Marrakech Biennale: What to see

Art worldwide 

Marrakech Biennale: What to see

Marrakech Biennale 5 is opening next week (Feb 26th – March 2nd, 2014). An expert guide to art highlights, best restaurants and trips outside of the city.

Biennale Marrakech

Marrakech Biennale: At the crossroad of a city

Next week Berlin’s art scene, including this lucky ARTberlin editor, will be in Marrakech to attend the opening week of the Marrakech Biennale 5 (February 26th – March 31st, 2014). We expect it to be packed with controversial art as Marrakech itself is considered to stand at an exceptional crossroad. Did you know that Marrakech Biennale was founded as a reaction to the international political situation in the beginning of the 21st century and the consequent negative perception in the Arab world? We didn’t’ and it makes it even more interesting to go and see how the 5th edition of Marrakech Biennale will answer the question: WHERE ARE WE NOW?

70 artists, 10 parallel projects and the question: what to see first?

Around 70 emerging and established artists, authors and movie makers from all over the world are invited, many of themwill create site-specific pieces. In addition to the official program of the 2014 edition there will be ten selected parallel projects and fringe projects will pop up everywhere in the city. So in total there will be 450 participants!

We are very happy that we had the opportunity to ask Andrea Kolb, a very Marrakech expert where to go and what to see – in terms of art but also of restaurants and location highlights in this beautiful old city. We even got some tips where to spend some extra days after the opening in the nature around Marrakech.  Andrea Kolb is not only the founder of the label ABURY that turns traditional handcrafts from Morocco into a social fashion business but also built the AnaYela, one very special Boutique hotel in the Medina of Marrakech. In addition she organizes TEDxMarrakesh together with her friend Vanessa Branson who is the president and founder of the Marrakech Biennale. A good soul and pretty successfull (social business) woman, as you can read in our interview with her here: Portrait of ABURY founder Andrea Kolb.

Andrea Kolb


Andrea, what is happening in Marrakech right now? What exactly is this crossroad the Biennale talks about?

Wow – this is a big question! I see Marrakesh in a transformation phase on many levels. You find an interesting tension between tradition and modernity – you still see the donkey cart next to the SUV. The tourist boom is fully back – after the short crash due to the bombing 2011 –  is back and although many Marrakeshi are living of the tourism it has site effects. Prices for example have risen enormously in the past years – especially affecting the poor people. The best paid jobs are often given to foreigners. And with more and more cheap Chinese imitations of Moroccan craft entering the Souks of the Medina the worth of real crafts has gone down too. But Morocco realizes right now as well the potential within its culture. 2012, the King of Morocco opened a school in Marrakesh that offers street teenagers the possibility to learn from the old master craftsmen. Many young Moroccans who studied abroad are coming back to support the locals.

It is a very inspiring environment  that also made Vanessa Branson to choose Marrakesh as the city for the Biennale

How does the contemporary art scene in Marrakech looks like?

The contemporary art scene is very young in Morocco / Marrakesh.

A few years ago there where only few modern art galleries and now more and more opening up – as also more young Moroccan artists are entering the international art scene. Also the Biennale is growing every time – and the interest of the locals is rising – which shows that the art scene is slowly taking its place.

What is your personal connection to the Biennale?

Vanessa Branson, the founder of the Biennale, and I became friends in organizing TEDxMarrakesh together. We hardly knew each other, when we did the first editionin 2011 together, and we connected really well. Vanessa is a great, warm, open-minded spirit with a vision – I love that. She called us „fellow-hippies“ – 

I think she means that we both are following our hearts and do what we love. So now we are heading towards the 4th edition of TEDxMarrakesh in September –  and we try to support each other where ever we can.  

Would u pick for us your 3 personal highlights of this year`s biennale?

The great thing about the Biennale is that it connects different forms of art. So I will definitely go and see the arts exhibitions in the Palais Badii and the Dar Si Said. But then there are also some really interesting film screenings and literary sessions. It is really difficult to pick only three – I will try to see as much as possible in the time I will be there!

Source: Eric Van Hove / Keetja Allard

Is there an artist you have a special eye on?

I love the work of Lalla Essaydi – a now internationally acclaimed Moroccan female artist who just opened an atelier in Marrakesh as well.
We also had Eric van Hove as a speaker at TEDxMarrakesh last year and he made me curious to visit his atelier / workshop and see the results in real – he took a Mercedes V12 motor dismantled it to its pieces (465) and had them remade by 35 traditional artisans. The photos he was showing were already breathtaking – and as I have a crush on crafts anyway – I will definitely go and see his work.

Your hotel Anayela is located in the beautiful Medina – what would you recommend to see and visit in the Medina?

Well – walking through the Medina is about getting lost – so I recommend everybody to explore and find the secret places.

But when it comes to the „attractions“ apart from the Jemna El Fna (the big square that everybody has to go and visit) I would recommend to visit the Medersa Ben Youssef – the old coran school and Dar Bellarj which is just next to it. And the Musée de la photographie – the entrance is really small, but behind you find beautiful photographs of old times of Morocco, berbers and changing exhibitions. It is a little treasure.

What is your favorite restaurant in Marrakech?

My favorite food I get actually at the Anayela – and this is not only me – saying that 😉 – our chef (a Moroccan mother from the neighborhood) has been featured by La Tavola in switzerland with 6 pages and you can find her recipes already in two international cook books. She is doing cooking classes as well.

If you have two more days to spend what would you recommend visiting outside of the city? 

Take a car and drive in the Atlas Mountains.

The Kasbah Toubkal for example is just stunning. Here you have a beautiful view in the valley and make sure you  stay until you have heard the Muezzin! It is very calm and you wouldn’t expect this kind of scenery so close to Marrakesh.  You have to walk up to the Kasbah or ride on the donkey – it is positioned high up in the mountains and you can’t access the Kasbah by car.

Thank you so much Andrea!