Commissioned by the Ruya Foundation for the Iraq Pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale, the exhibition ‘Archaic’ shows the work of eight Modern and contemporary Iraqi artists in dialogue with 40 ancient Iraqi artefacts drawn from the Iraq Museum and spanning six millennia, from the Neolithic Age to the Parthian Period. Most of these objects have never previously left Iraq, excluding a few that were recently recovered after the 2003 lootings of the Museum. The exhibition is also accompanied by a new commission by internationally acclaimed Belgian-born artist Francis Alÿs on the subject of war and the artist. ‘Archaic’ is the third occasion on which the Ruya Foundation has commissioned the National Pavilion of Iraq at Venice.
The tension in the term ‘Archaic’ is drawn from its multivalent references to the ancient and primordial, as well as what is currently out of use. The exhibition draws out this tension to emphasise its particular relevance to Iraq, a country whose existing political, administrative, social and economic reality is arguably as ‘archaic’ as its ancient heritage. The exhibition is co-curated by Tamara Chalabi (Chair and Co-Founder of the Ruya Foundation) and Paolo Colombo (Art Adviser at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art).