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Exhibition: "Moroccan Trilogy: 1950-2020" at the Reina Sofia Museum 

As of March 31, the Museo Nacional de Arte Reina Sofía (MNCARS) will be holding this exhibition, a journey through Moroccan art from the pre-independence years to the present.  

March 01, 2021

The exhibition takes viewers on a journey through Moroccan art, dividing it into three historical periods, thus shedding light on the context of cultural, political and social turmoil in modern Morocco from the years prior to the declaration of independence in 1956 to today. 

After forty years of colonial rule, the first period includes an extremely turbulent time from the pre-independence years to 1969. In the art world, the disparities caused by the emergence of a nationalist current strongly opposed to international trends still persist, giving rise to a dispute between art in favor of Moroccan signs of identity and an art liberated from these references and their formal systems. With this debate as a backdrop, the exhibition presents the work of leading figures in the cultural shift driven by the new political situation in cities like Tetouan, where the Fine Arts Preparatory School continued to provide a markedly academic education, and Casablanca, which would soon lead an opening up to modernity, with projects in which craftsmanship and innovative forms of international art could co-exist. In the meantime, the city of Tangiers became a cosmopolitan meeting point for the beat generation, whose support for Mohamed Choukri would lend world renown to one of the harshest autobiographies ever to be written. At the same time, the magazine Souffles, directed by poet Abdellatif Laâbi, promoted the debate over history and new social realities. This publication, created as a reaction to the armed repression against the student uprising of 1965, soon became a sounding board for critical discourse and political action. 

The second period, known as the Years of Lead, lasted from 1970 to 1999, the year of Hassan II’s death. This period, one of the most violent in Morocco’s recent history, was characterized by a gradual Arabization of cultural life, increased state control, repression of Marxist and Islamist opposition movements, and the exile of many artists. Dissident voices, especially those active in literature, poetry and theater, were channeled through the magazine Souffles until it was banned by the regime in 1972. A constellation of alternative publications then arose, including Intégral and Lamalif, while at the same time there was an increase in cultural activity in the form of festivals and biennials which were independent from the established power but still compromising with it. Visual and literary language combined folk heritage with modernity, the suffering body and abstraction, protest movements with arrests and disappearances.

In the late 1990s, Morocco underwent a democratic transition, during which there were some signs of openness in the media. The last stage of the exhibition, which stretches from 2000 to 2020, shows the work of a generation of young artists and activists who broke radically with the past in the formal, technical, symbolic and political realms of art. This generation has become visible in alternative spaces where creators make contact with each other on the fringes of officialdom. On the other hand, a revision of relations with the rest of Africa and Europe has also emerged in Morocco. Research on repression during the Years of Lead, the rise of populist and Islamist parties, the 2003 terrorist attacks in Casablanca and the Arab Spring have marked this time of radical change, popular uprisings and technological development.

The exhibition has benefited from generous loans by the Centre Pompidou, Paris; Centre National des Arts Plastiques; the Bank Al-Maghrib Museum Collection, Moroccan Central Bank; the Société Générale de Maroc Collection; the Al Mada Foundation; FRAC Alsace; FRAC Corsica; Musée de l’institut du Monde Arabe, Paris; National Foundation of Museums of the Kingdom of Morocco; the Mohammed VI Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, as well as other private collections and lenders.

The exhibition can be seen from March 31 to September 27, 2021 at the Sabatini Building (Third Floor).

Organized by: 
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, with the cooperation of Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art - Qatar Museums and Qatar Foundation.
Curated by: 
Manuel Borja-Villel and Abdellah Karroum

Within the framework of Spain and Morocco’s cultural cooperation in the field of museums, promoted by the National Foundation of Museums of the Kingdom of Morocco and the Ministry of Culture and Sport of the Government of Spain.

Further information 
Exhibition: "Moroccan Trilogy: 1950-2020" at the Reina Sofia Museum 
Mohamed Melehi, IBM, 1962. Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art – Qatar Museums y Qatar Foundation © Mohamed Melehi, VEGAP, Madrid, 2021