Van Hove (b. 1975, Algeria) is a Belgian artist, raised in Cameroon and living in Marrakech. His practice challenges how the legacy of craft can be upheld in the face of mass production and consumption. Van Hove works with a team of Moroccan craftsmen, relying on local, collective intelligence and domestic materials and techniques. His sculptures incorporate engineering, design, craft, and art.
In 2012, Van Hove founded the Fenduq on the outskirts of Marrakech. The name is a combination of the Arabic words “fenn” meaning art, and “funduq”, workshop. He opened it in response to a problem. A decade earlier, Moroccan engineer Abdeslam Laraki launched a supercar that was touted as all Moroccan-made, which it was, apart from its German V-12 Mercedes Benz engine. Van Hove questioned how in a country where almost 20% of the workforce are makers, the engine could not have been made by Moroccan hands. This marked a new chapter in van Hove’s practice. Whereas before he was nomadic, making mostly ephemeral work, he was now committed to bringing North African craft away from the souk and into a cooperative workspace.
The artist assembled a team of employees to develop their specialty craft through the reproduction of car engine parts. Natasha Hoare, Curator at Goldsmiths Centre for Contemporary, London, who has written about and studied the Fenduq, refers to it as: “A sculptural NGO with all the artistry and language of the white cube, and all the dirt, dust and inspiration of the medina workshop.”
Yellow copper, silver nickel, pink apricot wood, mahogany, walnut, tin, malachite of Midelt, onyx, tiger eye stone, Taroudant stone, red marble of Agadir, black marble of Ouarzazate, white marble of Béni Mellal, cowskin: the list of materials that make up V12 Laraki Coolin system, 2014. Two Swedish masters, in Marrakech for a residency, blew crystal glass elements for a more recent work, Claas Jaguar OM422 V8 Fuel Filter Assembly.
Each complex sculpture produced at the Fenduq carries craft techniques that have been passed from one set of hands to the next. Each one is held in a handmade, unique metal box engraved in Arabic with the names of its makers. Authorship doesn’t enter the equation of a purchase at the souk, or any place of local distribution in Morocco, but it is embedded in van Hove’s work.
Mahjouba IV, on view for the first time, is the fourth prototype for an electric moped van Hove and his team have been working on for 7 years. The first model was nominated for The Beazley Prize at The Design Museum.
Through this ongoing project, van Hove wants to connect local craftsmen to the electric engine revolution. He calls for an end to constant impor t and export and reflects on why goods for Morocco, are not made in Morocco. Mahjouba IV is made by hand, with some 3D elements and industrial components.
Tackling complex global issues – craft’s disappearance in the face of mass consumption, sustainability, labor ethics – at a local level, is at the heart of the Mahjouba initiative, a project which is, in a way, a culmination of van Hove’s practice of the last decade.
Van Hove’s work is in the permanent collections of The Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Luma Foundation Collection, Zurich; Hood Museum of Arts, New Hampshire, USA; Fries Museum, Leeuwarden, Holland and more. He currently has an exhibition and workshop at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam (January-May) and an upcoming show at the Van Eyck Academie, Maastricht.
This exhibition is organized by Clara Zevi, a London-based art historian working in the intersection of art and charity. 10% of the proceeds of each work’s sale will go to MAMMA, a charity selected by van Hove that preserves Morocco’s modernist and post-independence architectural heritage.