Morocco

First art fair for Marrakech

Event bridges North African and Western contemporary art

Installation at the Marrakech Art Fair (Photo: William Stevens)

Marrakech got a welcome boost to its art scene with the launch of the first edition of Marrakech Art Fair (8-11 October). Held at the luxury hotel Es Saadi Palace, it brought together 31 galleries—19 from Europe, mostly French, ten from northern Africa and two from the Middle East—in order to create an exchange between North African and Western contemporary art.

“It will help Moroccan artists reach the same level as the international standard,” said Hadia Temli, the director of Galerie Tindouf in Marrakech, which sold works by the Moroccan-born, New York-based photographer Lalla Essaydi, for €16,000, and paintings by the Moroccan artist Mahi Binebine to Moroccan collectors. “It’s very professional for a first edition and it’s fantastic to see Moroccan and Western art hanging seamlessly,” said Essaydi.

The fair was the brainchild of Hicham Daoudi, the managing director of Art Holding Morocco, who organised the event. Art critic and curator Renaud Siegmann was hired to curate the fair.

Bensalem Hamesh, Morocco's minister of culture, and Sheikh Hassan bin Mohammed Ali Al-Thani from Qatar attended the opening. Sheikh Hassan bought a painting by the Moroccan artist Mohamed Melehi, priced at €18,000, from Loft Art Gallery in Casablanca and a painting and a wall-hanging carpet by Tunisian artist Abderrazek Sahli from Galerie Le Violon Bleu in Tunisia for the Qatar Museums Authority, where he is vice-chairman.

“We’re happy with this first edition of the fair, not only with the quality of the exhibitors but also with the collectors who mostly came from France and Casablanca,” said Jean-Gabriel Mitterrand, whose gallery sold works by Jean-François Fourtou and Chourouk Hriech.

Yet several European dealers found business tricky. “People are motivated but are very hesitant to cross the border and buy when we tell them prices that are a bit high,” said Parisian dealer Marie Vitoux, who was presenting a solo show of Binebine’s paintings. “The Moroccan galleries are doing well but it’s not great for me,” said Parisian dealer Laurent Godin.

The fair was launched in response to Marrakech becoming a popular destination for cultural tourism, with increasing numbers of French, Portuguese and Spanish people buying a home here. “Morocco is developing economically and will be very important in the Middle East,” observed Eric Hussenot of Paris gallery Hussenot, who sold works by Mounir Fatmi for around €50,000. “Contemporary art has an almost socio-political mission to open the doors and open a dialogue between cultures,” said dealer Jérôme de Noirmont.

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