Current Projects


The Iraq Pavilion at the 57th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia

A ‘Magnificent Pavilion’ – Jackie Wullschlager, The Financial Times The Ruya Foundation is pleased to present the National Pavilion of Iraq at the 57th Venice Biennale, 13 May – 26 November 2017. The exhibition, ‘Archaic’, shows the work of eight Modern and contemporary Iraqi artists in dialogue with 40 ancient Iraqi artefacts drawn from the…

Ruya Notebooks

Ruya Notebooks is a new educational publishing initiative that will release two titles a year. For each Notebook a well known artist, curator or critic will select five short texts that they have identified as fundamental to their creative development. These texts will then be translated into Arabic, in most cases for the first time,…

Ruya Labs

Ruya Labs will be hosted throughout the year in Baghdad, with the aim of nurturing creativity, freedom of expression and international collaborations between artists and cultural professionals. Our past labs are listed below.
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Database of Iraqi artists

Ruya holds an extensive and unique database of artists working within Iraq, spanning all disciplines from visual arts to theatre and music. We continually strive to promote these artists through collaborative efforts with cultural institutions globally. In April 2016, a portion of this database was made publically accessible, as an online research tool. The Ruya…

Past Projects


‘Invisible Beauty’ at the Erbil Citadel

‘Invisible Beauty’ attracted over 20,000 visitors at the Venice Biennale, between May and November 2015. After transferring to S.M.A.K. (Museum for Contemporary Art) in Ghent in May 2016, the exhibition will be re-staged in the Erbil Citadel in an 18th-century merchant’s dwelling, the Salih Chalabi House. The Erbil Citadel was placed on the UNESCO World…

Calling Calouste: An exhibition of new Iraqi photography in Baghdad

Ruya has commissioned ‘Calling Calouste’, an exhibition of new Iraqi photography. The show will be held at the Ministry of Culture’s Gulbenkian Building in Baghdad that opens on 1 October. The exhibition, conceived by Ruya’s Iraq Director, Furat al Jamil, in close collaboration with the artists, brings together young, emerging and established photographers from across…
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Ruya partners with 5th International Çanakkale Biennial

The Ruya Foundation has partnered with the 5th International Çanakkale Biennial, in Turkey, to show new work by artists Akam Shex Hadi and Salam Atta Sabri. Opening on 24 September 2016, this six-week exhibition will explore the theme of Homeland. Both artists have been commissioned by the Ruya Foundation to produce new work around this…
Dilan Abidin, Forbidden (detail), 2013. Courtesy of the artist.

Non-profit booth Art16

As part of our efforts to create international opportunities for, and foster recognition of, Iraqi contemporary artists working both in Iraq and abroad, we took part as a non-profit booth at Art16 art fair in London. We presented work by 12 contemporary Iraqi artists working across a range of media including painting, photography, ceramics, textile,…
Dilan Abidin, Helmet, 2015. Courtesy of the artist.

Baghdad Exhibition in collaboration with the Embassy of Canada in Iraq

As part of our ongoing efforts to support artists in Iraq we’ve collaborated with the Embassy of Canada to host an exhibition of recent work by Iraqi artists, inside the International Zone. Though Baghdad’s artistic and international communities live in the same city, they’ve had little interaction, and we aim to bridge this gap. The…
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Traces of Survival: Drawings by Refugees in Iraq selected by Ai Weiwei

In December 2014 Ruya launched a campaign to provide drawing materials to adult men and women in refugee camps. Ruya visited Camp Shariya, Camp Baharka and Mar Elia Camp and over five days the Foundation collected 546 submissions, including drawings, poetry and prose, all of which will be on display. The submissions present powerful responses…

Residency: Haider Jabbar in Samsun, Turkey

Iraqi artist Haider Jabbar, one of the five selected artists for the Iraq Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, 2015, is currently completing a year-long residency in Samsun, Turkey supported by Ruya Foundation. The young, Baghdad-based artist fled to Turkey in November 2014, where he lives as an asylum-seeker. Ruya had been following his work while…

Invisible Beauty, the Iraq Pavilion at the Venice Biennale

RUYA 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…
The STEP drama therapy group trains in Beirut with award-winning director Zeina Daccache.

Prince Claus Fund: first drama therapy project launched in Iraq

The Ruya Foundation for Contemporary Culture in Iraq (Ruya) has launched a drama therapy project for children and young people with funding from the Prince Claus Fund for Culture and Development. The project will culminate in a performance at the Muntada Theatre in Baghdad on 3 October 2015 by a group of 15 participants between the…

Photography: Ayman al-Amiri

Ayman al-Amiri (b. 1995, Baghdad) is well known among young photographers and filmmakers in Baghdad, for his poignant portraits but also his photojournalism. He was 8 years old when the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003, and his photographs reflect daily life after the conflict. Ayman’s work has been published in local and international publications as…

Exhibition: Welcome to Iraq, South London Gallery, UK

March – June 2014 First shown at Pavilion of Iraq the 55th Venice Biennale, Ruya’s widely acclaimed exhibition Welcome to Iraq travelled to London, where it was presented at the South London Gallery in Peckham. Download press release.   Installation view at the South London Gallery, 2014. Photo: Andy Keate.  

Exhibition: Saddam is Here, Jamal Penjweny, Ikon Gallery, UK

19 February – 21 April 2014 Ruya’s artist Jamal Penjweny presented his first solo exhibition Saddam is Here at the Ikon Gallery, Birmingham. To celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2014, Ikon held a series of solo exhibitions highlighting key artists, such as Hurvin Anderson and Julian Opie. Jamal Penjweny talks to Ruya about his work. Read here. Download press release.

Exhibition: Neighbours, Istanbul Modern

January – June 2014 RUYA presented two Iraqi artists, US-based painter Hayv Kahraman, and Baghdad-based filmmaker Furat al Jamil in Neighbours, an exhibition of contemporary art from Turkey and surrounding countries including Azerbaijan, Greece and Iran, at Istanbul Modern, a leading contemporary art gallery in Turkey. Hayv Kahraman’s work has been exhibited and sold internationally.…
Still from Baghdad Night, 2013, courtesy of the artist.

Dubai International Film Festival: Baghdad Night

Ruya co-produced Baghdad Night, an animation film based on an Iraqi folk tale by artist and filmmaker Furat al Jamil. The short film premiered at the Dubai International Film Festival in November 2013. It was then exhibited at the Neighbours exhibition at Istanbul Modern, a leading contemporary art gallery in Turkey.

Residency: Jafar Mohamed

November 2013 In collaboration with the Scuola Internazionale di Grafica in Venice, RUYA organised a residency for Iraqi painter and printmaker Jafar Mohamed. Jafar was given his own studio space and supervision from professors at the Scuola. As well as a guided tour of Venice, its churches and museums, and the ongoing Venice Biennale exhibition,…

Book: Welcome to Iraq Exhibition Catalogue, 2013

This book was published to coincide with the Pavilion of Iraq at the 55th Venice Biennale. It includes texts by curator Jonathan Watkins and Ruya’s chairman Tamara Chalabi, as well as recent photographs of everyday life in Baghdad, Babylon, Basra, Erbil and Sulaimaniya by the photographer Ayman al-Amiri. The book is available from the Ikon Gallery’s online store.

Pavilion of Iraq, 55th Venice Biennale

June – November 2013 Ruya commissioned the National Pavilion of Iraq for the 55th Venice Biennale. The exhibition, Welcome to Iraq, was the first to present Iraqi and Kurdish artists working from within the country at an international art fair. Curator Jonathan Watkins, director of the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham, and Ruya chairman Tamara Chalabi toured the…