2015 Venice Biennale News

For Venice, Iraq Taps Five Artists, Plans Ai Weiwei Collaboration

Iraq's National Pavilion at the Venice Biennale.    COURTESY RUYA FOUNDATION

Iraq’s National Pavilion at the Venice Biennale.


Iraq’s National Pavilion exhibition for the upcoming 56th Venice Biennale will be titled “Invisible Beauty,” the Ruya Foundation for Contemporary Culture in Iraq, which is organizing the show, announced today.

The exhibition takes its name from the unexpected nature of the works to be displayed, as well as “the inevitable invisibility of Iraqi artists on the international stage,” according to a news release. Curated by the artistic director of the Museum for Contemporary Art in Ghent, Belgium, Philippe Van Cauteren, it will feature five contemporary Iraqi artists and will include new works as well as art that has been rediscovered after long periods of neglect. Additionally, over 500 drawings made by refugees in northern Iraq will accompany the show, and a number of these, chosen by Ai Weiwei, will be included in a major publication to be launched at the fair.

Following a Ruya-sponsored tour of contemporary Iraqi art in Iraq, the U.S., Turkey, and Belgium, Van Cauteren has selected two Iraqi photographers, Latif Al Ani (Baghdad) and Akam Shex Hadi (Iraqi Kurdiastan), as well as performance artist Rabab Ghazoul (Wales), ceramicist and sculptor Salam Atta Sabri (Baghdad), and painter Haider Jabbar (Turkey).

The show’s themes include survival, record-keeping, therapy, and beauty, highlighting the artistic tension present in a country that has recently been subjected to war, genocide, human-rights violations, and the rise of ISIS. Given ISIS’s continuing destruction of historical sites and artifacts at Hatra, Nimrud, Ninevah, and the Mosul Museum, the show’s celebration of Iraqi art feels more imperative than ever. Specifically, the press release asks viewers to consider, “what the word ‘contemporary’ can mean for a nation that lacks a well developed cultural infrastructure.”

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