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The Casablanca Art School

Mohammed Melehi, Untitled, 1983, Cellulose paint on board, 150 x 200 cm. © Mohamed Melehi Estate
by Alain Chivilò

© Alain Chivilò

After Morocco’s independence in 1956, an interdisciplinary cultural ferment arose which was inspired by the Bauhaus but at the same time combined Afro-Berber elements with design, architecture, craftsmanship and art.
From 27 May 2023 until 14 January 2024, Tate St Ives scheduled a major exhibition dedicated to the Casablanca Art School.
Works by more than twenty artists in different artistic expressions from urban murals, abstract paintings, graphics and ceramics, craft, typology, vintage journals and photographs.
Farid Belkahia, appointed Director of the Casablanca Art School, expanded teaching staff to include Mohamed Melehi and Toni Mariani (from 1964), Bert Flint (from 1965) and Mohammed Chabâa (from 1966), heralding memorable years of artistic progress mixing Berber skills (materials and visual languages) with modernist influences from Europe and North America.
Casablanca Art School is curated by Morad Montazami and Madeleine de Colnetfor Zamân Books & Curatingin conjunction with Anne Barlow, Director, Tate St Ives and Giles Jackson, Assistant Curator, Tate St Ives, and with associate researchers Fatima-Zahra Lakrissa and Maud Houssais.
At the historical level, the Seventies showed the best feedback outside Morocco as in the 1974 Baghdad Arab Art Biennial and 1978 at the inaugural Asilah Cultural Moussem-Festival.
Professors and students were involved to explore abstract art and connect with Afro-Arab culture for a new style and expression. The Casablanca Art School represented in a national key an example of how art can unite tradition with avant-garde.

by Alain Chivilò