Culture / Art

Art exhibitions in Venice, Italy: Venice Biennale 2017 will feature ancient Iraqi artifacts and contemporary creations

The ancient and the contemporary collide at the 57th Venice Biennale of Art with artefacts on loan from the Iraq Museum

Feb 28, 2017 | By AFP Relaxnews

Entitled “Viva Arte Vive”, the Venice Biennale 2017 opens from May 13 to November 26. Among the thirty artists selected include late legends such as the Dutch conceptual artist Bas Jan Ader and the Austrian artist Franz West. Contemporary stars like Kiki Smith, known for her pieces on sex, birth and regeneration and large-scale installation artist Olafur Eliasson also feature on the list. Amongst these renowned artists, the Biennale will also feature an exhibition for the National Pavilion of Iraq. The exhibition, “Archaic,” will feature 40 Iraqi stone, glass and clay artifacts from the Neolithic Age to the Neo-Babylonian period. In an unprecedented loan from the Iraq Museum, most of these objects have never left their native terrain.

The artifacts consist of everyday items such as jugs and toys, as well as medical objects, a musical instrument and figurines. The selection was made by co-curator Tamara Chalabi (co-founder of the Iraqi non-governmental non-profit Ruya Foundation) in collaboration with the Director of the Department of Antiquities at the Iraq Museum and an archaeologist. The selection will juxtapose the nation’s “immense ancient inheritance, in the context of today’s fragile reality,” the curators said in a statement.

These extremely important historical archives will be shown in the same context as assorted works made by eight modern or contemporary Iraqi artists. Painter and sculptor Jewad Selim was one of the first Iraqi artists to study fine art in Europe; he combined European influences with artistic training from the Iraq Museum. Two important works of his will be shown, including “The Hen Seller” (1951), which has not been displayed in public since the 1950s.

Hassan Shaker Al Said, a student of Selim, will have paintings from the 1960s on display that reflect his intense interest in the divine, Sufism, and abstraction. Nadine Hattom, an Iraqi-Australian artist based in Berlin, explores the traditions of the Mandaean community, a religious group from southern Iraq to which her family belongs. Luay Fadhil’s film will focus on a man who daily visits a scribe in an attempt to communicate with his recently deceased wife, uniting Iraq’s present with its ancient history as the birthplace of writing. Ali Arkady, a photojournalist who has been reporting since 2010 on the volatile political realities of Iraq, will showcase images depicting how war affects soldiers, civilians, and the land.

The exhibition will feature a new commission by Belgian-born Mexico City-based artist Francis Alÿs. In February 2016 Alÿs undertook a trip to northern Iraq during which he visited refugee camps, followed by a second visit in November 2016 to the Mosul front line in the company of a Kurdish battalion. This new installation, which will incorporate drawings, paintings, and photographs, will address the role of the artist during wartime.

The designated Biennale exhibition space is a historical library in the Palazzo Cavalli-Franchetti. The artifacts will be displayed in customized vitrines, mirroring the display associated with the exhibition of antiquities.

For more information, visit www.ruyafoundation.org. The 57th Venice Biennale of Art runs May 13 through November 26.