After decades of repression, censorship and conflict Iraq’s culture is back on track with the official Iraq Pavilion at the 55th International Art Exhibition in Venice. Art is now re-emerging from within the country despite the difficulties artists face. There is an incredible diversity amongst artists now practicing in Iraq and this exhibition aims to give insight into this embryonic art scene by taking a small but significant step towards free cultural exchange between Iraq and the rest of the world.
The Ruya Foundation for Contemporary Art in Iraq (RUYA), commissioners of the Iraq Pavilion at the Venice biennial exhibition, have announced Curator Jonathan Watkins will present Out of Iraq, a group exhibition of works by contemporary Iraqi artists from June to November 2013 at the Palazzo Dandolo, Grand Canal, Venice.
The artists presented are all Iraqi artists resident in Iraq. Working across a wide range of media, including photography, drawing, painting, video, installation, sculpture, and textiles, they represent two generations of artists from across the country. Jonathan Watkins and Tamara Chalabi, Chairman of RUYA, worked with researchers and experts from within the country to find artists. They hosted educational events for groups of over 90 artists and visited studios in Baghdad, the province of Babylon, and Kurdistan in Northern Iraq. In February they will make a third trip to the country to meet artists in Basra in the South, before returning to Baghdad to make a final selection.
The exhibition will be held at Palazzo Dandolo, a 16th century building that has not been used as a pavilion before during a Venice Biennale. The exhibition will insinuate Iraq into this first floor apartment, creating a salon atmosphere and interactive space where visitors can sit, read and learn about Iraqi culture and drink tea. The domestic atmosphere of the Palazzo will be retained to a large extent through the use of existing furniture and minimal imposition on current architectural features.
Explaining his curatorial approach, Jonathan Watkins says, “Artistic emphasis will be on the nature of everyday life as it is now lived in Iraq, exemplifying a determination ‘to make do and get by,’ an inventiveness borne out of necessity in extraordinary historical circumstances.’’
RUYA founding members Reem Kubba and Shwan Taha who headed the Patrons Committee for the last Iraq Pavilion at the 54th Venice Biennale will continue their involvement. A catalogue will be published to coincide with the opening of this exhibition.