Curators Corner

Morocco Makes ‘Last-Minute Decision’ Ahead Of Venice Biennale

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In the last stretch before the 60th Venice Biennale opens, the Moroccan Ministry of Culture has opted to replace the initially chosen artists and curator for the country’s first-ever national pavilion, leaving less than four months for the reorganization.

The Arsenale at the Venice Biennale (circa 2019), where the Moroccan pavilion is set to be shown.
Image courtesy of ANDREW RUSSETH | Art News.

On Wednesday, Le Monde Afrique reported that a Moroccan ministry official informed the pavilion’s curator, Mahi Binebine, on Monday that he and the artists Safaa Erruas, Majida Khattari, and Fatiha Zemmouri would not participate in the Biennale’s presentation. Binebine claims that the ministry representative failed to explain the “last-minute decision” to swap him out for independent curator and art historian Mouna Mekouar who could not be immediately contacted to confirm her appointment.

Binebine told Le Monde Afrique that he spent “several tens of thousands of euros” to ensure the project was completed within three months and that images of the art were ready to be sent to the Biennale by its January 11 deadline. According to reports, Binebine and the artists visited the pavilion in Venice in September to get ready for the event, and they even had a meeting with Adriano Pedrosa, the biennale director. They had communicated with the ministry on several occasions in the interim months regarding the reimbursement and had offered funding for further arrangements.

Ms. Erruas, who lives in Tetouan, in the north of Morocco, explains to Le Monde Afrique that she rented a second workshop and called on dozens of collaborators to create a 42-foot-long installation which was to be presented in Venice. “An extraordinary effort in a very short period of time, ” she explains.

“It’s a very hard blow,” confides Safaa Erruas. She confirms she worked with a lot of passion, because she was honored to represent Morocco. Now she explains that the situation is now ‘a nightmare.’ “How can an institution that is supposed to help and promote artists disrespect them to this extent?

Another artist initially scheduled, who wished to remain anonymous, spoke of “a huge waste”. 

In a statement published Tuesday on Instagram, Binebine and the artists declared that they wished “all the success in the world” to the new team in charge of the Moroccan pavilion. “With dignity, we maintain hope in this Morocco which hurts us,” the statement concluded.

Focusing on maintenance, the German Pavilion incorporates work that was presented there for the Art Biennale in 2022. Image courtesy of Roland Halbe.

This years Biennale is curated by Adriano Pedrosa and titled Stranieri Ovunque – Foreigners Everywhere. It will run from Saturday 20 April to Sunday 24 November, 2024.

The exhibition will focus on artists who are themselves foreigners, immigrants, expatriates, diasporic, émigrés, exiled, and refugees—especially those who have moved between the Global South and the Global North. The production of these artists is the primary focus of this Biennale, and constitutes the International Exhibition’s Nucleo Contemporaneo. The Exhibition will also feature a Nucleo Storico gathering works from 20th century Latin America, Africa, the Arab world, and Asia.

Benin, which has never had a pavilion at the Venice Biennale, and Morocco were two of the countries making their debuts.

Author

Bardi Osobuanomola Catherine is a budding storyteller. Her academic credentials include a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Benin. She has contributed to numerous Art publications across Africa. She is currently a Writer for Art News Africa.

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