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For those who are not familiar with Ahmed Yacoubi, self-taught and illiterate artist, he was born in Fez, Morocco in 1928 and came from a modest family of the Medina, the old quarters of the city of Fez.
As a teenager, he met with Jane and Paul Bowles during a visit to Fez. Paul Bowles saw in him a very promising artistic potential and Ahmed Yacoubi became his protégé.
Under Bowles coaching, Ahmed Yacoubi artistic career was to become successful up to the point where he became one of the most internationally famous Arab artist of his time and one of the most talented, avant-garde and visionary in his field.
He died in New York in 1985.
This website should have been given the title “Ahmed Yacoubi and Mohammed Tazi; An Encounter” but being much less notorious than the artist was, only his name appears.
My goal here is not to write an extensive account of Ahmed Yacoubi’s art; it deserves not one but many books.
As already mentioned in the Foreword of the site, it is for a copyrights reason that I didn’t feature one of his paintings on the website header but rather one of my picture of his grave at the Mujahiddin cemetery in Tangiers where he is now buried after his remains were brought back in November 2009 from New Jersey thanks to the noble generosity of His Majesty Mohammed VI, King of Morocco and Patron of the Arts.
I felt obligated to make this site as a tribute to Ahmed Yacoubi because I felt indebted to him and it is the best my modest means allowed me to do to pay back the debt.
From the beginning when I started working on his case, he has been a “Teacher” for me even if not alive. His paintings have made surface in me a perception of art that was either unconscious or unsuspected and have opened new horizons at a time where my knowledge of art was confined to a classical approach. On the other hand, working on his case gave me a passion and a desire to widen my knowledge of art which was very limited and also made me thirsty to research and find knowledge in an area that I knew little of. Not to mention, that I acquired a knowledge of a very interesting time in the history of the city of Tangiers and of many very famous artists and writers and people of the internatioanl art scene who lived there.
I have long waited to write about my “encounter” with Ahmed Yacoubi and to give a description of the challenge and experience doing research work and promoting his art with the rebirth of his work in Morocco as an end-result; I feel that it is about time to do it.
What triggered this decision is the publication of a book “Tanger 54” by a French writer and art critic, Mona Thomas who dedicates a good part of her book to Ahmed Yacoubi, at least the way she wants him to appear.
A critical view and analysis of Mona Thomas’s book was for over a year, the major topic of this website.
In her book, published in February, 2012, Mona Thomas gives an account of Ahmed Yacoubi’s life in Tangiers and of his relationships with famous people as the writer Paul Bowles and the artist Francis Bacon. The book is very skillfully written; the main story revolves around a drawing, "the Norman Drawing", which was supposedly made by Francis Bacon and supposedly represents Ahmed Yacoubi. This drawing carries the handwritten notes “Will. S. Burroughs” and “Tanger 54” thus the title of the book. Unfortunately, I will show that Mona Thomas has made up a story that doesn’t stand nor makes sense at all and it was done at the expense of the great artist who was Ahmed Yacoubi. I will take the opportunity of this chapter on “Tanger 54” to give a brief outline of the very rich, artistically and professionally, career of Ahmed Yacoubi.
Recently, a press article in the NY Post on July 14th, 2014 gave me the desire and the energy to reopen a very important episode in my life, the art and the life of the late Ahmed Yacoubi. This article entitled "Artwork of late Moroccan painter the center of lawsuit" was written by Julia Marsh, journalist at the Post.
This article is important because it describes the recent developments taken by the quarrel concerning the legacy and the inheritance of the deceased artist. For a very obvious reason, that is to avoid embarrassment for both concerned parties, my name was not mentioned. Nevertheless it is my duty to shed some light on some issues raised by the article.
I was delightfully surprised by the interest raised by my web site and therefore have decided to dedicate a whole section of the website to the readers' comments under "Feedback received".
My "encounter" with Ahmed Yacoubi and his work.
I had bought in the US, a gouache on paper by Ahmed Yacoubi. At first, it didn’t really attract my attention. As time went by and my perception of art having gone through changes, it began looking more and more interesting to me. I decide to find out more about who the artist was. After having done some research I run into a lady from New York, Carol Cannon who told me she owned a whole collection of the artist and that she was looking for an eventual buyer. I went to see her in NYC in May, 2007; our meetings were cordial and warm. I had asked to be taken to pay my respects to the grave of Ahmed Yacoubi before having a look at his paintings. The old lady who worked at the cemetery told us that nobody has ever come to Yacoubi’s grave since he was buried.
Carol Canon took me then to have a look at the paintings and I was completely overwhelmed by their beauty, their refinement and their aura.
We decided by a mutual agreement to work together and I was to act as her agent in Morocco to find buyers for her paintings.
The task seemed easy at a first sight but proved to be extremely difficult as the artist has completely been forgotten in Morocco having left in the early 70s and as his paintings have been out of the market for too long a period of time.
I will come back to my relationship with Carol Cannon later on is a special chapter dedicated to it.
During my work on Ahmed Yacoubi’s art I also got to meet with his son, Soufiane Yacoubi, police officer in Tangiers. Here again, I will come back to my meetings with this gentleman later on.
I will also in this site, clarify certain issues related to Ahmed Yacoubi’s art; as an example the issue of the signature on his paintings and other issues as well.
I would like to make clear that all the arguments contained and advanced in my website are supported by either emails or conversation recordings and are available to whomever, in case of a controversy or a litigation.
I also would like to emphasize that copyrights laws apply.
I have tried to give enough information and precisions to the reader to find the appropriate pictures if interested.
Mohammed Tazi, May 2013
N.B.: for those who are interested in watching Yacoubi's paintings, here's a link (not all paintings are from him though):
To the left, the picture of the alley leading to the house where Ahmed Yacoubi was born in the El Kadane neighborhood of the old part of the city of Fes; to the right that of the door of Yacoubi family’s house.