Hassan Hajjaj straddles the divide not just between countries and cultures, but art and artisans. And it’s this unique mix of perspectives and disciplines that has made him arguably Morocco’s hottest current art export.
Hajjaj’s portrait photography, shown in galleries including London’s Somerset House and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, is created and framed using the products and skills of Marrakech’s artisans.
And while his real love are the everyday ‘heroes’ of the city – from friends and neighbours to gnaoua musicians and the henna artists of Djemaa el Fna – he’s also developed a celebrity following that’s seen Madonna, Cardi B and Will Smith sit for him over the past couple of years.
Hajjaj was born and grew up in the northern city of Larache before leaving Morocco for England aged 14 and quitting school a year later with no qualifications. He entered the London party scene and became a promoter turned streetwear designer, an aspect of his early career that still comes through in the exuberant colours, bold patterns and touchable textures of his work.
In 1989, he began taking photographs and at first his work was purely private. But in 1995, he returned to Marrakech for the first time in years and it was the start of his unique creative partnership with the city.
“I got back to London thinking I´d probably never go there again but something about the place kept calling me back, ‘he says. “The next thing I knew I was coming two or three times a year, but always I felt it was only because the city was inviting me. I didn’t want to be someone that came just to take, I wanted to be a part of the city, its life and its people – I wanted in some way to protect them.”
A recent addition to Marrakech’s buzzing art scene is housed in one of the great treasures of the city’s Art Deco heritage. A 1932 villa in Gueliz now houses the Comptoir des Mines gallery that showcases some of Morocco’s best artists. Created by respected gallerist Hicham Daoudi, who has a special focus on helping up-and-coming artists develop, the space hosts exhibitions that focus on weighty themes. Past works have looked at ‘Crossings’- an exploration of migration – and ‘African Poetries’ – a meditation on artistic melancholy.
The next is an Evgenya Petrova brochure for the Malaga Russian Museum Exhibition. It is a good choice to share with our followers a georgeous XX century Russian women art selection.
Antonina Gmurzynska was perhaps the first Western collector to show a deep and serious interest in the Russian art of the first decades of the 20th century, and her collection was very well known to art connoisseurs. Items from it have often been exhibited in various countries, and published in books, catalogues and albums.
For several decades now Krystyna Gmurzynska, daughter of Antonina, has been continuing and developing what her mother had started, and during this time the collection has, of course, changed. Some things are now in other hands, and some names and works that were unknown in the 1950s-1970s, when Antonina was collecting Russian art, became available and were acquired by Krystyna.
The theme of Female Artists in Russia does not form a special section as such in this collection. However, it turns out that quite a considerable number of exceptional artists in Russia were, in fact, women. Thus, Krystyna Gmurzynska’s collection provides a welcome supplement to the female theme displayed in this year’s exhibitions.
It includes works by artists who are rarely found elsewhere, such as Elena Guro (1877-1913), Xenia (1895(94?)-1955) and Maria Ender (1897-1942) and Anastasia Akhtyrko (1902-1968). Some female artists, such as Antonina Sofronova (1892-1966), are represented by a whole series of works that are known just by individual drawings in other collections. Many of the works in the Gmurzynska collection reveal unknown pages in the artistic careers of famous masters. Kazimir Malevich, for example, worked during the last few years of his life on the decoration of architectural structures. One of his faithful students and helpers was Anna Leporskaya, and together they produced a project for decorating the Red Theatre in Leningrad (1931-1932). Malevich’s concept consisted of an entirely new non-objective approach to decorating public spaces. In a letter from Malevich to Leporskaya his specific colouristic treatment is indicated with complete clarity. In this same letter we can see Malevich’s inflexible demand: if his idea was altered in any way he would abandon the project. The sketches for the decoration of the Red Theatre that are in the Gmurzynska collection, are extremely important illustrations of what the interiors could have looked like if the theatre had not burnt down in 1932.
This relatively small exhibition, showing a small part of the Gmurzynska collection that is devoted to female artists in Russia, displays a fitting complement to the Women Artists exhibition.
Wooden figures covered with brass or copper sheeting are placed by the BaKota over a package containing simple bones of outstanding ancestors. The form was developed to display as much of the valuable metal as possible. (Juan Gris made a copy of one in cardboard in 1922)
Figure from northern Nigeria have been made by a Mumuye. A remarkable feature of the style is the way in wich the arms and even the abdomen of one piece are used to enclose space within the sculpture.
White faced mask of type used by the BaKota, BaLumbo, BaPunu, Mpongwe and several other tribes. Documented pieces have been collected among all these peoples. Among th BaPunu the wearer dances on sitis
Mask made by the Fang, given in 1905 to Maurice Vlaminck whom sold it to Andre Derain. It was seen also by Picasso and Matisse. This was not the first African sculpture to attract Valminck, but it appears to be the only one from this time wich is still certainly identificable.