The ancient and dilapidated train station of Tetouan, famous for its Spanish castle-like architecture and closed for decades, is about to open its doors as a beautiful gem of an art museum. One of my favorite questions to ask taxi drivers is “What are they doing with the old train station?” the answers range from “They are fixing it up to make a museum” to “it will always be closed … they have talked about many ideas but they have been painting it for years.”
Truth be told, they HAVE been fixing it up … in the past year, in particular. And more than a fresh coat of paint too. New security cameras keep watch over newly tiled patios, gardens and a gated parking area. Green mirrored glass fills all the lower and second level windows to protect the artwork within. In mid-March, the signage went up on the facade in both Arabic and Spanish. They are still installing all of the green iron fencing across the streetside front, but it should all be in place for a May 2012 opening. And that is the word from the inside.
Everytime I have passed it in the last 6 months my curiosity has grown. And today, I had the distinct privilege of meeting with director Bouabid Bouzaid, inside the museum itself. [I’ll write more about Bouzaid in an upcoming post because I am a new fan of his artwork, which combines figurative painting and recycled parts and pieces in very powerful vingettes !] From his spacious office, he has beenoverseeing the renovations of the building and preparation of the gallery spaces since 2007.
The main entrance off the parking lot in the rear, is through a green glass cube and welcomes you into the center of the museum where a large sunlit space reaches up to pyramid glass skylights. Here, welded figurative sculptures flank the administrative offices and welcome area. To the right a colonaded gallery has its walls lined with traditional paintings from the last century by Bertucci, Serguini and others while a central space glows with more skylight sun and stone sculpture.
Next we went upstairs to see works by the full roster of Moroccan painters and sculptors. These range from realistic to abstract, impressionistic to contemporary and from the last several decades of accomplished artists, including several works by Bouzaid himself. At the other end of the second floor gallery we descended to the south gallery, dedicated to contemporary works by today’s leading artists. Large representative works by Hassan Echair, Safaa Erruas, Faisal Benkiran, Abdelkarim Ouazani, and others fill this spacious hall.
Even with the lights out, this museum is bright and spacious, with ample room for future additions and special exhibits. The plan is to get the main museum up and running before they finish constructing the essential pieces for changing exhibits, such as those of visiting foreign artists or traveling collections. The educational elements in the foyer, such as panels explaning the history of the building, seem partially finished as well, but from the initial installations, seem very crisp and strong.
When this museum opens to the public, it is going to be one of the finest gems of Tetouan, worth any travel to see! Stay tuned for news of that big day … possibly within the next month.