‘Casablanca Art School: Platforms and Patterns for a Postcolonial Avant-Garde 1962–1987’ at Al Hamriyah Studios and Old Al Diwan Al Amiri, Al Hamriyah, Sharjah

The groundbreaking exhibition ‘Casablanca Art School: Platforms and Patterns for a Postcolonial Avant-Garde 1962–1987’ has made its way to Sharjah after a showing at Tate St Ives in collaboration with the Sharjah Art Foundation. Running until June 16, 2024 at Al Hamriyah Studios and Old Al Diwan Al Amiri, this exhibition marks the first major museum showcase of works from the renowned Casablanca Art School (CAS).

The Casablanca Art School: Platforms and Patterns for a Postcolonial Avant-Garde (1962–1987). Installation view: Sharjah Art Foundation, 2024. Photo: Motaz Mawid

In the wake of Moroccan independence in 1956, CAS emerged as a catalyst for an artistic revolution, blending abstract art with African and Amazigh cultural traditions. The school’s staff and students drew inspiration from regional elements such as rugs, jewelry, calligraphy, and painted ceilings, integrating them into their artistic expressions. This fusion of influences led to the emergence of a Moroccan ‘new wave’ that permeated social and urban landscapes, fostering artistic solidarities across continents.

The exhibition delves into the unique vision for modern life fostered by five influential CAS figures: Farid Belkahia, Mohammed Chabâa, Bert Flint, Toni (Antonella) Maraini, and Mohamed Melehi. Referred to as the Casablanca Group, this collective of Moroccan artists, though informal, exerted a profound influence on the trajectory of art in the region.

Mohammed Chabâa, Untitled, 1977. Installation view: The Casablanca Art School: Platforms and Patterns for a Postcolonial Avant-Garde (1962–1987), Sharjah Art Foundation, 2024. Photo: Motaz Mawid

Showcasing artworks by 21 CAS artist-activists spanning generations, the exhibition offers a comprehensive exploration of their contributions. From vibrant abstract paintings and urban murals to crafts, typography, and interior design, the showcase presents a multifaceted view of the CAS legacy. Rarely seen print archives, vintage journals, photography, and film further enrich the narrative.

Divided into thematic platforms and patterns, the exhibition chronicles key milestones in CAS’s journey. From challenging colonial norms to fostering pan-Arab solidarity and democratising art through public engagement, each platform elucidates CAS’s pivotal role in shaping Moroccan art and culture.

Curated by Morad Montazami and Madeleine de Colnet, the exhibition is a culmination of international research initiated in 2020, underscoring CAS’s global significance. Presented at Al Hamriyah Studios and Old Al Diwan Al Amiri in Al Hamriyah, this exhibition serves as a testament to the enduring impact of CAS on the postcolonial avant-garde movement.

The Casablanca Art School: Platforms and Patterns for a Postcolonial Avant-Garde (1962–1987). Installation view: Sharjah Art Foundation, 2024. Photo: Shanavas Jamaluddin

About Sharjah Art Foundation

Sharjah Art Foundation is a champion, instigator, and facilitator of modern art in Sharjah and its vicinity, engaging with the global arts scene. Through innovative programs, it fosters contemporary art creation and display, preserves regional culture, and promotes art’s transformative power. Key initiatives include the renowned Sharjah Biennial, showcasing global artists, the annual March Meeting for arts professionals, artist grants and residencies, daring commissions, and traveling exhibitions alongside scholarly publications. This multifaceted approach underscores the Foundation’s commitment to nurturing creativity, fostering cultural exchange, and advancing the understanding of art’s profound impact.

Location: Al Hamriyah Studios and Old Al Diwan Al Amiri, Al Hamriyah, Sharjah.

Date: 24 February–16 June 2024

Caption featured image: The Casablanca Art School: Platforms and Patterns for a Postcolonial Avant-Garde (1962–1987). Installation view: Sharjah Art Foundation, 2024. Photo: Shanavas Jamaluddin

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