Tangier to Spotlight 5 Moroccan Artists
The Medina Art Gallery in Tangier’s is one of the leading galleries in Northern Morocco. Founded in 1999 by artists Said Kadiri and Omara Salhi, the Medina Art is known for featuring artists from the Tangier-Tetouan-Hoceima region. The gallery introduces emerging talent and pays tribute to Moroccan masters like Mohamed Hamriin, Omar Mahfoudi, Rachid Handball, Antonio Fuentes, and Louis Endres, among others.
This Tangier institution is a collective art hub for the city’s literary, intellectual, and creative scene. During the past decade, it has yielded a dedicated following of collectors.
A grand opening will take place on Friday, July 26th, 2019 at The Medina Art Gallery titled Figurative Art: L’éclat d’un Retour (The Shine of A Return). The exhibition will spotlight 5 artists: Saad Ben Cheffaj, Rachid Sebti, Mohamed Drissi, Aziz Benja and Faissal Ben Kiran. These artists are connected to Tangier or are from the Tanger-Tetouan-Al Hoceima region.
Medina Art Gallery Tangier: Spotlight of 5 Eminent Moroccan Artists
Saad Ben Cheffaj, a Tetouan Native and one of the first Moroccan artists to receive a formal art education.
(Born in 1939, the Tetouan native is considered one of the first Moroccan artists to receive a formal art education. Following a period of studying abroad at the School of Fine Arts in Seville (1957), the Ecole du Louvre in Paris, and obtaining his professor’s diploma from Seville’s School of Fine Arts (1962), Cheffaj dedicated his time to sharing his knowledge if art. In 1965, he was invited to teach at the National Institute of Fine Arts in Tetouan. The school is Morocco’s most prestigious learning system for higher education in art and was established under the Spanish Protectorate in 1945.
The National Institute of Fine Arts originally targeted at wives of the Spanish Military. Its image changed after King Mohammed V inaugurated the building post Morocco’s independence. The King appointed Mohamed Sarghini as director. Since then the art institute has used the same curriculum as the Spanish model and hired primarily Moroccan technical art professors. Over the last several decades the institute has gained international recognition and produced a long roster of successful graduates. Among them are Mohamed Chebaa, Saad Ben Seffaj, Ahmed Ben Yessef, Said Messari, Faouzi Laatiris, Hassan Echair, Ilias Selfati, Younès Rahmoun, and Safaa Erruas.
Cheffaj taught art history, drawing and painting at the National Art School.
Cheffaj taught art history, drawing and painting at the National Art School. His personal work dates back to 1956 when he had his first exhibition. Since then his work can be characterized in various periods marked by figuration, expressionism, neorealism, and the abstract. He produced paintings and acrylics that reflected the Impressionist and Realism periods. Cheffaj’s subject matters focus on nature, architecture, colors, gardens, and the use of light. His work has appeared throughout Morocco, Spain, France, Peru, and Egypt. Paris’ Cartier Foundation and Geneva’s Kamal Lazaar Foundation has a permanent collection of Cheffaj’s work. Hr has also been featured at Casablanca’s L’Atelier 21 Art Gallery.
On October 11th, 2013, The Tetouan Asmir Association, in partnership with the International Academy “Merit and French” decorated Cheffaj for his dedication to art. He received a gold medal and was hailed as a pioneer and inescapable artist. He lives and works in Tetouan, the city he affectionately refers to as the “Acropolis”. Tetouan is a high rise city nestled between mountains and sky. It is not far from the Mediterranean.
Rachid Sebti, a Moroccan Artist from Larache who Highlights the “Moroccanization” of women in modern clothes
Born in 1947, Rachid Sebti is a Northern Moroccan artist from Larache. After studying at the National School of Fine Arts in Tetouan he moved to Brussels, Belgium. There, at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, he pursued his interest in engraving and nature. At the core of his subject matters are playing on light and color, and Morocco’s women. The latter subject has occasionally gotten the artist into trouble with some Moroccans.
Sebti paints women, occasionally in the nude. He aims to do so with respect to Morocco. “I can not do the nude for the nude. That is not my goal. We must never provoke people in Morocco or elsewhere… (but)… I have always been fascinated by these women wearing the haik garment. It has intrigued me since childhood.” He wants to introduce the sensuality of a woman found in the daily scenes of life.
Despite his sometimes controversial choices for subject matters, Sebti received a traditional upbringing. His father was a theologian and grammarian at the world’s oldest University, the Al Qarawiyyan of Fez. Sebti explains that to him “the human body is an inexhaustible subject.” His work attempts to look at women in a modest way, avoiding stereotypes, and the superficial. His paintings present a “Moroccanization” of women in modern clothes. They show a touch of skin. Casablanca’s Amadeus Art Gallery presented a series of Sebti’s work in The Women Venerated Exhibition. “The woman must be revered, says Sebti. She must respect herself and love her body.”
Sebti continues to travel and work between Morocco and Belgium. He has won several awards including the Medal of the Belgian Government and the Prix de la Ville de Bruxelles. In 2001, his design for a Moroccan postage stamp was printed on 6 million copies. In 2006, his Idyllic Wallonia concept was also decorated on five Moroccan stamps; in 2007 his art appeared on 4 northern kingdom stamps.
Mohamed Drissi, Tetouan, Postwar Contemporary Painter
Mohamed Drissi lived from 1946-2003 and is a postwar and contemporary painter who was born in Tetouan. He is considered one of the most original painters of his generation. He studied art in Tétouan, Paris, Barcelona, Brussels and New York. His favorite subject was the ‘human being’ and in particular the taboo topic of prostitution. Drissi was an active painter, sculpture, and engraver, working in multimedia, until his death in 2003. His work ranges between watercolors, oil on iron, mixed media on canvas, and print. His Set of 7: Sans Titre was auctioned off for $91,990 USD. The record price was set at Paris’ Millon & Associes auction house in 2015.
In April 2008, a contemporary art gallery housed in the former British Consulate of Tangier honored Drissi. They renamed their 5-room gallery after him. The Mohamed Drissi Contemporary Art Gallery features both Moroccan and foreign artists. It has existed since 1990.
Mohamed Nabili (1952-2012) also painted A Tribute To Drissi to remember the Moroccan legend. Nabili is a contemporary Moroccan artist. He traveled to Peru and other indigenous lands to research pictorial language and universal themes. His honorary piece was priced at 90,000 dirhams ($24,500 USD).
Faissal Ben Kiran, Mural Artist and Laureate of the INBA program of Tetouan’s National Art School
Born in 1975 Faissal Ben Kiran is a former laureate of the INBA program of Tetouan’s National Art School. Kiran has built a steady awareness of his artwork both in Morocco and abroad. His work is a collage of many art disciplines. Over the years his pieces have ranged from narrative figuration to abstract work. His compositions are described as flexible, balanced, and have a fine touch. His subjects include women, plants, nature, and the sea.
The start of Kiran’s art career can be traced to 1995 when he moved to London. The artist took an engraving internship at the Royal College of Arts. He furthered his engraving skills with courses at Moussem d’Assilah. His murals were used in the Asilah Arts Festival in 1999 and 2000. Ben Kiran’s work has also been featured in Sardinia (2001), at the Biennial of Dakar (2002), and throughout Morocco. In 2008, he exhibited at the Medina Art Gallery alongside fellow artist Aziz Benja.
Aziz Benja, Tangier Artist Known for his Acrylic and Technical Painting, Gradual of Tetouan National Arts Schools
Azziz was Born 1974 is from Tangier and a graduate of Tetouan National Arts School. Since 2008, when he participated in the Medina Art Gallery’s Contrast and Harmony show, Benja’s work has been linked with Kiran’s. Both artists are friends and teach the plastic arts. They have also exhibited together at The Mohamed Drissi Contemporary Art Gallery. Their work aims to encourage the public to debate about the human condition and inspire people to innovate. Benja’s subject matters focus on nature. He is known for his acrylic and technical paintings. His popular works include In the Majorelle Garden of Benja and Benja’s Snow. His paintings price between $1500 and $2000 USD.
The artist has participated in several Moroccan solo and collective exhibitions in Casablanca, Marrakech, and Tetouan.
Medina Art Gallery
Address: 34, Rue Antaki Imm. Baudouin, 90100 Tangier, Morocco
Gallery Hours 10:00 AM – 8:00 PM
Event Hours: Friday, July 26, 2019 at 7 PM – 9:30 PM