Having been a pioneer, and one of the founders of the poorly studied, but deeply impactful modern art movement Casablanca School, Mohamed Melehi is inarguably one of the region’s most legendary artists. The leading Moroccan artist tragically died at a Paris hospital after losing his battle against COVID-19. He was 84-years-old.
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We are deeply saddened by the passing of Mohamed Melehi, and would like to express our heartfelt sympathies to his family and friends at this time. We have been honoured to have gained a deeper insight into his pioneering practice as a painter, photographer, muralist, graphic, and urban designer, art teacher, and cultural activist through his current ‘New Waves’ exhibition. He leaves behind an incredible legacy. Image credits: B12, 1961, Collage, Collection Toni Maraini Untitled, 1972, Silkscreen Print, Private Collection
The news of his passing was confirmed by Dubai-based art hub Alserkal Avenue, where his final solo exhibition is currently being held. “We are deeply saddened by the passing of Mohamed Melehi, and would like to express our heartfelt sympathies to his family and friends at this time,” their statement read.
The Lawrie Shabibi gallery in Dubai, which represents the artist also took to Instagram to release a statement: “It has been an honour and privilege to have known and worked with Melehi. His artistic legacy and experimental spirit, together with his joyfulness and good humour, touched and influenced so many lives. May he rest in peace.”
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We are deeply saddened to announce that Mohamed Melehi passed away yesterday, 28 October, 2020. Our sincere condolences go out to his family and friends. 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. It has been an honour and privilege to have known and worked with Melehi. His artistic legacy and experimental spirit, together with his joyfulness and good humour, touched and influenced so many lives. May he rest in peace.
The Asilah-born painter was especially active in the 1960s, becoming known for his canvases of vivid two-dimensional colours, which followed his signature wave motif. Impressively, Melehi has maintained an unparalleled artistic longevity. Through his 60-year-long career, he’s produced countless pieces of work alongside leaving an equally lasting legacy through his teachings at various art schools in Morocco.