Alserkal Arts Foundation Presents Mohamed Melehi

By Global Art Daily’s Editorial Board

Published on September 1st, 2020

        On September 19th, Alserkal Arts Foundation will open its first exhibition post-lockdown. For this occasion, the works will be housed in the OMA-designed Concrete building. Dedicated to Moroccan modernist painter Mohamed Melehi (b.1936), New Waves: Mohamed Melehi and the Casablanca Art School Archives will be Melehi’s first retrospective of its kind in the UAE. Curated by Morad Montazami and Madeleine de Colnet of Zamân Books & Curating, the exhibition will showcase never-before-seen artworks and archive material retracing Melehi’s artistic trajectory from the 1950s to the 1980s, contextualized with the work of the experimental Casablanca Art School.

1. Mohamed Melehi, Untitled (1975). Cellulose paint on wood. Private collection. 

“Melehi is widely regarded as a major figure of postcolonial Moroccan art and of transnational modernism,” explains curator Morad Montazami in the Introduction to this seminal exhibition. From Rome to New York City to Casablanca, Sections 1 and 2 of New Waves will present Melehi’s artistic journey influenced by his many travels. Melehi was a global artist and mixed influences from a vast array of sources to create his famous waves, which the curators have characterized as floating “between Afro-Berberism and postcolonial architecture.”

2. Mohamed Melehi, Untitled (1970-71). Cellulose paint on wood. Private collection. 

Section 3 and 4 will present previously unseen works and archives presenting Melehi’s vast array of cultural activities as a muralist, art teacher, cultural activist, and graphic designer. Some highlights include Melehi’s documentary photographs of Marrakech and Casablanca, showing the realities of Morocco’s post-independence era, as well as his works for his graphic design studio SHOOF.

The forthcoming presentation of New Waves in Concrete, Alserkal Avenue, is an iteration of an exhibition originally produced by The Mosaic Rooms in London, and then shown at MACAAL in Marrakech. According to its press statement, “the traveling exhibition and the Dubai iteration marks the first time that the full period of Melehi’s works has been shown on a global stage with a researched display.”

3. Mohamed Melehi, Sleeping Manhattan (1962). Acrylic on canvas. Private collection.
4. Mohamed Melehi, Vertical (1960). Acrylic on canvas. Private collection.

We hope this exhibition’s expanded research and Melehi’s work both inside and outside the confines of fine art will resonate with Global Art Daily’s vibrant audience in Dubai. New Waves will focus on the experimental spirit of Melehi and the Casablanca Art School and can provide a solid regional blueprint of how artists have challenged convention and blurred education, activism, and artmaking. According to the curatorial statement, Melehi’s pedagogy brought him from “from the studio into the streets and public squares of Morocco.” New Waves can inspire emerging artists and creatives to work collaboratively to pursue their own forms of pedagogy, whether that leads them to the public squares of social media or the public squares of Alserkal Avenue. Indeed, commissioned especially for this exhibition, a recreation of Melehi’s mural from the first Asilah Moussem Festival of the Arts in 1978 adorns the walls of The Yard, in front of Concrete. Get your cameras ready.

5. Mohamed Melehi inspired mural in Alserkal Avenue. Photography: Seeing Things. Courtesy of Alserkal Avenue.

The exhibition is open to all, with visitors able to book their visit in line with social-distancing guidelines. 

New Waves: Mohamed Melehi and the Casablanca Art School Archives
19 September – 21 November 2020
Alserkal Arts Foundation
Concrete, Alserkal Avenue, Dubai

New Waves was originally scheduled to open on 23 March 2020 but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For a preview of the exhibition, and interviews with the curator and artist, visit 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. This exhibition was organized in collaboration with the Museum of Contemporary African Art Al Maaden (MACAAL).
About Alserkal Arts Foundation The Alserkal Arts Foundation supports socially engaged, multi-disciplinary practices and facilitates cross-cultural exchange through its four core initiatives: public art commissions, residencies, research grants and educational programmes. The Foundation offers cultural practitioners – either based in Dubai, or whose practice critically investigates themes pertinent to the region's artistic community – opportunities for research, scholarship, and artistic production. All of Alserkal Arts Foundation’s activities are supported by Alserkal, an Emirati family business spearheaded by Abdelmonem Bin Eisa Alserkal.

All images courtesy of Alserkal Avenue.

Edit 09/02/2020: This article has been edited to clarify the exhibition’s location. 
Edit 10/19/2020: The exhibition has been extended until November 21st, 2020.