The highly acclaimed show, ‘Welcome to Iraq’ which received widespread positive attention both from the visiting public and in the press when it was presented in Venice at the Biennale in 2013 is to be restaged in London at the South London Gallery. The original installation was commissioned by Ruya Foundation for Contemporary Culture in Iraq (RUYA), established in 2012 to promote culture in Iraq, and was curated by Jonathan Watkins, Director of Ikon Gallery, Birmingham.
The group exhibition brings together works in a variety of media by eleven contemporary artists, almost all of whom live and work in Iraq. Works were selected to highlight the depth and breadth of artistic practice in Iraq, but also to expose a shared emphasis on the nature of everyday life there, exemplified by a determination ‘to make do and get by’ and an inventiveness borne out of necessity in extraordinary historical circumstances.
Following extensive studio visits across Iraq, curator Jonathan Watkins selected clusters of works by photographer Jamal Penjweny, political cartoonist Abdul Raheem Yassir, painters Bassim Al-Shaker, Cheeman Ismaeel and Kadhim Nwir, and sculptors Furat al Jamil, WAMI (Yaseen Wami, Hashim Taeeh) and Akeel Khreef. Film and video is also included, with recent works by Ali Samiaa and Hareth Alhomaam, who both look at communications between the sexes in different ways.
In both Venice and at the South London Gallery, a further sense of Iraq is insinuated into the exhibition spaces through a salon atmosphere where visitors can sit and drink tea while learning more about Iraqi culture. An extensive array of books and comics are available to read, presented in collaboration with the Iraq National Library and Archive.
Welcome to Iraq was first presented at Ca’ Dandolo, Grand Canal, San Polo 2879, Venice from 1 June–24 November 2013 as part of the Venice Biennale 2013.
An internationally renowned curator and writer, Jonathan Watkins has been Director of Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, since 1999. Previous positions include Curator of the Serpentine Gallery (1995–1997) and Director of Chisenhale Gallery (1990–1995). He has curated a number of significant international exhibitions including the Guangzhou Triennial (2012); Negotiations, Today Art Museum, Beijing (2010); Sharjah Biennial (2007); Shanghai Biennale (2006); and Tate Triennial (2003), amongst others.
Ruya Foundation for Contemporary Culture in Iraq (RUYA) is an Iraqi registered non-profit, non-governmental organization founded by Iraq art and culture enthusiasts with the aim of aiding and enriching culture in Iraq and building bridges with the world.
The South London Gallery has an international reputation for its programme of contemporary art exhibitions and live art events, with integrated education projects for children, young people and adults. The annual exhibitions programme takes place across the main and first floor galleries and profiles the work of established international figures such as Mark Dion, Ryan Gander, Tom Friedman, Sanja Iveković, Michael Landy and Rivane Neuenschwander, as well as that by younger and mid-career artists such as Alice Channer and Oscar Murillo.