Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Is The Party Over For The Marrakech Biennale?

The Marrakech, initially scheduled in February 2018, has been postponed indefinitely Meanwhile, the brilliant critic of Cameroonian art, Christine Eyene, has been appointed curator of the next edition of the Biennale of Casablanca, scheduled for October 2018

The Marrakech Biennale has run into problems over funding and its image as a "party event", an image that has upset many locals.

"There is no money," says Amine Kabbaj, executive chairman of the event. I have written twice to His Majesty, I do not know how to awaken people to the highest level. Culture is not the priority of this government. "

Founded 13 years ago by Britain's Vanessa Branson (sister of Richard Branson, patron of Virgin group), the event managed to raise 900,000 euros from Moroccan sponsors in 2016. The edition led by Palestinian exhibition commissioner Reem Fadda was high quality and had a record attendance of 100,000 visitors. The choice of the excellent Moroccan exhibition curator Mouna Mekouar to orchestrate the next edition presaged the best.

But today is the time of the accounts. And, for the first time, the Biennale has a deficit of about 300,000 euros. Worse, it alienated the local community. "It is a biennial that has been made for foreigners and not for Moroccans," says Yasmina Naji, director of the gallery and Kulte Art Centre in Rabat. "Much money was spent in festive events, private parties, and very little on the production of works. The Biennale was poorly managed."

The cancellation is a blow to the contemporary art fair 1:54, which had voluntarily grafted on its calendar to organise its first edition in Marrakech. "I am sad that the Biennale is rejected, but I am convinced that it is only partly handed over," says Touria El-Glaoui, its director. "It seems all the more essential to launch 1:54 Marrakech and to offer an international exhibition of quality to the Moroccan public."

1:54 is a leading African art fair and after a successful third edition in New York in May 2017, the fair will return for its fifth London edition from the 5-8th October 2017.

Amine Kabbaj said she wanted to try everything for the end of November, with the organisation by the Moroccan Art Works Company (CMOOA), in a large hotel in Marrakech, of a charity sale of works donated by the artists. " It's not serious, now ask artists to fund the Biennale!"  says Yasmina Naji. "In any case, a biennale does not come up in a few months. Finally, we must understand the necessity of placing cultural management professionals at the head of this event."

Meanwhile in Casablanca...

Mostapha Romli, the founding president of the International Biennial of Casablanca, has named Christine Eyene the artistic director of the exhibition’s fourth edition, which will kick off in October 2018.

Founded in 2012, the biennial aims to create dialogue between Moroccan and African artists and the international art scene.

Christine Eyene

Eyene is a research fellow in contemporary art at the University of Central Lancashire, where she works on “Making Histories Visible,” an interdisciplinary visual arts research project led by artist and professor Lubaina Himid. She is also the cofounder of YaPhoto, a photography platform based in Yaounde, Cameroon. More recently, she organised the touring exhibition “Sounds Like Her,” which showcases women’s practices in music and sound art, opening at New Art Exchange in Nottingham in October 2017.

“It is in Morocco that I took my first steps in contemporary art many years ago,” Eyene said. “I am delighted at the opportunity to develop a large-scale project bridging Morocco and Africa with diverse international art contexts.”


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As a former director of Marrakech Biennale 2016 I could not agree more with Yasmina Naji. However Touria El-Glaoui's remark "It seems all the more essential to launch 1:54 Marrakech and to offer an international exhibition of quality to the Moroccan public." Yet 1:54 Marrakech is to be held at La Mamounia? Is this (A 5* luxury hotel) really the right venue to make contemporary art more accessible to the Moroccan PUBLIC?