Somerset House, London, United Kingdom 05 Oct 2017 - 07 Jan 2018
Somerset House is hosting a season of exhibitions and events, talks and new commissions to celebrate African Art this autumn.
From 5th October, Somerset House and 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair, present Hassan Hajjaj: La Caravane, a homecoming exhibition of the British-Moroccan artist, showcasing his vibrant fusion of contemporary cultures through new and celebrated works. The exhibition will then continue beyond 1:54 as a stand-alone show throughout Somerset House’s winter season.
The exhibition will be the first UK solo show of his work in seven years, celebrating his multi-layered works which fuse traditional and contemporary North African culture with familiar Western imagery and iconography.
Born and raised in Larache, Morroco, Hajjaj moved to London aged twelve and his artistic practice sees him spend much of his life travelling between these two countries and cultures. His artworks reflect his neo-nomadic lifestyle and the relationships he has formed with a variety of characters along the way, from musicians to artists and athletes to street performers. These individuals inspire Hajjaj’s diverse artworks from photographic portraits to video installations, sculptures, music, design and handcrafted objects.
Infused with a bold palette, the materials Hajjaj uses include patterned textiles, furniture, clothes and props often created by the artist to inform our understanding of the person in the image. All of these elements, including the frames made out of everyday items in which his images sit, are chosen deliberately to highlight these individuals’ identities.
He is perhaps best known for his colourful photographic portraits, including the Kesh Angels series, from which there will be several new works in the exhibition. Blending the glossy aesthetic of a fashion shoot with Moroccan tradition and street culture, these witty and poignant images, although outwardly light-hearted, challenge Western perceptions of the hijab and female disempowerment.
Another new body of work in the exhibition is My Rock Stars: Volume 2, a nine screen installation of distinctively dressed musicians. Each musician occupies an individual screen and takes it in turns to play their instrument, while the other performers turn to watch. The clothes and brightly patterned backdrops in each screen have been carefully selected by Hajjaj to highlight each player and their individual performance. Visitors can view the performances from Hajjaj’s signature Le Salon installation, which takes the form of a customised sofa, whilst the music travels throughout the whole exhibition.
A number of public events will accompany Hassan Hajjaj’s exhibition. Somerset House is delighted to welcome writer and broadcaster Ekow Eshun to join Hassan Hajjaj in conversation on 5 October. Eshun will explore the multifaceted nature of Hajjaj’s work, and how the artist assimilates different worlds, cultures and individuals into his work. Eshun has also contributed to a full colour catalogue to coincide with the exhibition, available at £9.95.
On 6 January a free special event will take place to celebrate the final weekend of the exhibition and Somerset House’s season of African Art, including live music and a family workshop inspired by elements of Hajjaj’s work.
The exhibition will be the first in the Charles Russell Speechlys Terrace Room Series, an ongoing partnership with the leading law firm to present a wide range of free exhibitions reflecting the broad interests of both organisations.