By Maryam Montague
November 17, 2014
Faatima Tayob/Courtesy of Riad Yima

When you think Marrakesh and art, you might think of the traditional architectural arts—miles of mosaic zellij tile winding on walls like optical illusions, or intricate painted zwaak patterns adorning old doors and windows. The skills needed for these ancient Moroccan arts have been passed from master craftsmen to their apprentices for centuries.  But while the contemporary art scene might not necessarily spring to mind in Marrakesh, you might be surprised at what’s on offer.  The past decade has seen a plethora of new galleries displaying more modern works, and indeed, every two years, thousands flock to The Marrakesh Bieannale to see visual art, performance art and more.  It’s all proof that Marrakesh is not a city stuck in time, but rather an intriguing blend of old and new.  So if you are in the Red City, make sure to check out the modern art scene.  Here are a few of my favorite galleries.

David Bloch Gallery

The David Bloch Gallery is dedicated to contemporary art and the space is appropriately open and modern, with an outdoor courtyard.  Artists have included Alëxone Dizac, Arne Quinze, Augustine Kofie and Carlos Mare, to mention just a few.  Open daily from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and from 3:30 p.m.  to 7:30 p.m., except Sundays and Monday mornings.

Matisse Art Gallery

This two-story gallery space carries some of Morocco’s most famous names in contemporary art, including Mahi Binebine, Farid Belkahia and Hassan El Glaoui.  Emerging Moroccan artists can also be found.  Gallery exhibits and openings are frequent, where you can mix with the artists themselves.  Open 9.30 a.m.-noon and 3-7:30pm Monday to Saturday.

Galerie 127

If you are a photography lover, Gallery 127 is a must-visit in Marrakesh.  Owned and curated by Nathalie Locatelli, the gallery focuses on the works of both established and up-and-coming photographers.  This is the gallery where I dispatched my husband to buy my own birthday present.  Open Tuesday to Saturday from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. or by appointment.

Galerie Re

Established in Marrakesh for nearly a decade, this gallery will appeal to admirers of contemporary art.   Featuring changing exhibitions by Moroccan and other artists, the gallery also offers two floors of paintings, sculpture and some textiles.  Open 10 a.m.-1 p.m. and 3-8 p.m., Monday to Friday.

Riad Yima

Marrakesh’s funkiest gallery-teahouse-shop, Riad Yima is the brainchild of photographer Hassan Hajaj, sometimes referred to as Morocco’s Andy Warhol.  Born to parents who couldn’t read and write, Hajaj’s photos sell for as much as $20,000 at Christie’s. At Riad Yima, you’ll find Hajaj’s own photography on display, as well clothing inspired by his own brand of Moroccan pop art and often made out of recycled materials. There are no particular hours, so it's best to call ahead. 

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