Selma Feriani announces the launch of a new gallery space in January 2024, a few kilometers northeast of the Tunisian capital’s downtown area. The eponymous gallery, the first commercial space of its kind in North Africa, is designed by architect Chacha Atallah and spans 2000m2. It marks over a decade of growth for the gallery, at home and internationally, as celebrated with the inaugural exhibition of unseen work by Paris-based Tunisian artist Nidhal Chamekh. Running from 25 January – 7 April 2024, a substantial part of the exhibition will be produced in Tunis at the gallery’s L’Atelier space.
Curated by Kathryn Weir (Paris) with the assistance of curator Salma Kossemtini (Tunis), Chamekh’s exhibition ‘Et si Carthage… / And what if Carthage…’ is inspired by French writer and theoretician Édouard Glissant’s poem dedicated to the gallery’s neighbouring city of Carthage. As the Romans are said to have destroyed Carthage with black salt in the name of new development, Glissant considered what encounters could have unfolded had this never happened. Drawing on this, Chamekh’s new body of work affirms this regenerative potential of untold histories.
Founded in 2013, first in London and then Sidi Bou Saïd, Tunis, Selma Feriani’s new purpose-built space in the rapidly growing Tunis Lake district becomes the gallery’s primary address. It boasts 800sqm of museum-quality exhibition space across three rooms – a basement space for projections, performances and talks, a mezzanine exhibition platform, and large-scale exhibition hall with 6.5m high ceilings – a bookshop, and an annual outdoor sculpture commission in its adjoining garden. Designed ecologically, the building uses solar energy, and to contend with prolonged periods of drought, has an integrated rainwater harvesting system.
Selma Feriani elaborates:
‘After a decade representing artists from the MENA region and beyond in Tunis, London, and on the global art fair circuit, our artists’ ambitions and needs have grown. Now we must grow with them. Our largest exhibition space is 200sqm with 6.5m high ceilings, opening greater opportunities for larger scale, site-specific commissions. The new space opens fresh possibilities of displaying and contextualizing art that makes it relevant and accessible to contemporary audiences. This project makes a significant step forward in our commitment to providing a dynamic platform for contemporary art in North Africa.’
The gallery will foster new global encounters while promoting cultural exchange with the local community. The establishment of the artist residency programme, L’Atelier, affirms the gallery’s artist-centric approach, expanding on its strong reputation as an incubator while offering a nurturing environment for emerging and established artists to present and develop their practice. L’Atelier was founded in 2021 and serves as both a dedicated studio space for the gallery’s artists and a research hub for artistic exploration. Under the curatorial guidance of Tunisian curator, Salma Kossemtini, it fosters a practice-based approach that cultivates an environment for new artistic methods and collaborative growth, uniting with the creative energies that influence it. Over time, the residency has welcomed diverse artists, including Gresham Tapiwa Nyaude, Sonia Kacem, Sophia Bsiri, Aymen Mbarki, Ghassen Charifa, and Myriame Dachraoui.
With greater accessibility due to location, the gallery strives for even greater synergy with local institutions, festivals and projects in Tunis to capitalise on international visibility for the area. Furthermore, the gallery will offer rich public programme including artist talks, workshops, curator-led tours and performances among other events across the weekends and evenings. Surrounded by schools, Selma Feriani’s new location bridges the gap between art and education in Tunis through close collaboration with local schools and other educational initiatives.
To date, the gallery has presented a progressive, politically and socially conscious programme, organising critically acclaimed exhibitions, and installing public interventions internationally. By supporting the growing art infrastructure in Tunisia and North Africa, the gallery offers artists a global platform within a nurturing environment that offers exceptional local and international curation. The introduction of institutional standard exhibition space champions the further growth of a meaningful cultural network for emerging and established artists from Tunisia and beyond.