Gallery Hopping in Tangier, Morocco’s Literary Art Hub
Tangier, Morocco’s second largest port city after Casablanca, has historically been a melting pot of cultures and a magnet for writers, artists, poets, and intellectuals. Tangier’s history dates back to over 3,000 years and its diversity can be explained in its cultural evolution. The Bride of the North has been marked by Phoenicians, Romans, Berbers, Arabs, Visigoths, Carthaginians, and, more recently, the Portuguese, French, Spanish, and English. The city’s unique position, at the northernmost part of Morocco, makes it just a 40-minute ferry ride from Spain and subsequently the cultural gateway into both Europe and Africa.
The Tangier of 2019 continues to attract designers, artists, writers, and those with an interest in the role that film, art, and music play in capturing the essence of Moroccan society and life overseas.
While the Beat Generation writers like William S. Burroughs, Paul and Jane Bowles, Allen Gingsberg – all who wrote in a haze of drugs and booze when Tangier was an international zone – are long gone, Morocco’s most literary city has continued to function as a hub for creatives. Mohamed Choukri, Fatima Mernissi, Mohammed Mrabeta are some of Morocco’s writers that spent time penning their novels in Tangier’s cafes. Tangier is bursting with art. Our Gallery Hopping in Tangier Guide will assist you in discovering Tangier’s art and cultural scene.
Galleries To Explore
Gallery Kent is one of Tangier’s most active contemporary galleries. Owner Aziza Laraki regularly hosts expositions that reflect a theme of modernity and openness to the world. “I love my city. Tangier is unique in its history and its faces. A city of art and artists. My gallery brings a brick to the building of a past that we must all revive and especially to register all in the future, with a modern vision, contemporary and especially anchored in Morocco that I love.” Artists must resonate with the gallery’s theme: to carry on cultural projects that reflect Tangier’s artistic soul. The gallery also actively participates in the Tangier community, coordinating events like their exposition “Vibrations” – an abstract painting show by young artist Abdellah El Haitout- to be timed with the annual book and arts fair in Tangier.
Address: 19 Rie Jabha Watanya; closed from 1-3 pm daily.
Gallery Concil, located in the Petit Socco, once home to many notable writers, affluent people, is a contemporary art gallery with paintings, bronze sculptures, and art brut. It is recognized for housing many works of Abdelrhamane, an artist from the Casablanca School of Fine Arts. Abdelrhamane’s work includes landscapes and portraits that reflect his life in Morocco and experiences studying fine art and ceramics in France and Spain. Other notable artists who have been featured at Gallery Conil include Najoua el Hitmi, Oussama Bennani et Abdeljalil Boussaki.
Address: 7 Rue du Palmier, Tangier 10:30-13:30; 16-19:30
Mahal Art Space
Mahal Art Space is a contemporary art house best known for their experimental and independent expositions. It presents artists like Nassim Azarzar, a visual artist and graphic designer, based in Rabat and co-founder of Think Tangier, a cultural platform exploring urban space in Tangier. Azarar focuses on natural patterns and their relationship to the history of Islamic art, the similarity of structures and scale, and old new printing practices and aesthetic genealogies. In Azarza’s “There is nothing more to see” solo exhibition he uses chemistry to play with the back of instant Polaroids rather than the photograph itself. Mahal Art Space is an idea gallery for those interested in exploring the manipulation of forms and shapes through film, sound, and chemistry to refine existing ideas about the world. Address: 122, Avenue Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah; 0691-582953
Ibn Khaldoun Cultural Center
The Ibn Khaldoun Cultural Center is located near the 1930’s Minzah Hotel and across the street from Gran Café de Paris on Rue de Liberte. The gallery is small but noteworthy for representing unique contemporary art from Moroccan artists, especially from Tangier and southern Spain. The gallery has been linked with sharing the sculptures and paintings of artist Ben Ali and French musican Azzedine, who live in Tangier’s art residences. The cultural center occasionally puts on art workshops and sells books in Arabic. The gallery closes at 1pm. After a visit, take the opportunity to walk around the corner to Saveur de Poisson which serves a set course menu loved for it’s masterful use of herbs, spices, and freshly caught seafood.
Address: Rue de La Liberte, Tangier; closes at 1 pm
Located near the French Consulate. Place de France, and Cafe de Paris, the Delacroix Gallery is sometimes referred to as one of the most important galleries in Tangier. The contemporary art gallery is an extension of the French Institute of Tangier and works to discover and promote emerging talent, contribute to the dialogue of cultures and exchanges, and disseminate the values of creation, artistic innovation, and multiculturalism in society. Within its three exhibition rooms totaling a surface of 150 m2, it regularly hosts exhibits that showcase Morocco’s talented young contemporary artists as well established local talent. The French Institute of Tangier also has an artist residency program and occasionally holds art related workshops. Free admission, every day except Mondays.
Address: 86, rue de la Liberté
Mohamed Drissi Gallery
The Mohamed Drissi Gallery, the former residence of the British Consulate and was originally the Museum of Contemporary Art of Tangier. It was reopened in 2007 and renamed to honor the artist Mohammed Drissi, who helped to redevelop the museum. The gallery exhibits local and international artists; it features artists like Chrabia Tallal, Fatima Hassan, Mohammed Kacimi, Abdelkebir Rabia, Fouad Belamine.
Address: 52, boulevard d’Angleterre; 9-13; & 14-18 Tue-Sun
Medina Art Gallery
Nestled in between the Jardin des Nations Unies and the oceanfront Ave Mohammed VI, the Medina Art Gallery. This is the spot to visit for those interested in seeing contemporary Moroccan artists display works with a Western Lens. Noteworthy paintings include a Faissal Benkiran portrait of Angelina Jolie; she is painted oil on canvas in a Caftan. Renowned artist Redouan Laghzaoui’s framework of Printemps du Livre et des Arts has also been a highlight.
Address: 34, Rue Antaki Imm. Baudouin 1o-13; & 16-19:30
Artists To Keep An Eye On
Abdellah El Haitout
Abdellah El Haitout is considered to be one of Morocco’s most inspired Plastic Artists. Influenced by artists like Antoni Tàpies from Spain and American Expressionist Robert Rauschenberg, Jackson Pollock, and Jean-Michel Basquiat, his creations are said to express ” subtle dimensions of transcendence”, according to Tangier-based French writer Philippe Guiguet Bologna. ” I tried to work on the impact of colors and painting on the public”, says El Haitout. He uses color as a vibration to transmit information to the brain and make an impact on human emotion. He has been sharing his abstract art paintings within Morocco and abroad since 2012 and is viewed by the Tangéroise artistic scene to be an artist who will capture Tangier’s story, past and present.
Abdelghani Bouzian is a self-taught artist born in Tangier. Since 2012, his masks and sculptures have been recognized in Tangier’s Conil and Ibn Khaldoun Gallery.
Najoua El Hitmi
Najoua El Hitmi is a contemporary self-taught artist originally from Tangier. Her work, which stands out with its real diversity, is said to reflect old world traditions and the abstract modernism. El Hitmi didn’t plan to be an artist, she studied tourism and her career as a travel agent took her all over the world. Inspired by her travels, she began to use art as an introspective lens. Her paintings are best defined as various shapes with shades of light and have been called a ” global language”. Fans of her work describe her paintings as passionate, spontaneous, spiritual and uplifting.
Bookshops & Cultural Institutions
Palais des institutions Italiennes
The Palais des institutions Italiennes also goes under the name Moulay Hafid Palace. Architecturally, it is relevant for being built in 1914 by former Sultan Moulay Hafid, then being acquired in 1927 by the “Association to Rescue Italian Missionaries”; later it was turned into the Italian School. Today the institution is best known for hosting high-level cultural events, such as the Tangier International Book Fair, the Mediterranean Nights Festival and the Tanjazz Festival. The Palace of Italian Institutions is located in the district of Hasnouna, and is a part of the former Sultan’s palace that covers an area of 32,800 m2. The large estate has two large annexed side wings, two floors with 4 lounges decorated with fireplaces, Carrara marble, 50 rooms, 9 warehouses, 9 bathrooms, a garden inside, gardens outside with vegetable gardens and sports fields and 3 external housing. Address: 23, rue Mohammed Ben Abedelouhab
Librairie des Colonnes
For over 60 Years Librairie des Colonnes has been a bookshop and meeting point where cultural conversations take place. Today space is considered more of a cultural institution than a book shop; it has a long history of caretakers. Librairie des Colonnes was almost closed down at the end of the twentieth century, however, saved by Pierre Bergé. He opened it at the end of 2010 and positioned to be a major intellectual center for Tangier.
Originally, Librairie des Colonnes was managed by the Gerofi family. Robert, the eldest from Belgium, is a professor at the Lycée Regnault, archaeologist, and curator of the Kasbah Museum. Robert developed a strong correspondence with André Gide, crossed the Atlantic Ocean on a yacht with Malcom Forbes; he was said to be one of Tangier’s most influential people in the literary and arts movement. Librairie des Colonnes was also frequented by significant writers including Samuel Beckett, Jean Genet, Juan Goytisolo, Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, Paul Moran, Jane, and Paul Bowles, Mohamed Choukri, and Tahar Ben Jelloun.
Book readings, debates, gallery openings, and other events are regularly organized at Librairie des Colonnes. It is said to be the literary and cultural bridge between Morocco and the Mediterranean. In 2011, the Librairie des Colonnes was also established as a publishing house. It’s literary magazine Nejma dedicated issues to Jean Genet, Paul Bowles, and Mohamed Choukri – who co-edited last March Tangier’s Cinematheque Album. Address: 28 Khalid Ibn El Oualid, closed on Sundays.
Le Cercle des Arts
Located near the Place des Nations, Le Cercle des Arts is a cafe, theatre, book and art gallery rolled into one. Book worms love to sit down for a cup of coffee and enjoy intellectual discourse reminiscent of 18th Salon gatherings in France. The cafe also hosts art exhibitions, book readings, leads discussions, and puts on musical performances. Address:40,rue Antaki résidence Al Oumam, near place des nations