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Wooden Crystal 2013

Al Maaden Sculpture Park

Two steel curves, one on top of the other, by Moroccan artist Adiba Mkinski leap into the air. Golden cubes by fellow Moroccan artist Hassan Darsi lie scattered across the earth. Further along is a sliver of a silver moon with a male figure crouched at its base by French artist Daniel Hourdé. These are three of a dozen site-specific sculptures created by local and international artists for the Al Maaden Sculpture Park, a short drive away from Marrakech. This is billed as being the first sculpture park in Africa. What’s utterly surprising is that it is located on an artificially made golf course near the Atlas Mountains.

The golf resort is owned by Alami and Farida Lazraq, a couple of collectors that established Fondation Alliances to support contemporary culture, health, and solidarity initiatives in Morocco. Even more ambitiously, the foundation is developing a future museum. The Museum of African Contemporary Art is expected to open in Marrakech in 2016 and is being designed by the Spanish architects Nieto Sobejano (Fuensanta Nieto and Enrique Sobejano), whose projects include the Contemporary Art Center Córdoba that opened this spring.

Wooden Crystal

The artists commissioned for Al Maaden Sculpture Park were chosen by the Lazraqs, who sought the advice of French art dealer Michel Roudillon. It was decided that each artist would be given a budget of €100,000 to realize a piece that would be in resonance with the site. “In a country where money has a different value [than in Europe], you can’t just throw money at a project like this,” says Roudillon.

“We were all invited to observe the place and see where we could install an artwork,” says Canadian artist Jean Brillant, who flew over five times to see the site and install his piece. Nomade is comprised of two steel sculptures – a wheel and a wave – that are both filled with stones from the Atlas mountains. “I work a lot with geological phenomenon and had this idea of redrawing the soil,” Brillaint explains. “The wheel gives the idea of displacement while the other sculpture echoes the undulating form of the landscape.”

Steel and wood

Mkinsi’s piece, Momentum – the only work by a female artist – was also created in response to the vegetation, as was Claude Gilli‘s Forest of Trees which is like a three-dimensional, surrealistic image of trees leaning in the wind. Meanwhile, Darsi sees his piece Golden Pier, of the scattered golden cubes, as being about light-absorbing materiality and how gold can signify wealth and danger.

A touch of metaphysical magic is encapsulated in Egyptian artist Moataz Nasr‘s piece, Crystal Ball, which is like a multi-faceted, atomizing star made from dozens of pieces of wood. In the evening, it appears illuminated from within. With light beaming out from the slits in the wood, it is easily discernible from the resort’s lavish restaurant that overlooks the golf course.

Height: 6 meters

In the restaurant’s waterfront are two elegant Butterflies with pink and purple wings by Indian artist Sunil Gawde that look as if they’ve just fleetingly perched on the water. Upon closer inspection, one notices that the back of each buttefly is a silver sword. “It’s about beauty and danger, perception and reality, relating to the duality of human beings,” says the artist.

While most artists have drawn inspiration from the landscape of the site (created by landscape gardener Philippe Delis), Argentinian artist Antonio Seguí has made a piece referencing its usage. His humorous piece Golfista is of a walking male figure dressed in shorts, a T-shirt, and a golf cap, holding a golf club on his way to tee time.

Jean Brillant

Casting a watchful, contemplative gaze on Al Maaden Sculpture Park is Wang Keping‘s elegant Totem which lends a serene sense of wisdom to the project. Indeed, one cannot help wondering what kind of role the sculpture park can play in the cultural development of Marrakech. As an elitist, exclusive resort, Al Maaden is pretty far removed from culturally enhancing the lives of ordinary Moroccans. But Fondation Alliances says it is eager to arrange guided visits for the locals in the future. In the meantime, the foundation is commissioning a further eight artists (names not yet revealed) to create more works for the stylish sculpture park.





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