Looted Iraqi Art, Since Recovered, Will Be Shown at the Venice Biennale

Iraqi Art

Looted art and ancient works from Iraq that have never been exhibited outside that country will appear in its pavilion at the Venice Biennale this year, organizers announced on Monday.

The Biennale brings a top-flight roster of international visual art that is organized into a main show and national pavilions. This year’s Iraq pavilion, called “Archaic,” will include medical artifacts, statues, toys and jugs dating back over 7,000 years. The ancient works come from the National Museum of Iraq, which was looted after the American-led invasion of the country in 2003 and stayed closed until 2015, when it reopened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Some of the looted pieces were recovered, and a number of them will be on display in the pavilion. A newly commissioned piece by the Belgian artist Francis Alÿs will also be shown, as will works by contemporary artists including Sherko Abbas, Sadik Kwaish Alfraji and Ali Arkady. The Ruya Foundation, a nonprofit organization focused on Iraq’s cultural heritage, organized “Archaic,” which was curated by Tamara Chalabi and Paolo Colombo.

Here are some of the other highlights planned for the Biennale, which opens in May:

  • One hundred and twenty artists will show work in the central exhibition, “Viva Arte Viva.” Curated by Christine Macel, the show features work by major names like Lee Mingwei, Olafur Eliasson, Frances Stark and the film director and visual artist John Waters (“Hairspray,” “Pink Flamingos”).
  • The Icelandic artist Egill Sæbjornsson, who was charged with creating the art for his country’s national pavilion, announced this month that two folkloric trolls, Ugh and Boogar, would take over as the artists of his show. Updates attributed to the trolls are being regularly added to the Icelandic pavilion’s Instagram account.

(Source: NY Times)

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