The Ruya Foundation commissioned Invisible Beauty, the exhibition for the Iraq Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale. Curated by Philippe Van Cauteren, Artistic Director of S.M.A.K., Ghent, Invisible Beauty features five contemporary artists from across Iraq and the diaspora: two generations of Iraqi photographers, in the shape of Latif Al Ani and Akam Shex Hadi, visual artist Rabab Ghazoul, ceramicist and sculptor Salam Atta Sabri and painter Haider Jabbar.
Invisible Beauty refers both to the unusual or unexpected subjects in the works that will be on display and to the invisibility of Iraqi artists on the international stage. The relationship of art to survival, record-keeping, therapy and beauty are among the themes raised by the exhibition. It reveals art generated by a country that has been subjected to war, genocide, violations of human rights and, in the last year, the rise of Isis.
The systematic demolition of the cultural heritage of Iraq by Isis, has made it more important than ever to focus on artists continuing to work in Iraq. Van Cauteren made his selection following a journey to Iraq that was organised and facilitated by Ruya and carried out in company with Tamara Chalabi, the Foundation’s Chair and Co-founder.
In addition, over 500 drawings made by refugees in northern Iraq were on display. Working with Ruya, world renowned artist Ai Weiwei selected a number of these drawings for a major publication, Traces of Survival; that launched at the Biennale. The exhibition includes a catalogue with original essays, poetry and short stories by Iraqi writers, reflecting on the theme of Invisible Beauty. It is published by Mousse.
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