Iraq Pavilion
Iraq Pavilion
Palazzo Cavalli-Franchetti, (3rd floor) Canal Grande, San Marco
Venezia VE
tel: +44 (0)20 3137 8776
fax: +44 (0)7910 092 634
press enquiries: Rosanna Hawkins

reported by Stefano Giovanazzi
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La Biennale di Venezia | Iraq Pavilion : Archaic
Ali Arkady / VII : Anmar Hasan (27), a music graduate of the Baghdad Academy of Fine Arts in his apartment in the al Salheya neighbourhood of Baghdad. Since graduating Anmar has made plans to move to Turkey as a refugee. Baghdad, Baghdad, Iraq. July 2 2014.

Iraq Pavilion at the Venice Biennale


May 13–November 26, 2017


Press preview: May 10, 11am–1pm

Palazzo Cavalli-Franchetti
(3rd floor)
Grand Canal, San Marco
2847 Venice

The Ruya Foundation is pleased to announce the National Pavilion of Iraq at the 57th Venice Biennale, May 2017. The exhibition, Archaic, will show the work of eight modern and contemporary Iraqi artists in dialogue with 40 ancient Iraqi artefacts drawn from the Iraq Museum. Most of these objects have never left Iraq, excluding a few that were recently recovered after the 2003 lootings of the Museum. The exhibition will also be accompanied by a new commission by internationally-acclaimed artist Francis AlГїs on the subject of war and the artist.

The tension in the term Archaic is drawn from its multivalent references to the ancient and primordial, as well as what is currently out of use. The exhibition will draw out this tension to emphasise its particular relevance to Iraq, a country whose existing political, administrative, social and economic reality is arguably as “archaic” as its ancient heritage. The exhibition will be co-curated by Tamara Chalabi (Chair and Co-Founder of the Ruya Foundation) and Paolo Colombo (Art Adviser at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art).

There will be 40 ancient objects on display, spanning six millennia. Artefacts in stone, glass and clay will incorporate cylinder and stamp seals, cuneiform tablets, medical objects, a musical instrument and figurines of deities and boats, as well as everyday objects such as sieves and toys. A number of objects were returned to the Museum via Interpol in 2008 and 2010, from territories including the Netherlands, Syria and the United States.

The artefacts will allow the exhibition to examine the archaic as a signifier for universal themes that are a precursor to any civilization. The curators have identified seven such themes and each contemporary work can be seen through the prism of one of them. They are water, earth, the hunt, writing, music, conflict and exodus. All works will be displayed in custom-designed vitrines, mirroring the museum-style display associated with the exhibition of antiquities, as well as the land-mapping practices of archaeologists.

The work of eight Iraqi artists will be shown. Of the six living artists, five will create new work for the Pavilion. Installation, video and photography will be represented alongside more traditional media such as painting and sculpture. Works by contemporary artists Sherko Abbas (b. 1978), Sadik Kwaish Alfraji (b. 1960), Ali Arkady (b. 1982), Luay Fadhil (b. 1982), Nadine Hattom (b. 1980) and Sakar Sleman (b. 1979) will interplay with works by Modern Iraqi artists, Jewad Selim (1919–1961) and Shakir Hassan Al Said (1925–2004). As pioneers of the Iraqi Modern tradition, Selim and Al Said strove for a new kind of Iraqi art in the 20th century, that would both engage with the European avant-garde and create a distinctly Iraqi vernacular.

Archaic will be accompanied by a new project by Francis Alÿs, who was born in Antwerp and is based in Mexico City. In November 2016, facilitated by Ruya, Alÿs undertook a trip to the Mosul front line during the Liberation of Mosul offensive. The main line of enquiry for this new installation will be the role of the artist in war. The work will incorporate drawings, paintings, photographs and notes from Alÿs’ experience in Mosul. A video component will feature people on the move, against a backdrop of coalition bombing.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue published by Mousse, including essays by Andrea Applebee, Zainab Bahrani, Joumane Chahine, Roger Cook, Ed Kashi, Kalliopi Minoudaki, Venetia Porter, Nada Shabout, Robert Storr and Aneta Szylak.

For press enquiries please contact:
Rosanna Hawkins: / T +44 (0)20 3137 8776 / M +44 (0)7910 092 634

Commissioner: Ruya Foundation
Local commissioner: Vittorio Urbani
Hours: Tuesday–Sunday 10am–6pm

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