Dalloul Art Foundation

Dalloul Art Foundation

MAHJOUB BEN BELLA MAHJOUB BEN BELLA

MAHJOUB BEN BELLA, Algeria (1946 - 2020)

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Bio

Written by Layla Yakoub
Translated by Nathalie Bsat

Mahjoub Ben Bella was born in 1946 in Maghnia, Algeria. He studied at the École des Beaux-Arts in Oran and left at age 19 to Northern France, where he completed studies at the École Supérieure d'Art in Tourcoing. After graduating in 1969, Beb Bella joined the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs and the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. In 1975, he returned to Tourcoing to open his studio.

Upon his arrival in France, Ben Bella had to cope with the tense context left in the wake of the Algerian War of Independence. It did not help matters that he bore the name of his uncle who was the first president of an independent Algeria. 

Low on funds, Ben Bella embraced a bohemian lifestyle and quickly adopted northern France as his home. He took part in developing the local art scene by joining L'Atelier de la Monnaie, an anti-academic art movement in Lille that fought against the constraints of traditional French art education, advocating for freedom in artistic form and content. In 1978, he assumed the role of professor at the École Supérieure d'Art de Cambrai. 

Instead of letting the weight of exile impede his work, Ben Bella instead capitalized creatively on his split sense of belonging to France and Algeria. He drew from Algerian visual heritage, such as Arabic calligraphy, to construct a strong and distinct artistic identity. At the same time, his investment in diversifying his formats and surfaces led to him to create monumental works, and the city itself became his canvas. In 1986, Ben Bella took up a rather tough challenge: he created a 36,000 square meter painting on the cobblestones of the cycling path used for the Paris-Roubaix race, known as "the Hell of the North" for its difficulty. This act marked his first public art project and anchored his practice in French soil. 

From city pavements to walls, from large paintings to small notebooks, wooden crates, and ceramic vases, Ben Bella's thick, vivid lines have the power to inhabit any surface. The artist's sharp sense of color strikes the viewer immediately; the artist employs a variety of bright hues, playing on the lively contrast between cold and warm tones. His compositions make use of Asemic writing, and these forms, which elicit the written word without creating meaning, have become a visual language of his own. Ben Bella's flat way of composing his works, without hierarchy or perspective, invites the viewer at first to get lost in the chaos, entranced by an illusion of infinite abundance. Upon closer inspection, however, the viewer finds a method to Ben Bella's madness, for his seemingly spontaneous work, is structured in deliberate, even meticulous patterns. Even when figurative imagery appears in his work, as in his 2012 tribute to Picasso, Femme d'Alger, the narrative form remains a secondary element, with texture and color taking center stage.

Mahjoub Ben Bella's works would not function if it weren't for his mastery of complementary colors. The palette of each painting is carefully chosen so that the colors balance each other in a way that highlights their ever-black symbols without overpowering them. Being meticulous allows the artist to create busy, intense backgrounds while still keeping the foreground clarity defined: he creates a perfect marriage between the colors that guide, soothe, and delight the eye. His color combinations create the illusion of light in movement, a sparkling array of bright shapes that recall the feeling of looking through a kaleidoscope. The colors also define the form of the work: color itself is the pattern used by Ben Bella; it is the border between the elements of his paintings. His use of white and contrasting colors creates the path upon which the viewer's eyes travel. Typical complimentary colors like blue and orange, green and red, even black and white in all their shades from the dullest to the most vivid are examples of recurrent combinations seen in Ben Bella's works. The mastery here is in the immense diversity of his pieces, in patterns and tone, although they all follow Ben Bella's signature formula.

Ben Bella likes to call himself a graffiti artist, even going so far to claim he's "maybe one of the first ones." His link to tagging culture is not limited to the fact that he has occasionally painted walls. Aesthetically, his work resembles the very first street art movement that emerged in Manhattan, NY, in the 1960s: extremely complex backgrounds (like the American street artist known as SEEN), a mix of drippings and clear-cut lines (as seen in taggings by Futura 2000). Ben Bella's abstraction of calligraphy creates words without meaning, forms deprived of their primary function; paradoxically, this imbues these empty images with all meaning. In keeping with the ethos of street art, they are universal and relatable to people of all educational backgrounds. The principles of street art are also cross-cultural, insofar as one of the genre's primary goals is to create an everyday space for reflection through gestural painting, lyrical visuals, and the dialogue between shapes and colors; this goal has a prominent place in Islamic visual traditions, as well.

He is highly esteemed as an artist and embraced as a "local" on both sides of the Mediterranean. He passed away in 2020 in Tourcoing, in the North of France.

Sources

Books

Martine Aubry, Bruno Girveau, Bruno Vouters, Jean Corbu, Gérard Durozoi. Mahjoub Ben Bella. Lille : Musée De L'Hospice Comtesse, 2013.

Mohammed Djehiche, Mustapha Orif, Gérard Durozoi. Mahjoub Ben Bella. Alger: Musée National D'Art Moderne et Contemporain d’Alger, 2012.

Articles

"Mahjoub Ben Bella : « J’ai été Inconscient D'arriver En France Après Cette Guerre Fratricide épouvantable »."Lavoixdunord.fr. October 23, 2015. Accessed April 23, 2018. http://www.lavoixdunord.fr/archive/recup:/culture-loisirs/mahjoub-ben-bella-j-ai-ete-inconscient-d-arriver-ia0b0n3119718#.

"Mahjoub Ben Bella, Le Grand Retour." Liberte-algerie.com. May 17, 2017. Accessed April 23, 2018. https://www.liberte-algerie.com/culture/mahjoub-ben-bella-le-grand-retour-92499/.

Evelyne Meziani, Christian Laval. "Quel Rapport à L'autre ? Les Enjeux De La Diversité Culturelle. Entretien avec Mahjoub Ben Bella.", Nouveaux Regards n°20, Hiver 2002-2003.

"The First Mahjoub Ben Bella Exhibit in His Country." AarcAlgerie.org. November 11, 2013. Accessed April 23, 2018. http://aarcalgerie.org/en/?p=569.

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CV

Selected Solo Exhibitions

2019

Mahjoub Ben Bella, Drawings : Thaï + Maya, Galerie Claude Lemand, Paris, France

2018

Mahjoub Ben Bella, Recent Paintings, Galerie Claude Lemand, Paris, France

2015

Mahjoub Ben Bella, Champs de signes, Galerie Claude Lemand, Paris, France 

2013

Eclectic Volumes, The Old Stables, Roncq, France
La couleur incantatoire, Hospice Comtesse Museum, Lille, France
Plural writings, Wagner Gallery, Le Touquet, France
Jos Depypere Gallery, Kuurne, Belgium

2012

Mahjoub Ben Bella, MAMA (Museum of Modern Art of Algiers), Algiers, Algeria
Musique et couleurs des signes. Peintures, 1990-2010, Claude Lemand Gallery, Paris, France

2010

Peintures sur toiles et sur pavés du Nord, Claude Lemand Gallery, Paris, France

2009

Œuvres pour un musée, Claude Lemand Gallery, Paris, France

2008

Mahjoub Ben Bella - Toiles et Bannières, for the Juventus Music Festival, Théâtre de Cambrai, Saint-Julien Chapel, Cambrai, France
Mahjoub Ben Bella, La musiques de Signes, Galerie Alternance, Hardelot, France

2007

Mahjoub Ben Bella, Oostduinkerke, Belgium
Recent works by Mahjoub Ben Bella, as part of the visit of the Louvre Museum in Lens, Galerie du Colisée, Lens, France

2006

Mahjoub Ben Bella, Museum of Fine Arts, Tourcoing, France

2005

Mahjoub Ben Bella, Galerie Alternance, Hardelot, France

2004

Mahjoub Ben Bella, Galerie ô quai des arts, Hardelot, France
Mahjoub Ben Bella anime l’espace pour l’interprétation du Cantique des Cantiques par Alain Bashung et Chloé Mons Église Saint Maurice, Lille, France
Madrid, world premiere on stage with the Ballet du Nord, Roubaix: Colosseum, Lille, France
L’Oasis textile, in collaboration with Souad Feriani and Souhir Ben Bella, La Piscine – André Diligent Art and Industrial Museum, Roubaix, France

2003

Mahjoub Ben Bella, Hôtel d’ Agglomération, Salle Hubert Renaud, Cergy-Pontoise, France
Mahjoub Ben Bella, Maison de la Chicorée, Orchies, France

2002

Mahjoub Ben Bella-Inauguration du nouvel éspace, Direction Régionale de France 3 Télévision Nord-Pas de Calais-Picardie, Lille, France
Mahjoub Ben Bella-L'arbre à vœux, La Piscine – André Diligent Art and Industrial Museum, Roubaix, France
Mahjoub Ben Bella, Ten Bogaerde Abbey, Cultural Center Casino, Koksijde, Belgium
Magie d’écritures, Chapelle de la Visitation, Thonon-Les-Bains, France

2001

D’Orient et d’Occident-Peintures sur toile et sur papier, Galerie Claude Lemand, Paris, France
Mahjoub Ben Bella, Galerie Arlette Schleifer, Carpe Artem, Paris, France
Mahjoub Ben Bella - La signature doit dépasser la marge, Librairie Galerie La Marge, Ajaccio (Corsica), France
Mahjoub Ben Bella - Polyphonie de la couleur, Galerie libre Expression, Le Touquet, France

2000

Formes couleur et bleu de terre, Galerie Raphaël-Georges Mischkind, Lille, France
Mahjoub Ben Bella, Museum of Saint-Amand-Les-Eaux, Saint-Amand-Les-Eaux, France
Mahjoub Ben Bella, House of Culture, Rheinfelden, Germany
Mahjoub Ben Bella, Galerie Chantal Melansson, Annecy, France

1999

Mahjoub Ben Bella, Centre Marius STAQUET, Mouscon, Belgium
Mahjoub Ben Bella - Magie d’écriture, Salle Chemellier, Hôtel de ville, Angers, France

1998

Mahjoub Ben BellaBleu de terre, Arcade Gallery, Pavillon Kléber, Paris, France
Mahjoub Ben Bella - Peintures, Céramiques, Piatno Art Gallery, Saint Idesbald, Belgium
Mahjoub Ben Bella - Céramiques, Maison de la Faïence, Desvres, France

1997

Rythmes et Signes, Passage de Retz, Paris, France
Itinéraire Mahjoub Ben Bella, , Museum of Art and Industry, Roubaix, France
Mahjoub Ben Bella ou La Tentation des Arts Appliqués, La Piscine – André Diligent Art and Industrial Museum, Roubaix, France
Mahjoub Ben Bella – Signes, Galerie Alternance, Hardelot,France
La souveraineté des signes. Peintures récentes, Galerie Claude Lemand, Paris, France

1995

Galerie Le Margem Ajaccio, France
Galerie Jacques Atlan, Lorgues, France
Galerie 31, Lille, France
Die Poésie Der Zeichen, Museum am Lidenbül, Mulhausen, Germany
Peintures récentes – La Souveraineté des signes, Galerie Claude Lemand, Paris, France

1994

La Souveraineté des signes, Parc départemental du Val Joly, Eppe-Sauvage, France

1993

La Souveraineté des signes, Galerie Raphaël Mischkind, Lille, France
Peintures – 1982-1992, Maison des Arts, Laon, France

1992

Mahjoub Ben Bella, Galerie Godderis Rabier, Bruxelles, Belgique

1991

Mahjoub Ben Bella, Le Prieuré d’Airaines, Airaines, France
Mahjoub Ben Bella, Espace culturel Le Vivat, Armentières, France
Mahjoub Ben Bella-La Souveraineté des signes, Centre culturel Noroit, Arras, France
Mahjoub Ben Bella, Librairie La Marge, Ajaccio, France

1988

Mahjoub Ben Bella, Galerie Septentriom, Marcq-en-Baroeul, France
Mahjoub Ben Bella, Galerie Avant-Post, Pont-Aven, France

1987

Mahjoub Ben Bella, Au Lieu d’Images, Paris, France

1985

Mahjoub Ben Bella, Galerie Le Puits Doré, Lille, France

1984

Mahjoub Ben Bella, Galerie Michel Ozenne, Paris, France
Mahjoub Ben Bella, Maison de la culture, Riberac, France
Mahjoub Ben Bella, Librairie La Marge, Ajaccio, France

1983

Mahjoub Ben Bella, Galerie Dujardin, Tourcoing, France
Mahjoub Ben Bella-Panoramique Nord-Pas-de-Calais n°1, Musée d’art moderne, Villeneuve d’Ascq, France
Galerie Hugo Godderis, Furnes, Belgique
Galerie Geneviève Godar, Lille, France

1982

Mahjoub Ben Bella, Peintures, dessins, objets récents, Le Compostelle, Hôtel de Beaurepaire, Lille, France
Mahjoub Ben Bella, Galerie Hôtel Saint Simon, Angoulême, France
Mahjoub Ben Bella, Peintures, dessins, objets, Galerie Cinabre, Valenciennes, France
Mahjoub Ben Bella, Maison de la culture, Cherbourg, France
Mahjoub Ben Bella, Galerie Michel Ozenne, Paris, France
Mahjoub Ben Bella, Au Lieu d’images, Paris, France

1981

Mahjoub Ben Bella, Galerie Abaki, Lille, France
Mahjoub Ben Bella-Peintures, dessins, objets, Académie des Beaux-Arts, Tournai, France
Mahjoub Ben Bella, House of Arts & Entertainment, Thonon-Les-Bains, France
Mahjoub Ben Bella, Dix ans d’Expression, Museum of Fine Arts, Tourcoing, France

1979

Mahjoub Ben Bella-Arts d’Orient, Le Moulin à huile, Corconne, France

Selected Group Exhibitions 

2019

Drawings from the Arab World, Institut du monde arabe, Paris, France

2018

Donation Claude & France Lemand, Museum, Institut du monde arabe, Paris, France

2014

Arab Modernities, Espace Claude Lemand, Paris, France

2013

Festival of Small Size Works, Galerie Claude Lemand, Paris, France
Tajreed (Abstract Arab Art),CAP, Kuwait, Kuwait

2012

Masters of the Tondo, Espace Claude Lemand, Paris, France
Arts of Exile, Espace Claude Lemand, Paris, France

2011

East and West, Galerie Claude Lemand, Paris, France
Mashreq - Maghreb, Kuwait CAP, Kuwait City, Kuwait
De Terre de d’Écrit– 9eédition : Le mai de la Calligraphie, Musée de la Tour Abbatiale, Saint-Amand-Les-Eaux, France
La Galerie Dujardin (1905-1980)-L’Art au XXsiècle à Roubaix, La Piscine – André Diligent Art and Industrial Museum, Roubaix, France

2010

Hommage au Carré, Claude Lemand Gallery, Paris, France
Recent acquisitions, Claude Lemand Gallery, Paris, France
L’Angelus à 150 ans, Cultural Space Marc Jacquet, Barbizon, France

2008

Contemporary Arab Masters, Espace Claude Lemand, Paris, France
Plurality Modern - Arab Contemporary Art, IMA, Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris, France
Secrets de Collection Lilloises, Hospice Comtesse Museum, Lille, France
Inauguration of the Museum of Modern Art of Algiers - the MAMA, MAMA of Algiers, Algiers, Algeria
Calligraphies d’Orient au croisement d’hier et d’aujourd’hui, The Louvre des Antiquaires Paris, France
Bijoux Sculptures - l’Art vous va si bien, La Piscine, André Diligent Museum of Art and Industry, Roubaix, France

2007

L'Atelier de la Monnaie - Lille Artistic 1957-1972, Palace of Fine Arts, Lille, France
Paris - London - Dubai, Claude Lemand Gallery, Paris, France

2005

Une histoire de Paravents, La Piscine - Musée d’Art et d’Industrie André Diligent, Roubaix, France

2004

Art Event, International Exhibition of Modern and Contemporary Art, Grand Palais, Lille, France
Couleurs, travail, société, du Moyen Âge à nos jours, Departmental Archives of the North (Lille) and Archives of the World of Work (Roubaix), France
Voyages, Courmont hall, Lille, France
On a choisi RUBENS, Palais Ramen, Lille, France

2002

A Look on Arab Contemporary Art: The Collection of the Kinda Foundation, Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris, France, and Espace d'Art Actua, Casablanca, Morocco

2001

Dar al Funun Foundation, Amman, Jordan

2000

Berge 2000, Museum of Light, Grenoble, France

1998

7th International Biennale, Cairo, Egypt

1997

La règle et l’émotion, Campredon - Hotel Donadeî Campredon, L'Isle-Sur-La-Sorgue, France

1995

La Luna, la Croce, la Stella, Palazzo Fizzarotti, Bari, Italy
Le Parcours du Regard, Oletta, Corsica, France
Avec amour, avec humour, Galerie Raphaël Mischkind, Lille, France
Tapis volants (Shafic Abboud - Jm-Alberola - Pierre Buraglio - Mahjoub Ben Bella -Gérard Garouste - Selam Gürbüz - Adam Henein - Christian Jaccard - Mohamed Kacimi - Jean-Pierre Pincemin)Traveling Exhibition in the Mediterranean Countries, Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris, France

1994

Des mineurs et des artistes, Maison syndicale, Lens, France
Pièces de collection, Claude Lemand Gallery, Paris, France
Bannières de la Paix, Center Athanor, Montluçon, France, and traveling exhibition: New York - UN, Paris - UNESCO, Strasbourg - European Parliament, Tokyo - Hiroshima
MeditérannéeJeux de lumière, Museum of the Ephebe, Cap d'Agde, France, traveling exhibition
Zuiderse geuren en kleuren - Schilders uit de Maghreb, Sint Pietersabdij - Centrum voor Kunst en Cultuur, Ghent, Belgium
Signes, écritures, peintures, sculptures contemporaines Arabes, Sainte-Croix Museum, Poitiers, France

1993

L’Art contre l’arme de la faim, Kotopouli Museum, Zografou, Athens, Greece
3rd Biennale d'Art Présent, General Council of Pas-de-Calais, Arras, France
In Fusion - traveling exhibition, Oriel and Chapter (Cardiff), Museum and Art Gallery (Brighton), Ikon Gallery (Birmingham), England
Pintorés do Magreb, traveling exhibition, Barcelona, ​​Seville, Zaragoza, Spain and Gand, Belgium

1992

Les Hauts de Belleville”-Twenty years of Fine Arts, MJC, Belleville, France
Pintorés do Magreb, traveling exhibition: Santiago de Compostela, Madrid, Santander, Palma de Mallorca, Spain

1991

Espace Libertés, Aubervilliers - France
3rd Plastic Arts Forum in Ile-de-France, Metiss'Art, cultural integration in Visual Arts, Boris Vian Cultural Center, Les Ullis, France
Biennale of painting - Art Present, Conseil Général du Pas-de-Calais, Arras, France

1990

Alma Ata, Russia
50 ans de réflexion en Art Contemporain, traveling exhibition, Center Noroit, Arras, France

1989

Exhibition of Graphic Arts, Safat, Kuwait
Croisement de signes, Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris, France 
18 regards sur Van Gogh, City Hall, Bailleul, France
Biennale de peinture - Art Présent, Conseil Général du Pas-de-Calais, Arras, France
Onze peintres et sculpteurs pour le 1erMai, House of Culture, Créteil, France

1988

Halte à l’immobilisme, Atelier de la Monnaie, twentieth anniversary, Lille (Hospice Comtesse Museum) and Boulogne-sur-Mer, France
Les 70 ans de Mandela - As part of the music festival, Beaubourg / Paris, France
Les 70 ans de Mandela, Wembley Stadium, Wembley, England
Il y a cent ans, Van Gogh, traveling exhibition, Bordeaux Biennale, France

1985

Cas de Figures, traveling exhibition, Center of Contemporary Art Saint Martial, Angoulême, France
Signes et écritures, Center for Contemporary Art, Brussels, Belgium

1984

Cultural Center of Living Art, Tunis, Tunisia
Taghinia-Milani Gallery, with Keith Haring, New-York, USA

1983

Tendances contemporaines et région n°8, Jacques Brel Hall, Faches-Thumesnil, France
Zone N, Forum Cultural Center, Saint-Gracien, France
Le temps du Regard, traveling exhibition - hospitals: Reims, Laon, Amiens, Paris, Lille, France

1982

De Matisse à nos jours, Museum of Fine Arts, Lille, France
32 propositions pour un beffroi plus chaud, Palais Rihour, France
Papyrus, NRA Gallery, Paris, France
Tendances de la peinture contemporaine, En Vitrine, Le Bugue, France
Art, culture, identité, School of Fine Arts, Nancy, France

1981

Expressions graphiques contemporaines n°1, Media Library, Cambrai, France
Pourquoi justement moi – Hommage à Parrain, Palais Rihour, Lille, France
Biennale of Contemporary Art, Palace of Arts and Culture, Brest, France

1980

La lettre et le signe, Center of Art and Drawing, Paris, France
Art Vite, Halle de Canteleu, Villeneuve d'Asq, France

1979

Dix-Neuf pays Arabes, Kheirreddine Palace, Museum of Modern Art, Tunis, Tunisia
Le vitrail, lumière du Nord, Municipal Media Library, Cambrai, France
Arts Contemporains, Au Lieu d’Images, Paris, France
4th Biennial of Engraving, Hall of Arsenal, Gravelines, France

1978

Salon « La lettre et le signe », Musée du Luxembourg, Paris, France
Collections d’œuvres Africaines et Orientales, traveling exhibition in France and abroad, General Secretary of Information and Cultural Diffusion, Paris, France
Le vitrail, lumière du Nord, Hospice Comtesse Museum, Lille, France
Le texte à la question, École régionale Supérieure d’Expression Plastique, Tourcoing, France
Peintures-Écritures, House of Youth and Culture, Galerie de la Pie, Neuilly, France

1977

Sigma 13, Cercle  Artistique, Tournai, Belgium
Salon « Ecritures », Luxembourg Museum, Paris, France

1975

VeloscopieTour de France d’une exposition, traveling exhibition in Europe from 1975 to 1979
Jeunes peintres du Nord, Museum of Fine Arts, Tourcoing, France

1974

Salon International de la jeune peinture, Museum 2000, Luxembourg, Luxembourg
Salon International des Arts Plastiques, National Museum of Fine Arts, Algiers, Algeria
XXeSalon Comparaisons, Grand Palais, Paris, France
Arts Aujourd’hui, Cité Internationale des ARTS, Paris, France
30th Salon de Mai, Museum of Modern Art, Paris, France

1973

3rd Salon of Contemporary Art, Denain, France
29th Salon de Mai, Museum of Modern Art, Paris, France

1972

Prix de la jeune peinture, Galerie Septentrion, Marcq-En-Baroeul, France
Phases en Flandres, Salle Saint Sauveur, Lille, France
Confrontations, Grenier à sel, Honfleur, France
Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris, France
28th Salon de Mai, Museum of Modern Art, Paris, France
Art Gallery, University of Moncton, Moncton, Canada

1971

Incontri Internationali d'Arte, Palazzo San Agostino, Salerno, Italy
Selection of the May Fair, Skopje-Novisad, Skopje, Yugoslavia
27th Salon de Mai, Museum of Modern Art, Paris, France
Incontri Internationali d’Arte, Palazzo San Agostino, Salerno, Italy

1970

Radio France, Paris, France
Salon des artistes du nord, Museum of Fine Arts, Lille, France

Collections

Museum of Chartreuse, Douai, France
City Hall of Faches-Thumesnil, France
City Hall of Lille, France
Museum 2000, Luxembourg, Luxembourg
Septentrion Foundation, Marcq-en-Bargoeul, France
Institut du monde Arabe, Paris, France
National Fund of Contemporary Art, Paris, France
City Hall of Ribérac, France
Museum of Fine Arts, Tourcoing, France
City of Tournai, Belgium
National Museum, Tunis, Tunisia
Museum of Modern Art, Lille Métropole, Villeneuve D'Ascq, France
British Museum, London, Great Britain
Ramzi and Saeda Dalloul Art Foundation (DAF), Beirut, Lebanon 
Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts, Amman, Jordan

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