Ruya Foundation releases two major publications

Ruya Foundation releases two major publications

Iraq Pavilion at the Venice Biennale

Left: Traces of Survival by Ruya Foundation and Mercatorfonds. Right: Invisible Beauty by Ruya Foundation and Mousse Publishing.

May 5, 2015

Invisible Beauty
9 May–22 November 2015

Press preview: 6 May, 14–16h (Curator’s talk at 14.30h)
Vernissage: 6 May, 18–20h

Ca’ Dandolo
Grand Canal
San Polo 2879
Hours: Tuesday–Sunday 10–18h 
Nearest Vaporetto: San Tomà

The Ruya Foundation for Contemporary Culture in Iraq (Ruya) is pleased to announce the release of two publications to coincide with the National Pavilion of Iraq at the 56th Venice Biennale in May 2015. The first, an exhibition catalogue titled Invisible Beauty, has been produced in collaboration with Mousse Publishing. The second, a major collaboration with Ai Weiwei published by Mercatorfonds, constitutes part of a project Ruya launched in December 2014 to provide drawing materials to refugees in northern Iraq.

The Pavilion exhibition is curated by Philippe Van Cauteren, Artistic Director of S.M.A.K. (Museum for Contemporary Art) in Ghent and is titled Invisible Beauty. This refers both to unexpected subjects in the works and to the international invisibility of Iraqi artists. The relationship of art to survival, record keeping and therapy are amongst the many themes raised by the exhibition and revisited in the catalogue. The recent demolition of the cultural heritage of Iraq by Isis has made it more important than ever to create archives of Iraqi art for the future. The catalogue texts will allow these new archives to endure when the transitory exhibition has come to an end.

The catalogue contains original texts on each of the five contemporary artists included in the exhibition. Director of Artes Mundi Karen MacKinnon discusses the work of Cardiff-based visual artist Rabab Ghazoul, Director of the Salzburger Kunstverein Séamus Kealy, also a photo historian, comments on the work of stylised photographer Akam Shex Hadi and the father of Iraqi photography, Latif Al Ani, is interviewed by Ruya’s Chair, the writer and historian Tamara Chalabi. Painter Haider Jabbar is discussed by Luk Lambrecht, the Curator of Cultuurcentrum, Strombeek and Salam Atta Sabri’s work is explored by Philippe Van Cauteren, who also introduces the catalogue. 

All of the remaining catalogue texts are by Arab and Kurdish writers and four of them were special commissions. Ali Bader, known for his novel Papa Sartre, has contributed a new short story. Poet Faris Harram has contributed a new essay about unseen beauty in Iraq and playwright Atyaf Rasheed has added the first act of a new play, The Sign. The first English translation of “The Great Raid” by renowned Kurdish poet Sherko Bekas (1940–2013) will also be included. The poem predicts with alarming accuracy the atrocities visited on Iraq by Isis. The final text is by archaeologist Lamia Al-Gailani Werr about the cylinder seals that were used for communication and record-keeping in ancient Iraq.

TRACES OF SURIVIVAL: Drawings by Refugees in Iraq selected by Ai Weiwei highlights the work of a project led by Ruya to provide drawing materials to adult men and women in refugee camps. Ruya visited three camps in December 2014 and collected 546 submissions, including drawings, poetry and prose. Several of the submissions are on display at the Pavilion and a number of them have been selected by Ai Weiwei to make up TRACES OF SURVIVAL. The majority of the drawings depict scenes of the refugees’ lost homes and villages, while a small number deal with violent experiences. Proceeds from the book will go back to those who provided the content and it will go on general release this autumn, distributed by Yale University Press.

Both publications are available at the Pavilion as well as in the two Biennale bookshops in The Giardini and Arsenale. 

Curator: Philippe Van Cauteren, Artistic Director, S.M.A.K. 
Commissioner: Ruya Foundation for Contemporary Culture in Iraq 
Local commissioner: Nuova Icona

The exhibition will be housed in a 16th-century building that overlooks the Grand Canal from the San Polo District.

For all press enquiries contact Rees & Company:
Rosanna Hawkins
rosanna [​at​] / T +44 (0) 20 3137 8776 / M +44 (0) 7910 092 634

S.M.A.K. Museum of Contemporary Art
Eline Verbauwhede
eline [​at​] / T +32 (0) 9 240 76 60 / M +32 (0) 479 270 604

For further information:



Ruya Foundation releases two major publications to coincide with the National Pavilion of Iraq at 56th Venice Biennale
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Iraq Pavilion at the Venice Biennale
May 5, 2015

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