nº51 / 1:54 MARRAKESH 2020 / PART-II

What is outside the ochre wall? Visiting the satellite exhibitions of 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair Marrakesh 2020. Interviews, reviews and the most prominent artists, art galleries.


Interviews and featured galleries, artists by Zoltan Alexander


Interview with Firouz FarmanFarmaian (Marbella) at the Theatre Royal (Marrakech).

Followed by Jacques Azéma at the Musée Yves Saint Laurent (Marrakesh), Jardin Secret (Marrakesh), the Maison de la Photographie (Marrakesh), the Orientalist Museum (Marrakesh), Bertjan Pot, Wieki Somers, Amie Dicke at Palais Bahia (Marrakesh), Hicham Benohoud and Amina Agueznay presented by Loft Art Gallery (Casablanca) at El Fenn (Marrakesh), Yoko Ono (New York), Kapwani Kiwanga (Paris), Rahima Gambo (Abuja) and Amina Benbouchta (Casablanca, Paris) at MACAAL, Musée d'Art Contemporain Africain al Madeen (Marrakesh), Mohamed Bourouissa at DADA (Marrakesh), Mustapha Azeroual at Dar el Bacha and Deborah Benzaquen (Casablanca) at 47 Galerie Dar el Bacha (Marrakesh)

Other artists and galleries are featured in PART I. and PART III.

1:54 Marrakesh 2020 / © video by Zoltan Alexander ZOLTAN+MEDIA

A hard two months have passed since my visit to Marrakesh and it seems a light-year away. I returned to a collapsing, doomed world from an amalgam of cultures, colours and magical people that felt more like a volume of space essentially empty of dark matter. In the midst of the lockdown, it appears that there are more hours in a day. I have grasped time itself - another world with no meaning and made it stand still to replay those precious moments again, over and over.

Last week, in PART I. I looked through the ochre wall and visited some of the exhibitions in the Medina and Guéliz. Although, 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair in Marrakesh is traditionally held at La Mamounia, there were dozens of satellite exhibitions outside the ochre wall throughout the city. In PART II. I will be continuing my tour in the Medina and visiting art galleries in the other part of Guéliz and La Palmeraie.

Design by Artsi Ifrach of Maison ARTC / Photo © Courtesy of Maison ARTC

Guéliz, the new district of Marrakesh, is radically different compare it to the Medina. It’s kaleidoscopic spectrum of culture, traditional and industrious market places, large buildings, noisy wide avenues dates from the French-era. Guéliz is filled with Moroccan and European cafés, restaurants, bars, mainstream fashion stores as well as Artsi Ifrach’s exquisite space, the Maison ARTC and a circle of contemporary art galleries (Galerie 127, David Bloch Gallery, Galerie Comptoir des Mines)complementing its European-style new architecture.

Before the Art Fair opened, we stopped by at two art installations at the Palais Aziza at La Palmeraie and the following day at the Royal Theatre of Marrakesh, organised by the same artist Firouz FarmanFarmaian.

"Traces" by Firouz FarmanFarmaian / Photo © Courtesy of ZOLTAN+MEDIA


The first day of my journey to Marrakesh started with an invitation of Persian multidisciplinary artist Firouz FarmanFarmaian to "Traces" curated by We R the Nomads at Palais Aziza and a post-tribal installation "Memorandum of the Unknown Path" at the legendary Royal Theatre of Marrakesh.

The preview reception of "Traces" as part of the palace's bi-annual fine art exhibition was followed by a beautifully orchestrated dinner held in a tent surrounded by palm trees and exotic flowers alongside a candle-lit swimming pool.

"Traces" by Firouz FarmanFarmaian / Photo © Courtesy of ZOLTAN+MEDIA
"A Woman with Veil in Purple" by Firouz FarmanFarmaian / Photo © Courtesy of ZOLTAN+MEDIA
"Traces" by Firouz FarmanFarmaian / Photo © Courtesy of ZOLTAN+MEDIA

Firouz FarmanFarmaian is a journey himself, bejewelled and dressed impeccably. He wears traditional, colourful caftans mixed with unlabelled sportswear. His looks are just as striking as his art. His belle table had guests from the four corners of the globe; curators from Tate Modern, as well as collector Vanessa Branson, the Swedish gold-handed PR-agent of Marrakesh Patrick Benjaminsson, London gallery owner Janet Rady, writer Marc Hostier and Camilla FarmanFarmaian, the wife of the artist.

Later, Her Majesty Farah Pahlavi accompanied by Ladan Mina came to admire his exhibition at the Royal Theatre of Marrakesh.

Patrick Benjaminsson, Her Majesty Farah Pahlavi, Firouz FarmanFarmaian, Ladan Mina and Camilla FarmanFarmaian

The following day, "Memorandum of the Unknown Path" was opened at Charles Boccara's Royal Theatre. The theatre is an architectural gem, it is something to be admired even from the outside with its Roman-inspired details. It is a part unfinished opera house, part outdoor theatre, the Theatre Royal is now merely used for cultural events.

"Memorandum of the Unknown Path" by Firouz FarmanFarmaian / Photo © Courtesy of ZOLTAN+MEDIA

Firouz FarmanFarmian was born in Iran and currently lives and works in Marbella. Descendent of the Quajar dynasty which ruled Iran from 1794 to 1925, Firouz FarmanFarmian relocated following the Islamic Revolution to Paris and Spain, where he grew up and turned his political exile into art. He very much awed by the careers of both his grandfather, architect Abdol-Aziz FarmanFarmaian and his grand-aunt, contemporary artist Monir Shahroudy FarmanFarmaian.

New York, Paris, London, Washington, San Francisco, Dubai and Tehran are just a few places where his work has been exhibited and many of his exquisite art pieces are now in private collections of royalty and celebrities all over the world.

Nominated for the Jameel Prize 2021, "Memorandum of the Unknown Path" is a site-specific installation in the middle of the Royal Theatre's main hall with a giant metal ring and large-scale tent elements, knotted, hand-painted fabric panels held together by Touareg raw camel wool including "Banners of the Unbanished", a series of textiles involving Moroccan and Persian tribal cultures with Sufi-inspired textures and post-tribal and military symbols sourced in the Atlas mountains at Draa Valley and the Sahara.

"Memorandum of the Unknown Path" by Firouz FarmanFarmaian / Photo © Courtesy of ZOLTAN+MEDIA

The installation was exploring cross-cultural themes and the question of identity in the face of a change, and also included a 10-minute video "Talkhimt-Tadounit​" documenting the artist's path to sourcing the material for the installation, alongside sonic signatures inspired by contemporary Sub-Saharan sonorities recorded and composed by FORRM. History and memory are the core themes in the art of FarmanFarmaian, whose lifetime of living in exile in Paris and Marbella has profoundly influenced both his creative practice and individual character.

Firouz FarmanFarmaian at the Theatre Royal Marrakesh

"Identity is a central segment to the growth of one's art. This body of work stems from an urge to create a Wagnerian Gesamtkunstwerk, a total body of art. It is a circumstance that ultimately shapes lives," declares the artist whose work actively engages in a dialogue with the past and possesses vivacious energy as well as a deeply symbolic quality, which speaks to a multiplicity of current politics, art and philosophy. "Memorandum of the Unknown Path" reflects on a vision of the path ahead, probably the last virus-free art exhibition for a long time.

Firouz FarmanFarmaian with Vanessa Branson

Firouz FarmanFarmaian's latest project is an online VR-gallery of selected contemporary artworks. The virtual exhibition started only a few days ago with his solo show "Lets Get Lost / Let Them Send Out Alarms” and continued with a group show, “Vaccine For World War III” a fine collaboration with his contemporary fellow artists.

ll faut être absolument moderne / you have to be absolutely modern.” Arthur Rimbaud said it famously.