 4 April 2020. Curated by Morad Montazami and Madeleine de Colnet, the exhibition tells the story of the radical Casablanca Art School, retracing Melehi’s career chronologically—from the 1950s to the 1980s – as well as including some of the artist’s contemporary works.

Melehi is widely regarded as a major figure of postcolonial 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.

Originally produced by The Mosaic Rooms in London, where it was shown from 12 April – 22 June 2019, and currently on show at MACAAL in Marrakech until 5 January 2020, the forthcoming presentation of New Waves in Concrete will be a further expanded exhibition. It will include 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.

Abdelmonem Bin Eisa Alserkal, Founder of Alserkal, says: “New Waves is an expression of an ‘invisible history’ that has shaped the MEASA region intellectually and aesthetically, which Alserkal Arts Foundation will bring to international audiences in Dubai. This presentation furthers our commitment as a Foundation, and as a family, to keep these artistic legacies alive.”

Vilma Jurkute, Director of Alserkal, adds: “Alserkal Arts Foundation is honoured to present this major survey of Melehi’s work, and the Casablanca Art School. We hope that the extensive documentation of his work will initiate new research and further historical discourse beyond regional geographies, resonating with our academic communities here.”

The Dubai iteration will also show works from renowned artists of the Casablanca Art School, such as Farid Belkahia, Mohamed Chabâ, and Hossein Miloudi. A photography archive will shed light on the collective history of the movement. The travelling exhibition marks the first time that the full period of Melehi’s works has been shown on a global stage.

From 1964 to 1974, Melehi and a small group of artists led a radical development of arts education at the Casablanca Fine Art School. Archives and photographic material from the school convey the spirit of collective knowledge through experimental displays and site-specific works. The school combined different studios of painting, photography, decoration, graphic design, and typography, and encouraged students to look beyond Western art history, to local art production for inspiration. The exhibition in Dubai will reveal Melehi’s key role in the development of art pedagogy and experimental practicess 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.

Morad Montazami, curator, says “The relevance of Mohamed Melehi’s artistic legacy goes back to his pioneering role in a postcolonial and cosmopolitan art history. Rooted in the Independence of Morocco in 1956, his ability to navigate the shifting borders of the region allowed him to create a genuine visual culture for the development of the Global South. Anybody interested in rethinking those borders today can find a true inspiration in him.”

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.


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Editor’s Notes

About Alserkal Arts Foundation
The Alserkal Arts Foundation is a non-profit that extends Alserkal’s mission to support cultural production. The Foundation offers opportunities for research and artistic production to cultural practitioners and researchers with strong regional or contemporary relevance who challenge conventional disciplinary boundaries. Through its initiatives, which include support for artistic projects, research grants, alternative learning, and artist residencies at purpose-built studios located in the heart of Alserkal Avenue, the Foundation seeks to incubate creative thinking that contributes to the region’s cultural sphere, leading to new forms of knowledge. Alserkal Arts Foundation is supported by Abdelmonem Bin Eisa Alserkal, Ahmad Bin Eisa Alserkal and the Alserkal family.

About Alserkal
Alserkal is a socially responsible and forward-thinking cultural enterprise dedicated to developing sustainable models for homegrown initiatives and to supporting narratives and research emerging from the Global South. Founded in 2007 by Emirati businessman and patron Abdelmonem Bin Eisa Alserkal, Alserkal is renowned for its ground-breaking artistic productions, experimental approach and for the creation of culturally meaningful spaces that inspire and shape communities. Alserkal has three primary areas of activity: cultivating a creative economy in Dubai and building a collaborative network of civic cultural institutions through its renowned cultural district, Alserkal Avenue; providing advisory services to public and private sector entities; and, supporting public artist commissions, residencies, research grants and educational programmes through its non-profit, Alserkal Arts Foundation.

Alserkal has transformed the cultural landscape of Dubai and the UAE through the creation of a thriving, region-specific community of over 70 contemporary art galleries, visual and performing arts organisations, designers and entrepreneur-led businesses at Alserkal Avenue, providing an essential platform for the development of creative industries in the region.

Alserkal utilizes its collective expertise in arts initiatives and cultural production, heritage creation, community building and engagement, as well as urbanism and planning for creative industries, to guide public and private sector entities in developing sustainable and responsive business models.

About Alserkal Avenue
Alserkal Avenue is a vibrant cultural district in the Al Quoz industrial area of Dubai, and is home to a community of over 70 contemporary art galleries, visual and performing arts organisations, designers, home-grown and entrepreneur-led businesses, and community spaces across 500,000sqft and 90 warehouses. Alserkal Avenue provides an essential platform for the development of the creative industries in the United Arab Emirates. As one of the region’s foremost destinations for contemporary art, and home to Dubai’s risk-takers, makers and wide-ranging creative communities, Alserkal Avenue provides cultural experiences for local, regional and international audiences through its extensive year-round programming. Alserkal Avenue is home to Concrete, a multi-disciplinary exhibitions space conceptualised and programmed by Alserkal, as well as the artist residency program of Alserkal’s non-profit, Alserkal Arts Foundation. Alserkal Avenue was established in 2007 by Alserkal following the visionary thinking of its founder, Emirati businessman and cultural patron Abdelmonem Bin Eisa Alserkal, who sought to cultivate a vibrant creative community and support cultural production in Dubai.

About Mohammed 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 the Curator | Morad Montazami
Morad Montazami is an art historian and curator. His research interests are cosmopolitan modernisms and histories of the avant-garde in the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean and North Africa. Morad was previously Adjunct Research Curator at the Tate. He has published essays on Farid Belkahia, Bahman Mohassess, Behjat Sadr, Hamed Abdalla, Jordi Colomer, 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 Publishing and its related journal Zamân.

About Mosaic Rooms
The Mosaic Rooms are a non-profit art gallery and bookshop dedicated to supporting and promoting contemporary culture from the Arab world and beyond in London. We do this through our free contemporary art exhibitions, our multidisciplinary events (including film screenings, current affairs talks, book launches and more) artist residencies and learning & engagement programme.

We work in partnership with local, national and international organisations to disseminate our combined arts programme to the widest possible audience – in London and beyond. Our previous collaborations include partnerships with The British Museum, ICA, Shubbak Festival, London Design Festival and London Festival of Architecture, amongst many others.

We believe in the importance of creating a cultural space that presents new thinking and daring creativity, illuminates ideas, inspires understanding, and interrogates contemporary issues. Our vision is for a London audience with a more informed, engaged and critical understanding of Arab culture and society. We are a non-party political, non-religious organisation, and we are a project of the A.M. Qattan Foundation, a registered charity number 1029450.