Overview

Mohamed Melehi (b. 1936, Asilah, Morocco) is painter, graphic designer, teacher, muralist, and cultural activist – a pivotal and leading figure for postcolonial Moroccan art and within the history of transnational modernism. In his paintings we sense the spirit of aesthetic revolution and the exhilaration of post-Independence Morocco.  Alongside peers Farid Belkahia and Mohammed Chabâa, Melehi is an influential figure in Moroccan modernism and a key member of the Casablanca Art School, an avant-garde group that radically questioned cosmopolitan abstraction and art pedagogy within the context of colonial powers and influences.  His work resists the East/West divide resulting in a dialogue between Moroccan traditional and popular craft, whilst also connecting to the hard edge painters of the 1960’s. 

 

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Biography

Mohamed Melehi was born in Assilah, Morocco in 1936. He graduated from the École des Beaux-Arts, Tétouan, Morocco, in 1955. He continued his studies abroad, learning fine art in Seville and Madrid, sculpture in Rome, and engraving in Paris. In the early 1960s he travelled to the United States, where he studied at Columbia University (with a scholarship from the Rockefeller Foundation) for two years before returning to Morocco in 1964. It was during this time that Melehi began to explore his cultural heritage as a primary source of inspiration and started using a bolder, more brilliant colour palette.


Melehi was Professor of Painting, Sculpture and Photography at the Casablanca School of Fine Arts from 1964 to 1969. In 1969, he organized the first open-air group exhibition, held in Marrakesh medina’s Jemaa el-Fna Square. Eliciting much acclaim from the public and art critics, this exhibition radicalized the country’s contemporary art scene. In 1978 Melehi and Mohamed Benaissa created the Al Mouhit Cultural Association, a non-political organization with purely cultural objectives. The result of this venture is the Asilah Cultural Moussem, an annual festival held every summer. A highlight of the festival is the mural painting event, first held in April 1978, a project which has revitalized the formerly dilapidated appearance of the artist’s birthplace. Asilah is now celebrated for its vividly coloured murals, many of which have been created by Melehi.

Melehi is the President of the Moroccan Association of Plastic Arts. He is former Director of Arts for the Ministry of Culture (1985 – 1992), and ex cultural consultant to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Co-operations (1999 to 2002) of Morocco. 

He has held numerous solo exhibitions including a retrospective at the Museum of African Contemporary Art Al Maaden (MACAAL), Marrakech (2019), the Mosaic Rooms London (2019), Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris (1995), and the Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York (1984). He has participated in group shows in Casablanca, Tangiers, Rabat, Marrakech, Baghdad, Algiers, Dubai, London, Paris, Rome, Zurich, New York, Chicago and Montreal. 

 

His work is held in international museum collections that include: Tate, London; British Museum, London; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris; The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York; and, Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha.

 

Melehi currently lives and works between Marrakesh and Tangiers.

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