#OnTheRadar: Why You Need To Add The ‘New Waves’ Exhibit To Your Calendar



September 2020

Casablanca Art Schoo
Ali Noury, a student from the Casablanca Art School, annual exhibition, June 1968. Photo M. Melehi. Toni Maraini archives

Originally scheduled for March, the New Waves: Mohamed Melehi and the Casablanca Art School Archives exhibition will run in Dubai’s Alserkal Avenue from September 19 until October 10. Here’s why it’s worth a visit 

While virtual exhibitions and digital gallery tours were a great form of escapism during lockdown, nothing compares to seeing the real thing — especially when it comes to art. The exhibition on the top of our post-quaratine agenda? Alserkal Arts Foundation’s New Waves. A retrospective exhibition retracing the life of painter, photographer, muralist, graphic designer, art teacher and cultural activist, Mohamed Melehi, the showcase is set to bring Melehi’s multi-faceted career to the UAE and also tell the story of the Casablanca Art School during its most radical period, when Melehi taught there between 1964 to 1969.

Regarded as a major figure of postcolonial Moroccan art and of transnational modernism, Melehi was renowned for his psychedelic paintings bursting with colourful swirls and patterns that referenced the the aesthetic of Bauhaus in Germany and abstract Arabic art. In 1969, Melehi and a small group of artists (known as the Casablanca Art School) led a radical movement that helped to change the way art was seen in Morocco. Staging an exhibition in the streets, the group hung colour-popping paintings upon Marrakech’s fading city walls — to convey a message of what art could be. 

“The relevance of Mohamed Melehi’s artistic legacy goes back to his pioneering role in a postcolonial and cosmopolitan art history,” says the curator of the New Waves exhibit, Morad Montazami. “Rooted in the Independence of Morocco in 1956, his ability to navigate the shifting borders of the region allowed him to create a genuine visual culture for the development of the Global South. Anybody interested in rethinking those borders today can find a true inspiration in him.”

The show held in Alserkal Avenue will present an array of different works by Melehi, including some of the artist’s contemporary pieces, previously unseen works and a recently archived collection of Melehi’s documentary photography — which reveals over 30 years of artistic travel and visual activism journeys. 

New Waves: Mohamed Melehi and the Casablanca Art School Archives will begin on September 19 in Concrete, Alserkal Avenue; Alserkalavenue.ae

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