‘Casablanca Art School’ at the Tate St Ives

Mohamed Ataallah, Composition, Tanger c.1965 © Mohamed Ataallah Estate. Courtesy of private collection, Marrakesh

On view at the Tate St Ives is the first museum exhibition of the Casablanca Art School in the UK. The Casablanca Art School, emerged with the advent of Morocco’s independence in 1956, embracing a groundbreaking visual culture. Artist professors like Farid Belkahia, Mohammed Chabäa, and Mohamed Melehi orchestrated a transformation of this institution, steering it towards artistic experimentation while transcending Western academic norms and drawing inspiration from the local culture. This exhibition at the Tate St Ives will delve into the journey undertaken by both educators and students at the Casablanca Art School, as they amalgamated traditional Berber skills, materials, and visual dialects with modernist influences from Europe and North America, birthing a space to reimagine Moroccan contemporary art and its profound connection with everyday existence.

Malika Agueznay, Untitled 1986 © The artist. Courtesy of private collection, Marrakesh

Stretching across various mediums such as painting, sculpture, graphic design, architectural mural painting, and more, the artists affiliated with the school disseminated art into public domains, advocating for its shared experience. This exhibition serves as a convergence of over twenty artists’ works, encompassing abstract paintings, urban murals, crafts, typology, graphics, ceramics, and an array of seldom-seen print archives, vintage journals, and photographs.

The artists ventured beyond conventional Western paradigms, fostering an environment that encouraged students to explore abstract art while rediscovering their Afro-Arab heritage. The leadership of Farid Belkahia, who assumed the directorship of the Casablanca Art School, expanded the faculty to encompass colleagues like Mohamed Melehi, Toni Mariani, Bert Flint, and Mohammed Chabäa, ushering in an era of artistic advancement. Drawing inspiration from the Bauhaus art school’s ethos, which dissolved the boundaries between art, craft, design, and architecture, these artists reimagined its principles within the Afro-Berber context. Examining pivotal junctures in the movement’s evolution, attendees of the exhibition will witness the group’s interdisciplinary approaches, which birthed a novel perspective, forming an avant-garde movement.

Farid Belkahia, Bataille (Battle) 1964–5 © Foundation Farid Belkahia. Courtesy of private collection, Marrakesh

About The Collaborators

Curated by Morad Montazami and Madeleine de Colnet for Zamän Books & Curating, in collaboration with Anne Barlow (Director, Tate St Ives) and Giles Jackson (Assistant Curator, Tate St Ives), the Casablanca Art School exhibition draws support from the Casablanca Art School Exhibition Supporters Circle and Tate Members. This exhibition is a collaboration between Tate St. Ives and the Sharjah Art Foundation, where it will be showcased in February 2024. It forms an integral part of an expansive international research endeavour exploring the Casablanca Art School’s legacy, including a collaborative initiative initiated in 2020 by the KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Sharjah Art Foundation, Goethe-Institut Marokko, ThinkArt, and Zamân Books & Curating.

Location: Tate St Ives, UK

Date: 27 May 2023 – 14 January 2024



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