Hassan Hajjaj VOGUE, The Arab Issue
VOGUE, The Arab IssueMar 19 - Nov 7, 2021
Vibrant portraiture set inside a world of bold colors, varied textures, and frenzied patterns commands attention in VOGUE, The Arab Issue. Hassan Hajjaj’s photography challenges the viewer through an eclectic confrontation of styles, and invites them to re-examine cultural stereotypes and cliches. Alive with color and patterns, this immersive exhibition brings together five important series developed over the past three decades.
Photo: Malikah Legs, Vogue: The Arab Issue series, 2016/1437 © Hassan Hajjaj. Courtesy of the Artist and M.E.P. Paris/France
VOGUE, The Arab Issue was inspired in the 1990s while Hajjaj was assisting his stylist friend on a fashion shoot in Marrakech. Hajjaj shares:
I sat there and realized all these people were from Europe – stylists, photographers, fashion designers, makeup artists – using Morocco simply as a backdrop, which frustrated me but also made me think. Rather than just using the country as the prop, I wanted to make it look grand. I wanted to take the Moroccan clothes and the people and shoot them in this celebratory way.
For his imaginary fashion shoot, Hajjaj asked local women to pose wearing his creations – traditional Moroccan djellabas, hijabs, caftans and babouches covered with candy-colored polka dots, leopard prints or counterfeit brand logos – in the streets of the Medina, often parodying the poses typical of Western models.
I know it can make people uncomfortable that some of the women in my photographs are veiled, but look at how modern and defiant they are! They blend tradition with pop fashion, and I find them so strong, so powerful, and totally gorgeous.
Photo: Naabz Chanel, Vogue: The Arab Issue series, 2012/1421 © Hassan Hajjaj. Courtesy of the Artist and M.E.P. Paris/France
About Hassan Hajjaj
British-Moroccan photographer and multidisciplinary artist Hassan Hajjaj is an entirely self-taught artist, with a diverse practice that includes portraiture, installation, performance, fashion, and furniture design.
Often dubbed “the Andy Warhol of Marrakesh,” Hassan Hajjaj embraces a melting pot of influences in his work, from kitsch to popular culture, from Africa to London street style, from hip-hop to Haute couture.
Born in the fishing village of Larache, Morocco, in 1961, Hajjaj immigrated to London with his family at the age of 13.
Struggling with the English language, Hajjaj soon dropped out of school, hovering for several years between unemployment and odd jobs before integrating into London’s underground club scene. At the same time, he explored the city’s alternative fashion world, founding the streetwear and accessories label RAP (an acronym for “Real Artistic People”) and eventually teaching himself photography.
This exhibition is presented in collaboration with Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris.
Hassan Hajjaj’s series My Rockstars is concurrently on view in a solo exhibition at Yossi Milo Gallery, opening March 25th through May 15, 2021.
Photo: White Dotted Stance, photography by ©Hassan Hajjaj, 2002/1423