Entitled Archaic, the exhibition to be presented at the 57th Venice Biennale, will display the work of eight Modern and contemporary Iraqi artists in dialogue with ancient Iraqi artifacts. It will also include a new commission by internationally acclaimed Belgian- born artist Francis Alÿs on the subject of war and the artist.
Curated by Tamara Chalabi, Chair and Co-Founder of the Ruya Foundation, and Paolo Colombo, Art Adviser at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art, Archaic will analyse the varying notions of the ‘archaic’ in comparison to the contemporary. Drawing out the duality of ancient cultural heritage and a fragile contemporary political entity, the exhibition will explore the opportunities and restrictions presented to artists in Iraq by the country’s momentous ancient inheritance.
The exhibition will consist of work by Iraqi artists living both in Iraq and the diaspora. Artists include; Luay Fadhil (b. 1982), who is based in Baghdad, Sherko Abbas (b. 1978) and Sakar Sleman (b. 1979) who are both based in Sulaymaniya, and Ali Arkady (b. 1982) who is based in Khanaqin. Both Sadik Kwaish Alfraji (b. 1960) and Nadine Hattom (b. 1980) are Baghdad-born but are now based in the Netherlands and Germany respectively. The two Modern artists represented in the exhibition will be Jawad Salim (1919–1961), widely considered the most influential artist of the Iraqi Modern period, and Shaker Hassan Al Said (1925– 2004), his pupil and friend.
Of the six living artists, five have been commissioned by Ruya to create new work for the Pavilion. A great number of artists working in Iraq today continue to abide by an orthodox aesthetic tradition that has been limited by mid-century education trends and the lack of cultural exchange in Iraq in recent decades. All of the Ruya Foundation’s work seeks to nurture and promote artists who move beyond these paradigms and the selection of contemporary artists for the Pavilion reflects that mission. Hattom and Sleman will both present installation work, Abbas, Alfraji and Fadhil will present video work and Arkady will present photography.
Further details of the artist commissions, along with information about the ancient artefacts on display can be found here