12/04/2020 | Maria Adelaide Marchesoni

MACAAL, private museum in Marrakech

Art collector Othman Lazraq promotes modern and contemporary African art

Othman Lazraq is a tall, dynamic, Moroccan, just over 30 years old, with an engaging  smile. He grew up in a family of collectors and developed an early interest in  photography. His father, Alami Lazraq, founder of the real estate empire Groupe Alliances, started collecting Moroccan art 40 years ago and gradually expanded his collecting interest to the whole of Africa. Othman,  shares his father’s passion for African art, and together, they founded founded the Al Maaden Museum of Contemporary African Art (MACAAL) in Marrakech (MACAAL) in 2016.in Marrakech, a new museum, which would not have been possible until now, , that houses an  tremendous collection of 5,000 works of modern and contemporary African and diaspora art.

I first met Othman Lazraq in Marrakech a few years ago atthe 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair. This year I saw him again at the opening of the group show at MACAA: "Have You Seen a Horizon Lately?", curated by Marie-Ann Yemsi. The title of the exhibition comes from  a song by Yoko Ono and is an invitation to perceive and learn the world in a different way, through the exploration of the politics of space and place, with works by emgerging and established international artists


HAVE YOU SEEN THE HORIZON LATELY?, 1967-2019, installation "The Reflection Project, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, New York , Yoko Ono , Photo: Isabel Asha Penzlien

The first piece of art you bought?

 I started collecting when I was 20. My first purchase was two photographs by Leila Alaoui from her series "The Moroccans". She introduced me to photography. It is a very important work for me, both as a lover of photography and as a man proud of his origins, because it echoes the "The Americans" by Robert Frank, the Swiss-born icon of American photography. I met Leila Alaoui while living in New York and we became friends. A documentary photographer, born in Marrakech and raised in Paris, she died at the age of 33 in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, while working on a photographic project for a women's rights campaign, "My Body My Rights", for Amnesty International. The two Alaoui photographs I bought are from her 2010- 2014 series documenting the cultural traditions and ethnic diversity of Morocco, . One depicts a watch seller wearing an elaborate headgear, photographed in a souk in the Atlas Mountains, the other, an elderly man from Morocco's northern coastal region.


Do you have emerging or established artists in your collection?

My family's collection focuses on works by leading artists from Morocco and neighbouring countries. At MACAAL, our main objective is to ensure the promotion of future generations of artists by supporting their creativity both locally and internationally.

 How is the collection developing?

We are currently discussing the acquisition of works from the latest exhibition "Have You Seen a Horizon Lately? In this way we can enrich the collection with works that have contributed to the success of our exhibitions, while also supporting the artists who have collaborated with us. In a way, it's a part of MACAAL's history that we want to preserve. 

The artistic language you're most passionate about?

African creativity is certainly the broad theme that unites our collection and exhibitions at MACAAL. I am personally passionate about contemporary African photography, and in fact photography is growing  in the collection, along with other new means of expression like  video and installation. The approach of each artist in the collection is different. Each work tells an original story and the collection is the book that brings them all together.


Maxwell Alexandre, Pardo è papel: first contact, 2020, drawing and installation, installation view, HAVE YOU SEEN A HORIZON LATELY, MACAAL, 2020

The last artwork you bought?

A work by Mohammed Arejdal, "Arc en ciel III", purchased at the Comptoir des Mines gallery in February 2020 at the 1-54 fair in Marrakech. I think Mohammed Arejdal is one of the most talented artists of his generation. His multidisciplinary practice explores the links between social groups, drawing inspiration from his travels and human interactions. Arejdal pushes the boundaries of contemporary art, while questioning the situation of artists in Morocco and the different communities that in the rural areas of our country.

Mohammed Arejdal, “Arc en ciel III”, 2019 Traditional wooden hoop, wool balls, Installation view, Photo courtesy the artist and Comptoir des Mines

Mohammed Arejdal, “Arc en ciel III”, 2019 Traditional wooden hoop, wool balls, Photo courtesy the artist and Comptoir des Mines

Why did you choose Marrakech for your museum?

 I was born here, so of course this city holds a very special place in my heart. It is also the place where the Lazraq collection began But the main reason is that the aim of the museum is not only to promote South-South cultural exchanges, but also to exploit Marrakech's status as an international tourist destination. Since 2018 the city has been recognized as the new crossroads of contemporary African art, and has increased  its artistic and cultural vibrancy thanks to the events organized by MACAAL and the birth of the 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair.

Akira Ikezoe, Coconut Heads in the Starry Sky, 2019 Oil on canvas, 157 x 127 cm. Photo courtesy of the artist and Proyectos Ultravioleta

Akira Ikezoe, Coconut Heads in the Starry Sky, 2019 Oil on canvas, 157 x 127 cm. Photo courtesy of the artist and Proyectos Ultravioleta

How does MACAAL promote African contemporary art?

MACAAL was one of the first private museums dedicated to contemporary African art on the continent. From our point of view, art is for everyone, so at MACAAL we work in a spirit of sharing, mutual support and networking, thus participating in the development of Marrakech as a continental and international centre of African art. We exhibit works of art, collaborate with public and private institutions and participate in major events in the art world. We also support artists on various levels, helping them financially to produce works of art, or offering them visibility through exhibitions and conferences. We often invite them to produce locally for our exhibitions and in 2019 we launched our artist residency program, MACAAL Residence.

In addition to MACAAL, for more than 10 years Fondation Alliances has carved out a place for itself in the art world through initiatives such as Lcc Program - a photography competition for African artists - and multiple cultural and social platforms. MACAAL was born from the awareness of having to support all this with the opportunity to show and promote African art in a wider and international context.

 MACAAL is based on the idea of creating a strong community, involving local people and supporting artists. We see ourselves as a new voice, as a hub for African creativity. In Morocco, art and culture have always been considered elitist, so one of our main missions at MACAAL is to democratize access to art with inclusive exhibitions, workshops and events throughout the year, to show a young and vibrant art world accessible to all. This is why we organize "Pay as you wish" weekends and activities for local associations. 

Amina Benbouchta, Eternel retour du désir amoureux, 2019. Installation, wood, neons, objects, sound, variable dimensions. Photo courtesy of the artist © Rabat Biennale 2019.

A missed purchase: why?

I would have bought Michael Armitage a long time ago. Now his work has has become   nearly unattainable .

 Five artists on your wish list.

Nkosi Thenjiwe, Madelynn Green, Dora Dalila Cheffi, Etel Adnan, Phoebe Boswell.

Othman Lazraq