This weekend I fulfilled a long-held dream. The dream was to help create a cultural and artistic institution in my home country of Morocco. The Marrakech Museum for Photography and Visual Arts (MMP+) is a new home for the arts, somewhere that with all the political and social unrest you see every day in North Africa, will send out a message to the rest of the world that Morocco is a country where contemporary culture can and will triumph over reactionary thinking.
Our belief is that our country should become a beacon to the rest of the region. Opening a museum that celebrates the photographic image and the visual arts has never before been imbued with such potential for debate, an open and public conversation where all people, no matter what their gender or their background, can meet on a level playing field, both as observer and as the observed. The Marrakech Museum for Photography and Visual Arts (MMP+) is, I believe, a true witness to the integrity of my homeland and its vision for its future: a place where everyone has their eye on the world.
The weekend of celebrations welcomed guests, many from some of the world's most influential museums including Virginia Heckert from the J. Paul Getty Museum, Sandra Phillips from SFMOMA and Simon Baker of Tate Modern London - as well as acclaimed critics and writers and of course many of the world's best known photographers. It was almost overwhelming to invite the international art world to our amazing temporary home at the El Badi Palace.
The museum launched with an exhibition called 10 Contemporary Moroccan Photographers from our permanent collection: Yto Barrada, Carole Benitah, Hicham Benouhoud, Ali Chraibi, Yasmine Bouziane Daoud, Hicham Gardaf, Hassan Hajjaj, Lamia Naji, Leila Sadel, and Aoulad Syad.
The space will also be used as a laboratory for a new generation of Moroccan curators who will work with internationally acclaimed academics on a project basis. In support of this laboratory, MMP+ will be launching a scholarship programme to support Moroccan students and further their studies of Museum Science at major institutions around the world.
This weekend MMP+ is showcasing the work of some members of the amazing Magnum Photos collective. The quintet of Abbas, Jim Goldberg, Susan Meiselas, Mark Power and Mikhael Subotzky have lived together and worked with local photographers, submersing themselves for two weeks in Marrakech, its life force and its people and have produced an exceptional body of work curated by Simon Njami and entitled A Portrait of Marrakech. This highly original way of working and the subsequent body of work was accompanied by a weekend of talks by leading curators in the field of photography.
The Museum is also hosting a show of the incredible photography of Lewis Morley in an exhibition entitled: Fame, Fashion, Celebrity opened by the British Ambassador to Morocco, Clive Alderton. Morley took some of the most famous photographs of the 1960s including the iconic shot of Christine Keeler that became synonymous with the Profumo Affair.
In 2016 The Marrakech Museum for Photography and Visual Arts (MMPVA) will open in its new home: an impressive free-standing space designed by Sir David Chipperfield. The museum will house a permanent collection of lens-based art from the 19th Century to the present day in addition to a programme of contemporary art exhibitions. It will be the largest freestanding museum in the world dedicated to photography and will be a significant addition to Africa's cultural landscape.
But the real dream will be realised when MMPVA is able to exhibit all the amazing African artists who struggle to survive in economies that don't facilitate art, when the Museum can draw the young generation so thirsty for culture to it's doors with fantastic pieces of art.
The creation of a museum is just a way to give back to this amazingly rich culture and history that Morocco has borne and nourished. Morocco has been a blessing to me and my family. We are very happy to celebrate it in this fashion.