A PRIVATE MUSEUM JOURNEY the Abderrahman Slaoui Foundation
For an unprepared visitor, the streets of Casablanca open to a vastly different landscape than the one engraved by the film in our collective imagination. Beyond the romantic undertones that might still be recalled from the vestiges of French deco and Arabic architecture mixed throughout the city, what becomes predominant is the swarming net of street vendors, students, office workers and disgruntled taxi drivers that detach visitors from any fading movie scene and leaves them moored to yet another dizzying city. Fortunately, as it happens to those who wander enough, a slight turn can reveal a coveted interval among the crisscross of roads, just as it happened when I meandered into the nostalgic streets that lead me to the Sloui Foundation.
Opened in May 2012, this space is in every bit what it was envisioned to be: a house-museum that would allow visitors to enjoy and learn from the artworks and ‘objects of virtue’ so singularly displayed. A much needed respite in the midst of the traditional quarters of Casablanca, the Slaoui Museum, which also houses the foundation currently led by Malika Slaoui-Yaker, offers a window into the life and collecting passion that moved Abderrahman Slaoui.
Born in Fez, the intellectual and spiritual capital of Morocco, in 1919, Abderrahman was considered a savvy businessman and industrialist. An avid traveler, he is equally described at the Foundation as a ‘humanist and aesthete with eclectic interests’, traits that are certainly reflected in the objects and artworks that became part of the collection he gathered throughout 50 years and which are now on display at the museum.
Abderrahman Slaoui spent his childhood immersed in the variegated Arabic-Andalusian atmosphere of Fez, a lineage that deepened its hold in the city following the arrival of Andalusian refugees in the 9th century. This heritage became an internal compass while shaping his collection, which would continue to grow upon Slaoui’s marriage with the daughter of one of the preeminent jewelers of Fez, Haj Abdessalam Benchekroun. The union became a catalyst for the Sloui collection to embrace Berber roots via traditional jewelry.
The Sloui Museum evolved building upon the success of several traveling exhibitions of jewelry and vintage posters organized by Abderrahman Slaoui throughout the 1990s. Although it was a long-term dream for this collector, the Museum of the Abderrahman Slaoui Foundation only came to fruition 11 years after his death thanks to the propitious agency of his family. A testament to travel journeys and his pursuit of beauty, the museum houses a unique selection of Orientalists posters dating from the early 1900s to end of the 20th century, Illuminated Korans and manuscripts, Bohemian glass, miniatures, exquisite Berber Jewelry and a small cabinet of curiosities. An intimate homage to heritage on the first 2 sections, the Slaoui museum finds a pertinent balance through the temporary exhibitions gallery, where the work of contemporary artists from North Africa is frequently displayed.
‘To see the world in a grain of sand’, as William Blake once wrote, summarizes the prismatic value of this type of collections coming to public light. At an intimate scale, the Slaoui Foundation typifies the whirlwind of the private museum emergence: a singular view of the world captured through the lens of an individual’s passion, which is ultimately projected into the cultural landscape of the micro universe they subscribe to.
Thus, the private museum becomes an ontological quest of sorts, making tangible the story of how individuals make sense of their passage through life and how they place their existence in relation to the cosmos they unfold within. A private museum is at once memoir, homage and a justification of the value we give to those things we do or have done, and by extension of how we have attempted to build meaning in, from and through our lives in relation to ourselves and to others. A private museum is a view of what we wish to leave behind in the hope that it will continue to expand as a way to perpetuate our singular existence throughout time and ideally through space. With an arrangement that follows the collectors focus and passions, the house-museum becomes an approachable space that is at once memento, homage and legacy to endure a life.