Exhibitions, News

Iraqi photographers to exhibit their work at London art fair for first time

Main image The Other Life © Akram Assam. All images © the artist, courtesy the Ruya Foundation

The Ruya Foundation is to bring 12 Iraqi artists, many of them working in photography as the only medium accessible, to London - the first opportunity for many of them to engage with the international art market.

A group of contemporary Iraqi photographers, most of whom live and work in Iraq, are to have their work exhibited and made available for acquisition at Art16 art fair in London.

Night Workers © Ayman Al Amiri

Night Workers © Ayman Al Amiri

The Ruya Foundation, a non-profit organisation founded to create international opportunities for, and foster recognition of, Iraqi contemporary artists, have partnered with Art16, marking the first occasion the 12 artists repped by the foundation can present their work at an international art fair, despite the foundation working with many of these artists for a number of years.

They will be joined by artists such as Jamal Penjweny, born 1981, who exhibited in the Iraq Pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale 2013, and Nadine Hattom, born 1980, whose work is on display as part of ‘Parallel Projects’ at the sixth edition of the Marrakech Biennale.

 A U.S. Marine with a ground combat element assigned to Delta Company, 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Task Force Mechanized, Multi-National Force ñ West walks through the Hatra Ruins in the Jazeerah Desert in Iraq on July 20, 2008. The task force is conducting disruption operations in the area to deny the enemy sanctuary and prevent foreign fighters from accessing the area. DoD photo by Lance Cpl. Albert F. Hunt, U.S. Marine Corps. (Released)


A U.S. Marine with a ground combat element assigned to Delta Company, 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Task Force Mechanized, Multi-National Force ñ West walks through the Hatra Ruins in the Jazeerah Desert in Iraq on July 20, 2008. The task force is conducting disruption operations in the area to deny the enemy sanctuary and prevent foreign fighters from accessing the area. DoD photo by Lance Cpl. Albert F. Hunt, U.S. Marine Corps. (Released) © Nadine Hattom

The particular emphasis on photography in the presentation reflects how accessible the medium is for artists living in Iraq.

Hattom and Penjweny are joined by Ayman Al Amiri, a Baghdad-based photographer who takes black-and-white photographs of street life in the city.

Works from his series ‘Baghdad’s street workers’ (2013–2014) will be on display, which feature frank yet surprisingly playful depictions of prostitutes in domestic settings in Baghdad.

Read © Sakar Abdullah Sleman

Read © Sakar Abdullah Sleman

Also on display is Julie Adnan, whose multimedia project You May Go (2010–) includes photographic portraits of subjects holding up touristic images of countries they wish to visit or migrate to, in direct contrast to the landscape of Iraq that the subjects inhabit.

Ruya’s partnership with Art16 follows its launch of the first publicly accessible online database of Iraqi contemporary artists, which includes over 300 artist profiles. The majority of the artists on display at Art16 can also be explored on the database.

“At a very essential level, this partnership grants commercial opportunities to artists who are otherwise disenfranchised from the art market,” Ruya said in a statement.

Tamara Chalabi, Chair and Co-Founder of the Ruya Foundation said: “We are delighted to be partnering with Art16 to give contemporary Iraqi artists the opportunity to exhibit on an international platform. This is particularly vital at a time when the cultural infrastructure of Iraq is increasingly under threat.”

Ruya Foundation will exhibit at Art16, Olympia, London from 19 to 22 May 2016