Severe shortage of exhibition venues

Morocco's new art generation grapples with favouritism

GMT 10:37 2012 Friday ,20 July

Arab Today, arab today Morocco's new art generation grapples with favouritism

Many artists rising to prominence
Casablanca - Raja Battaoui

Many artists rising to prominence Despite the development of recent years witnessed by fine art in Morocco and many artists rising to prominence, coupled with the increasing interest in Moroccan art over the world, the new generation of Moroccan artists still live in difficult times.
Although critics have commended the surge in creative growth over the past few years, many young artists have not been able to establish their own niche due to basic constraints like a dearth of spaces to exhibit their work. There no more halls in big cities and no help from the ministry of culture, which many feel function on a a basis of favouritism rather than merit.
So who is responsible for the situation of new artists? And who is getting benefits from exhibiting in ministry of culture halls? And who are forming committees that programme exhibitors within the cultural ministry season, and on what standards? How do private exhibition owners deal with fine artists?
Arabstoday asked the concerned people, starting with Ann Lauren Swan, GM of "Fence Cadre" the most famous fine art hall in Morocco. She said the hall opened its doors to artists 90 years ago, displaying artists' creation in a good way, illustrating that artists that appear to be controlling the arena like Jacques Majorelle, and Eugene Delacroix, Hassan Al Kalawy, Farida Belkahia, Mahi Banpin and Mehdi Kotbi who have started as youth, didn't mean they controlled their exhibition spaces.
"We choose artists according to the artistic value of their work," she said.
"The officials in these halls thought about creating new programmes for youth artists, to encourage them, as they encouraged the El Khemlishy sisters for their unique talent...this cannot happen to kids in their age and as they need intensive production exceeding 1000 works in two years. The youngest fine artists became professionals, expressing the permanent commitment of halls to exhibit youth works after passing a test supervised by specialised artists in the field."
Fine artist Karim Thabit said: "The first problem hampering artists is favouritism from private halls owners as they just exhibit famous names, guaranteeing art sales...that artist has to spend 10 years working, displaying many exhibitions, in order to be access private exhibitions."
"Exhibiting in public halls and halls belonging to the ministry of culture, favouritism is proved through the repeated names and faces for exhibitors every year," added Thabit.
Thabit pointed out that "those halls related to ministry of culture are all in Rabat but other cities like Casablanca, Tangier, and Essaouira host exhibitions in ministry bureaus which are mostly not appropriate...fine artists respond to supply and demand like any sector, and if demand for art increases, it would provide opportunities, but nothing is possible without support."
Founder of fine artists union Abd El Latif Al Zen thinks Morocco is "missing a cultural policy and the ministry does not care about art...the lack of exhibition spaces is a major one".
Said Zen: "Fine artists listed in the syndicate lost hope from condemning this dramatic situation, it reflects some closed minded people who can't understand the role played by fine art in improving public sense following deep human needs."
Most artists have coexisted with the situation waiting on a change in cultural affairs in Morocco, while other artists expressed their rejection in other ways, either through exhibiting in international festivals or boycotting shows in Morocco, or participating in group exhibitions.
Artist Elham Fahim said: "There are many difficulties facing fine artists, especially women, who despite their hard work are undermined by an increasingly masculine society."
As for her view on the reality of fine art in Morocco, Fahim said: "Despite the presence of news talent who have produced original art, they are lost in the monopolistic way of the industry."
Artist Khalid Bee also derided art critics, saying: "True specialists are very few, while officials who are responsible for choosing files are not related to fine arts at all, and don’t have any wide view about art."
Ending his interview Bee said: "There are no fine artists currently in Morocco, they all have to work extra jobs to get critics must encourage young talent so they can become successful without pandering to favouritism, extortion, etc."

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