It’s safe to say that the launch of the Mohammed VI Museum for Modern and Contemporary Art has been a success. While it may have taken a decade to build at a cost of approximately AED/SAR 83 million (US$23 million), Moroccans have clearly embraced the country’s first modern art museum with over 25,000 people visiting the museum since its opening last month.
Designed by architect Karim Chakor the majestic museum, which aims to preserve and promote Morocco’s artistic and cultural heritage, stands in the center of Rabat(a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and while it houses modern and contemporary art, the building’s aesthetics are steeped in tradition. Featuring three floors that host permanent and temporary exhibitions, a conservation lab for art restoration, art and multimedia libraries, a pedagogical department, and a restaurant, the museum endeavors to initiate the younger generation into the complex manifolds of contemporary art in order to promote creativity and the principles of cultural democratization.
Populating the museum’s three floors is the inaugural exhibition, “1914-2014: A Century of Creation.” The exhibition chronologically follows the development of the visual arts in the country, beginning with key Moroccan progenitors of the arts.The father of Moroccan painting, Mohammed Ben Ali Rbati, is featured prominently and though he had no formal arts training, his talent with watercolor paints came to the fore while working as a cook for the Irish painter, Sir John Lavery. Rbati mastered simplified figures and forms, which focus on daily scenes in Tangier and its Kasbah. The photography of Sultan Moulay Abdelaziz is also featured.
The exhibition also moves through periods marked by post-colonial renaissance, upheaval, and rejuvenating creativity by pioneering figures Jilali Gharbaoui and Ahmed Cherkaoui. The works of Ahmed Yacoubi also find a new home in the museum. Francis Bacon bought the young artist his first oils, yet while he was known among peers, having been featured in a film alongside surrealist giants Max Ernst, Yves Tanguy, and Marcel Duchamp, little recognition befell Yacoubi—one of Morocco’s greatest modern artists.
The exhibit features 400 pieces by 200 Moroccan artists that extend right through to the present; including Safaa Erruas, Younes Rahmoun, Lamia Naji, Mohamed Sarghini, Abbes Saladi, Mounir Fatmi, and Hassan Hajjaj.
The MMVI is open every day of the week from 10am to 6 pm, except Tuesday.